'The implementation of a unit such as CIRT is an important step forward; however, APD should ensure ... [it is] not just a rubber stamp for use of force events' James Ginger
Criticism from DOJ Monitor Precedes Nov. 18 Court Hearing
James Ginger’s Report Follows Complaints by Civilian Oversight Board that APD Directly Thwarts Reform and Civilian Oversight
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
AND DAN VUKELICH
The Albuquerque Police Department’s command staff continues to make excuses for officers who use excessive force, and a new unit created to review such cases is virtually a rubber stamp for police misconduct, the independent monitor in APD’s reform case says.
The monitor’s complaint follows on the heels of accusations by the Albuquerque Police Oversight Board that APD has stonewalled the civilian agency “at every turn” in its attempts to help reform the troubled department.
In an Oct. 26 letter to Elizabeth Martinez of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Beth Mohr, chair of the oversight board, laid out scathing criticisms of APD Chief Gorden Eden and the APD command structure. She wrote that APD’s actions “directly thwart” efforts at civilian oversight and reform of APD’s use-of-force policies.
The civilian board’s efforts, she wrote, have become a “waste of time” because of APD’s refusal to cooperate as required by city ordinance and the settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit over APD’s unconstitutional use of force. The oversight board was created to assist in policymaking at APD.
“It appears that APD’s goal is to frustrate civilian oversight and input at every turn,” she wrote.
Just days after Mohr’s letter was entered into the court record of the lawsuit, James Ginger, the independent monitor appointed to monitor APD’s efforts to reform itself, weighed in with similarly harsh allegations of APD foot-dragging and excuse-making.
One of the biggest problems at APD, he wrote in his latest report to the court, is its newly formed Critical Incident Review Team, or CIRT, which is to review use-of-force cases so the department can learn from them and change its policies.
“The implementation of a unit such as CIRT is an important step forward; however, APD should ensure, through the use of every administrative, leadership, and policy modality available to it, that CIRT becomes an effective and efficient review, assessment, and corrective-focused unit, not just a rubber stamp for use of force events,” Ginger’s report said. “As the unit now stands, it is much closer to the latter than the former. This is a critical issue calling for immediate, forceful, and effective remediation.”
Ginger found 18 problems with the review team, most notable of which is its penchant for excuse-making. He found that the “deployment of carefully worded excuses, apparently designed not to find fault with officer actions (for example, in at least one case the force was ‘excused’ by stating that CIRT found no internal documentation directing APD to follow the provisions of the [court-approved DOJ settlement agreement] – despite the fact that the City was a signatory to the settlement agreement!)”
Ginger’s report, his fourth such report to U.S. District Judge Robert Brack focused on APD’s reform progress from April through July.
ABQ Free Press Weekly sought comment on Oct. 27 from an APD spokesperson regarding Mohr’s criticisms and on Nov. 1 regarding Ginger’s criticisms but did not receive a reply. On Oct. 27, Rhiannon Samuel, a spokesperson for Mayor Richard Berry, said in an email in response to Mohr’s complaint of APD non-cooperation, “It is not my understanding that APD is ‘stonewalling’ the board.”
Mohr’s letter to the U.S. Attorney’s office was written in advance of a Nov. 18 court hearing on APD’s reform progress. In it, she complained that Eden’s pattern of resisting or ignoring the Police Oversight Board has led to no consequences for Eden or anyone else at APD.
Most of the people in charge of APD now were in place during the years in which the department was found by the DOJ to have engaged in a pattern of unconstitutional policing that led to scores of people being shot since 2010, most of them unarmed.
Mohr alleged that “APD continues to exclude, ignore and directly thwart the POB’s attempt to contribute to APD policy” and that Eden has suffered no consequences for his obstruction of the board.
“These continued failures on APD’s part to provide data as requested have, as of this moment, resulted in no consequences which would dissuade this continued behavior,” she wrote.
Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor of ABQ Free Press Weekly. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dan Vukelich is editor of ABQ Free Press Weekly. Reach him at email@example.com
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