Weaker DOJ Team Could Thwart Oversight
Some people involved in APD’s reform process are worried that the Trump administration might not be as aggressive in enforcing the requirements of the city’s settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Coupled with what some say is APD’s unwillingness to reform itself, a less aggressive enforcement effort could wreck the reform process and put APD back where it was two years ago.
Peter Simonson, the executive director of ACLU of New Mexico, said a worst case scenario would be “that they change out the existing lawyers who are staffing the settlement agreement and that they just lose interest in the agreement and don’t receive the necessary resources to push for a successful conclusion.”
Joanne Fine, a member of the Civilian Police Oversight Board, worries that, considering its poor record on reforming itself to date, APD would backslide if the DOJ under Trump were to back off the settlement agreement.
“If you judge the last two years, my forecast [for APD] isn’t great. The best forecast for future behavior is past behavior,” Fine said. “Civilian oversight needs to happen, and it has to be effective, and so far I haven’t seen it.”
Former City Councilor Pete Dinelli said there will most likely be a new U.S. attorney in the state within six months after Trump takes office and that that person could be less aggressive in holding APD to the requirements of the settlement agreement.
“I think the city has always been trying to run the clock on this,” Dinelli said. “I’m very concerned that the whole thing is going to fall apart once a new attorney general and U.S. attorney are appointed. I don’t think they’re going to have the same stomach for going after police misconduct cases.”
One thing reform proponents have going is that there is a signed settlement being overseen by a federal court judge.
Sam Walker, a professor and police accountability and civil liberties expert at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, said the signed settlement offers some protection.
“You actually have a settled court case where a judge is in charge,” Walker said. “That [settlement agreement] can’t be changed unless one of the parties asks for it to be changed. That’s the judge’s decision, so they can’t touch that.”