Civil Rights Lawyer Alleges APD Strategy of Delay
Civil Rights Lawyer Blasts APD’s Attempt to Run out the Clock
‘And then they are going to ask you to just let this go, never hold them to the agreement’ – Attorney Peter Cubra
BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI
The way Albuquerque attorney Peter Cubra sees it, the Albuquerque Police Department is trying to shoot the messenger in its dealings with the U.S. Department of Justice and a federal judge.
The messenger is James Ginger, the independent monitor in the case whose job is to guide APD through a series of reforms, return it to constitutional policing and end its practice of excessive use of force against the city’s populace.
By trashing the monitor, it appears APD is trying get the monitor kicked off the case and replaced by someone new – a development that would set back any hope of reform at APD by years.
In a Nov. 18 court hearing, Cubra, a veteran civil rights lawyer who represents mentally ill people and has sued APD and the Metropolitan Detention Center on their behalf, laid out what he believes APD’s game plan is.
First came APD’s attempt to censor Ginger’s report on APD’s progress – or lack thereof – in reforming itself. Then came the city’s posting of a confidential letter between attorneys on its website in which they blasted Ginger’s findings.
“These accusations are in my career unprecedented and I don’t understand why anyone would do it unless they are trying to kill the messenger,” Cubra told U.S. District Judge Robert Brack, who is overseeing the settlement of the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights case against APD.
“I have never seen it so flagrant and I have never seen it so public. And so I would hope that you would do everything that you can to make sure that no one who is involved in this lawsuit would ever again accuse your monitor of, quote, ‘grossly mischaracterizing the department’s status.’
“If they want to bash your agent in private, I suppose I have seen some of that in life, but doing it for all the public to hear and then to undermine the entire credibility of this process and this court – I have never seen it before.
“To me it smells like they are trying to get softer findings from the monitor by attacking them publicly if he says things against them,” Cubra said.
“Here is what it looks like to me,” Cubra told the judge. “Recently we have begun to attack the monitor, say that he doesn’t know what he is talking about or he is unfair or we are doing better than he says.
“At that point you’re either discrediting the court’s findings or you are trying to set up the court to
say, ‘You know, judge, you really need somebody smarter, better, younger, than your current people in order to really get to the facts, and so why don’t we like get rid of this guy? Why don’t we try somebody else?’
“At that point,” Cubra continued, “everything slows down some more, we have lots of chaos, they ask for another couple of years to get the job done. And then the next thing that you know, there is a new administration in Washington and they ask for some replacements for these guys, so why don’t we just get this over with? And then they are going to ask you to just let this go, never hold them to the agreement.”
City Attorney Jessica Hernandez said the city posted the critical letter about Ginger to its website after Brack refused to let the city change Ginger’s special report. “We thought that it would be difficult for the public to understand your decision if they did not understand the parties’ concerns that you were deciding,” Hernandez told Brack in the Nov. 18 hearing.
Dennis Domrzalski is an associate editor at ABQ Free Press Weekly. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org