Reform Advocates Discuss Scenarios
The question now is what is the future of the Albuquerque Police Department’s reform effort now that the U.S. Department of Justice seems to have become an apologist for APD?
Will the DOJ, as it did during the May 10 hearing in the case, become less aggressive in holding APD to the requirements of its settlement agreement with the feds, and effectively render the agreement toothless? Or will it eventually move for sanctions against the department?
Will APD Chief Gorden Eden and members of his command staff keep their jobs even though they have been repeatedly accused by the independent monitor in the case of purposely blocking reform and undermining the settlement agreement?
Will U.S. District Court Judge Robert Brack finally have had enough of ADP’s foot-dragging and hammer the department’s officials with sanctions, or even appoint a special master or receiver to take over and run APD?
For some members of the community who have been involved in the reform effort, the answers to those questions are mostly negative. But others are still willing to give the DOJ a chance at doing its job.
So here are some scenarios that reform advocates have been talking about:
- Eden and his commanders, who have been accused by the monitor, James Ginger, of subverting the settlement agreement, keep their jobs even though pretty much every mayoral candidate has said they would fire Eden.
Here’s how that could happen:
The command staff, eager to keep their high-paying jobs, will convince their friends at the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and NAIOP that they shouldn’t be fired when they are so close to the goal line of full compliance with the settlement agreement.
The Chamber and NAIOP crowds, who contribute lots of money to mayoral campaigns, will pressure the new mayor with arguments that it would be disastrous to change the team in mid-stream. They’ll say that booting Eden and staff would set back the process by six months to a year because it would take that long for a new chief and his team to get up to speed.
It’ll be the same old argument that Eden and the others have done a fabulous — no, make that remarkable — job and are indispensable.
Ginger’s allegations of outright subversion by Eden and his staff will be dismissed by the real estate development and business crowd.
Former city councilor Pete Dinelli, now a political blogger, said this is the scariest and most likely scenario.
“The number one worry that I have is that the current command staff, including the chief, will tell the monitor and the federal judge that so much progress has been made that it would be ill-advised to replace them and that they need to stay and complete the work that they started,” Dinelli said.
“That would be a nightmare because for the last three years all they have done is obstruct the process and engage in intentional non-compliance.”
- Judge Brack, who has now had five reports from Ginger that have detailed ADP’s obstructionist efforts over the past two-and-a-half years, might actually do something about the deliberate non-compliance. He could potentially hold Eden and crowd in contempt of court, or impose other sanctions. He could also order the DOJ to take over the department.
None of that is likely to happen, though, because Brack hasn’t taken any action against APD yet, despite hearing from Ginger about its constant obstructionist tactics. Although Brack did encourage some observers when he demanded to know, during the May 10 hearing, why neither the DOJ attorney, nor Ginger, had mentioned the deliberate non-compliance in their courtroom presentations.
Maria Bautista, an activist who is an official stakeholder in the reform case, said she believed that Brack is starting to wake up to ADP’s tactics.
“The thing that was weird was that the judge jumped in [during the May 10 hearing],” Bautista said. “So the judge is being in a position to take action.”
- The new mayor, who takes office Dec. 1, fires Eden and most of the command staff and starts a national search for a new police chief and management team.
“A new chief will need a team of five or six people. You need a complete change of management, and it won’t be cheap,” Dinelli said. “You need a new chief, some deputy chiefs and some new commanders.”
It’s unlikely that this type of sweeping change will occur because, well, the NAIOP and Chamber people will argue that it will lead to short-term chaos. And they’ll continue to proclaim Eden and crew are indispensable.
- The DOJ goes home and APD declares victory. This is possible given that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants the DOJ to pull back on its settlement agreements with police departments and go easier on cops. And, APD would love to tell Brack something like, “Your Honor, we’ve made so much progress, our shootings are down, and, well, another two years of this would be a waste of taxpayer money.”
While possible, most observers think it would be unlikely that Brack would go along. He’s an independent member of the judiciary, and while he hasn’t hammered APD yet, he hasn’t given them a free pass.
- The process plays out as designed in the settlement agreement and Ginger and the DOJ are here for at least three more years. APD is required to be in “substantial compliance” with the settlement agreement for two years before the DOJ can leave. That means 95 percent operational compliance with all of the agreements provisions. Currently, APD is is in operational compliance with 47 percent of the agreement’s requirements.
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