APD Issued 'Covert Special Orders'
As I said in this Albuquerque Free Press article, “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.”
Another scenario I envision is that before Mayor Richard Berry leaves office, the city will seek dismissal of the Department of Justice case arguing that there has been a substantial compliance of the federal court order, substantial compliance in the implementation of the DOJ reforms and a reduction in officer involved shootings and excessive use of force cases.
Berry will want to say “Mission accomplished” when it comes to the APD reforms when he runs for governor.
In his fifth report, federal monitor James Ginger says the lack of scrutiny given by APD’s highest ranking officers in use-of-force cases is “mystifying” and “startling.”
The report is very critical of APD’s high-ranking supervisors and command-level officers, accusing them of “deliberate non-compliance.”
The most damning and disturbing findings made by Ginger are that APD “subverted” the reform process by issuing “covert special orders,” denying the existence of the orders, and APD exhibiting a “near total failure” to accept civilian oversight.
Ginger lays direct blame on APD’s command staff for the “deliberate non-compliance” with the city’s settlement agreement with the DOJ.
During the May 10, 2017 status hearing, many in the courtroom were stunned when Assistant United State Attorney Luis Saucedo, who is with the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., praised APD’s “tremendous progress” with writing policy and ignored Ginger’s findings of intentional noncompliance by the command staff.
After listening to Saucedo, you would have thought he was representing the city and APD.
Court rules are very clear that when you or your client intentionally violate a court order, or you lie to a court, you can be held in contempt of court and sanctions and fines can be imposed, including jail time.
How many times does Ginger have to tell the court that APD is not complying with the court order, or has mislead or lied to the monitor, before the DOJ files a motion for contempt of court and seeks sanctions against the city and APD’s command staff for “deliberate non-compliance” of the stipulated settlement order?
In his second report to the federal court, Ginger accused the City Attorney of what he called, “delay, do little and deflect” tactics, saying his relationship with her was “a little rougher than most” compared with attorneys in other cities where he has overseen police reform.
In the July 1, 2016 third progress report the federal monitor found “Across the board … the components in APD’s system for overseeing and holding officers accountable for the use of force, for the most part, has failed … the serious deficiencies revealed point to a deeply-rooted systemic problem. … The deficiencies, in part, indicate a culture [of] low accountability is at work within APD, particularly in chain-of-command reviews.”
In November 1, 2016 fourth progress report, the federal monitor found that when “excessive use of force” incidents are investigated by the APD Critical Incident Team, it “[deploys] carefully worded excuses, apparently designed not to find fault with officer actions” and “[uses] language and terminology apparently designed to absolve officers and supervisors of their responsibility to follow certain CASA-related provisions.”
It’s apparent from Ginger’s 5th report that the only thing that has changed at APD is the passage of time and paying Ginger’s team another hefty sum of money for another report that he could have just as easily cut and pasted from his last report.
For the fifth time in three years, Ginger’s report reflects that you get failed law enforcement management when you appoint a chief of police who has absolutely no prior experience managing a municipal police department and who is considered a “political operative” and when you keep or return people who created participated or did not stop the culture of aggression and the “deeply-rooted systemic problems” found by the DOJ.
Dump Them All
The entire chain of command of APD must be removed and replaced by the next mayor with a new generation of leadership and not from within the ranks of APD.
A national search must be conducted to identify and hire a new police chief, to hire new deputy chiefs and a new chain of command to assume control of APD.
The City Council can implement complete civilian authority and management control over APD with a civilian police commissioner to assume responsibility for implementation of the DOJ mandated reforms and create a Department of Public Safety.
APD has repeatedly shown it cannot police itself and the APD Internal Affairs Unit must be abolished.
There is a need to “civilianize” the APD Internal Affairs functions to investigate police misconduct cases and use of force cases, and to implement the DOJ reforms.
The investigation of police misconduct cases and excessive use of force cases not resulting in death or nor serious bodily harm can be done by “civilian” personnel investigators.
The function and responsibility for investigating APD misconduct cases and violations of personnel policy and procedures can be assumed by the Office of Independent Council in conjunction with the City Human Resources Department and the Office of Internal Audit.
Until there is a real change in the entire APD command staff, we can expect to continue to be “mystified” and “startled” by the lack of progress and implementation of the DOJ consent decree mandated reforms and the disappearance of the DOJ reforms into the “black hole” known as APD.
Pete Dinelli is a former city councilor and two-time mayoral candidate.