Albuquerque P.D. Accepts Federal Consent Decree

UnknownThe Justice Department has reached a settlement with the City of Albuquerque over excessive use of force by the Police Department.

Under an agreement announced Friday, an independent monitor will be installed to oversee reforms at the department for at least two years, and the department will adopt new policies aiming to ease conflict with citizens.

The Justice Department in April found a pattern of excessive force in the Albuquerque Police Department, after a string of shootings in which 23 people were killed and 14 others wounded over four years, an usually high number for a city of about 550,000 people.

Under the agreement, the Police Department will undertake a host of sweeping changes, many of them designed to reduce the use of force. Officers will be trained to handle people who are mentally unstable; the way that the department investigates shootings involving officers will be changed; and officers will be required to wear body cameras to record many interactions with the public.

“We are here to announce a new chapter for policing in Albuquerque,” Damon P. Martinez, the United States attorney for the district of New Mexico, said at a news conference Friday. He added that the agreement, known as a consent decree, was aimed at delivering “high quality and constitutional police services for Albuquerque.” He added, “It is also a road map for rebuilding trust between the community and the police.”

The agreement follows a tumultuous spring in Albuquerque. After James Boyd, a homeless man with a history of mental illness, was shot by heavily armed officers, street protests erupted, accompanied by demands for major changes at the Police Department.

Albuquerque’s leaders worked with federal officials to craft a set of reforms, including new controls over specialized investigation units, some of which had become unofficial SWAT units with specialized weapons, Mr. Martinez said. One of those special units, the Repeat Offender Project, which was known for its overly aggressive tactics, will be disbanded entirely.

Mayor Richard J. Berry said he hoped that the agreement and the reforms that follow it would begin restoring trust between the police and the public. He said it was the first settlement to require on-body cameras, which Albuquerque had already adopted, becoming one of the first large cities in the country to do so.

“I believe strongly that we are setting a new national standard for policing and police reforms,” Mr. Berry said. The reforms, he added, “will enhance safety, both for our community and our police officers.”

The Albuquerque City Council is set to vote next week on the settlement, which must then be approved by a federal judge. The independent monitor will oversee the implementation of the changes and report to the court.

Mr. Berry estimated that the reforms would cost $4 million to $6 million in the first year. Much of that expense would be for retraining officers and paying overtime to officers who are on the streets while their colleagues are in training. But Mr. Berry said he did not believe the city would be forced to make big cutbacks in other areas to cover the cost.

The police departments in eight other cities, including New Orleans, Detroit and Seattle, are currently entered into consent decrees with the Department of Justice.

 

Read the FULL ARTICLE by Ian Lovett, NY Times, 10/31/14