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APD touts successes in officer retention, recruitment, and DOJ settlement agreement

APD will now move to a self-monitoring phase on their settlement agreement with the Department of Justice
Gino Gutierrez
APD will now move to a self-monitoring phase on their settlement agreement with the Department of Justice

Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina highlighted the recent successes the department has had in regards to their reform process in a press conference Wednesday. The department, according to Medina, has seen improvements that help boost officer morale, retain experienced officers and recruit new ones.

In terms of the number of officers currently in the department, Medina reported that they’ve experienced 23% fewer officer retirements, resignations, and terminations so far this year than they had at his time in 2021. Another challenge APD faced in officer retention was keeping experienced officers on the force.

APD cited the pandemic, increasing crime and protests and the unpopular settlement agreement as reasons for the loss of officers.

To combat the loss of officers, APD has recently launched a series of video advertisements that ran on local channels and the department’s social media platforms and out of state. The ads feature recently graduated cadets, 911 operators and dispatchers, police service aides and lateral officers. This new recruitment effort hopes to attract a younger and broader audience.

It was also shared that APD’s Court-Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) with the U.S. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has seen successes as well. As a result, the City of Albuquerque and the DOJ have reached an agreement to remove nearly a quarter of oversight requirements.

The agreement between the city and the DOJ began in November of 2012, when the DOJ launched an investigation into APD’s policies and practices to determine whether APD was engaging in a pattern or practices of use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.

After consulting with police practices experts and conducting a comprehensive assessment of officers’ use of force and APD’s practices and operations, the DOJ released a public letter to the City, outlining its findings and recommending remedial measures.

They found that there was reasonable cause to believe that APD had engaged in a pattern or practice of use of excess force. While most of the force APD used was determined to be reasonable, there was still a significant amount of deadly and less lethal force used by officers that constituted an on-going risk to the public.

While the City of Albuquerque didn’t concede with the accuracy of these allegations, they joined the agreement anyway. Fast forward to the present day, and the most recent monitor report on APD’s compliance levels with the Settlement Agreement showed that APD “has shown strong performance with its compliance factors” as of that reporting period, which took place from August 2021-January 2022.

The monitor did note however that the department was lagging behind in compliance with the CASA requirements in the field, only meeting 70% compliance. Supervision and inter-department discipline are also noted as on-going critical issues. In terms of discipline, the report found that personnel at times receive dissimilar discipline instead of based on offense and prior history.

To address this, APD has been tracking discipline over the last few quarters and found that the data shows that suspensions have decreased and the use of non-disciplinary corrective action has increased. Which translates to more training and or counseling.

APD will still meet the requirements of the agreement, but the department will now be moving to a self-monitoring phase to ensure compliance.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller called this a “major milestone” and said the city and department are now committed to real reform at a faster pace.