Friday, March 18, 2016

DOJ Monitor: APD Policy Still a Mess


It’s a question that observers have been asking themselves since December, when James Ginger, the independent monitor in the U.S. Department of Justice’s settlement agreement with the Albuquerque Police Department, began saying APD’s policy-making process was a disaster: Why can’t APD lift successful policies from other police departments or use model policies that professional organizations have developed?

The question was asked more frequently and intensely when Ginger told a federal court judge recently that it took several tries and $100,000 of his staff’s time for APD to develop an acceptable use-of-force policy.

On Friday, those observers got their answer. Since 2014 until earlier this month, ADP’s brass, including Chief Goren Eden, were under the mistaken impression that they weren’t allowed under the settlement agreement to use model policies or successful policies from other police departments; they believed they had to write policies from scratch.

That startling revelation came from City Attorney Jessica Hernandez, who told city councilors on Friday that since APD’s brass began settlement agreement negotiations with the DOJ, they had believed that they were forbidden from using anything other than policies developed in house.

Both Hernandez and Ginger said the situation has been resolved, and Ginger said he is now directing APD staffers to get model police policies from a number of sources, including the Washington, D.C. police department. Ginger told councilors that either a poorly worded statement on the part of the DOJ or an improper interpretation on the part of APD led to the misunderstanding.

But even though that situation has been resolved, Ginger told councilors that APD’s policy-making process is still fatally flawed and is the one thing that could prevent the department from getting into compliance with the settlement agreement.

“We are finding some serious deficiencies in the policy-making process. It’s worrisome,” Ginger told councilors during a study session on APD’s progress in meeting the requirements of the settlement agreement.

Ginger said APD’s policy-making process is so broken that one proposed APD policy needed 70 to 80 substantive comments and changes to make it acceptable. “What is happening right now is just not working,” Ginger said.

Hernandez said that APD, in an effort to improve its policy-making process, has hired retired federal court judge Lorenzo Garcia as a consultant to help it write policy. Garcia, Hernandez said, is a constitutional expert who, during his time on the federal bench, presided over many cases that involved constitutional issues regarding police policy.

Councilor Diane Gibson wasn’t impressed and asked Hernandez if Garcia had any experience writing police policy.

“He is not a police department policy writer by trade,” Hernandez replied. “He is an excellent writer.”

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