Friday, July 1, 2016

Monitor Slams APD Again

DOJ Monitor: APD's 'Use-of-force' Accountability is a Failure

BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI The Albuquerque Police Department's process for holding officers accountable for use-of-force incidents isn't working, and has indeed failed, because of a long-time culture of “low accountability” in the police department, especially in the command staff, the independent monitor for the department's DOJ-mandated reform effort says. The department is slow in getting use-of-force cases to the proper people, and then, when they get to the command staff, they get a superficial review, the monitor, James Ginger, said in his third report on APD's reform progress. The report covers the period from last December through March 31. “Across the board, the monitoring team has found that the components in APD's system for overseeing (and holding officers accountable for) the use of force, for the most part, has failed,” Ginger's report said. “Hence, 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.”

Report says APD's failure to investigate allows patterns of abuse to develop

The accountability breakdown was evident in other areas of possible officer misconduct, including vehicle pursuits, the use of lapel cameras and the use of profanity, Ginger's report said. When incidents were investigated, they were often regarded as “discrete, stand-alone events” and prior cases of possible misconduct were “were disregarded or overlooked, and no case integration occurred,” the report added. “This resulted in significant, developing patters being missed in the case of at least two involved officers.” The report added, “APD, at multiple levels and stages, missed significant opportunities to catch problems early, remediate and resolve them quickly, reinforce good practice, and provide invaluable feedback to the policy and training functions.” Ginger's findings stemmed from an Oct. 30, 2015 incident in which an officer was alleged to have used a "knee strike” to the head of an auto theft suspect. The strike left the suspect unconscious, the report said.

APD delays in reporting incidents to chain of command

The officer's area commander didn't forward the case to APD's Critical Incident Review Team until Nov. 16, and the CIRT investigator finally documented the case to his supervisor on December 17, the report said. “This time lag is troubling, especially considering the number of obvious and serious issues associated with he case that he monitoring team have identified,” the report said, “the most obvious being the fact that the area commander failed to document some of the most relevant issues concerning the use of force. “In the opinion of the monitoring team, this case raises serious questions about proper force reporting and superficial chain-of-command reviews,” Ginger's report said. Ginger's report listed 12 examples of where APD's use-of-force investigations have failed, and it pointed out that the list was “non-exhaustive.” “Mistakes or misconduct led to reporting failures, delayed investigations, and the loss of potential evidence, including key statements,” the report said. APD entered into the settlement agreement with the DOJ in November 2014. It is supposed to be in “substantial compliance” with the reforms by the end of this year.            

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