Police Union Challenges APD Settlement With Dept. Of Justice

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – The Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association argues in a court filing that the settlement between the Department of Justice and the city undercuts the union’s collective bargaining agreement – a position the union wants a chance to argue before a federal judge approves the DOJ settlement.

“It is the opinion of the APOA that the (105) page Settlement Agreement proposes sweeping changes to the City of Albuquerque Police Department, its standards, policies and procedures that significantly undermine the collective bargaining rights of the APOA and its members,” union attorney Frederick Mowrer argued in a court document.

Mowrer said the settlement agreement has new guidelines for how officers will be disciplined for alleged misconduct, which he cites as one example of how the settlement agreement is in conflict with the police officers’ collective bargaining agreement.

The police union was the first group to file a court document that explains why it wants to be involved in the federal court case between the DOJ and the city that will dictate police reforms.

U.S. District Judge Robert C. Brack said in an order filed Wednesday that the settlement agreement is a “fair, adequate and reasonable resolution to the Department of Justice’s pattern or practice investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department.”

Brack said he “provisionally approves” the agreement, but he is giving others a chance to submit briefs and argue their positions before he makes a final decision. He set a Jan. 15 deadline for briefs and a Jan. 21 hearing date for others seeking to make an argument.

Brack said in the order that courts favor resolving disputes like the one between the city and the DOJ with a voluntary settlement. He also said the city and the DOJ used public opinion to reach the agreement, and he noted Albuquerque City Council’s unanimous support for the settlement.

Both the DOJ and the city of Albuquerque have filed briefs asking for the judge to approve the agreement.

Mowrer filed a brief Thursday seeking to get involved in the case.

About 25 people, including Ken Ellis Jr. and Mike Gomez, who each had a son shot and killed by Albuquerque police, have also filed briefs to intervene.

The settlement agreement was negotiated after the DOJ investigated Albuquerque police and found the department too often used excessive force, which included police shootings. The agreement aims to resolve the police department’s problems by, in part, increasing officer training and accountability, restructuring some specialty units and increasing the power of the department’s civilian oversight board.

From The Albuquerque Journal