ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Major changes may be on the way related to how the Department of Justice oversees the Albuquerque Police Department through a court-appointed monitor. The announcement is welcome news to the city, police and the police union. The police union has been critical of the DOJ’s oversight and it’s come at a hefty price for Albuquerque taxpayers. However, the U.S. Attorney General just announced a major shift in how independent monitors oversee DOJ settlement agreements across the country.
Albuquerque’s mayor, the police chief and police union are all in agreement: the way the feds monitor reform efforts in police agencies need to change. “I’ve commonly said I wish there was a book called ‘The DOJ is taking over your department for idiots,’ right because I don’t believe anybody understands how bureaucratic it is and what is going on,” said the Albuquerque Police Officers Association President, Shaun Willoughby.
APD has been under scrutiny of the Justice Department for more than seven years after the feds found a pattern and practice of excessive force. The police union has been outspoken in their frustration with the DOJ’s monitoring, calling it overly bureaucratic and a heavy burden on an already short-staffed police department.
“This process goes into every tentacle of the police department and it’s not like the DOJ comes in with four policies that they consider our best practices and a team to train the trainers you know that we can be successful and a million dollars millions of dollars in a purse to try to help reform your police department,” said Willoughby. “It’s not what happens at all.”
The U.S. Attorney General, Merrick Garland, outlined some of the changes. Government monitors will be given a set term that can only be renewed after an assessment of the monitor’s performance and cost-effectiveness. Monitors will also have to be incentivized to bring consent decrees and they’ll have to minimize the cost to jurisdictions. From just 2016 to November 2020, Albuquerque taxpayers have paid more than $25-million for this monitoring process, lead by Dr. James Ginger through a third-party company called Public Management Resources. It’s a hefty price tag with no end in sight, until now.
“This is definitely a step in the right direction,” said Willoughby. “I’m glad they’re reviewing this the monitoring process. It is highly bureaucratic and problematic in its conception but we’ll see what it means. Maybe it’s a day late and a dollar short and it doesn’t impact Albuquerque, but we’re hoping that it does.”
U.S. Attorney General Garland’s comments were about future consent decrees but Mayor Tim Keller said the city will go to the U.S. District Court to make sure the same standards are applied to APD’s settlement agreement. The police union blames the DOJ reform process in part for officers leaving the force, saying it’s been tough on morale.