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Feds amend consent decree with Albuquerque Police Department

The city in 2014 agreed to remedy an unconstitutional pattern of excessive use of force by police.

(CN) — The U.S. Department of Justice updated a nine-year-old consent decree with the Albuquerque Police Department on Wednesday to reflect the role of the city’s new civilian-driven crisis response programs.

The federal government began investigating the Albuquerque Police Department in 2012 finding "reasonable cause to believe that APD engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment."

The parties entered a settlement agreement in 2014. At the time, the Albuquerque Police Department had reported 40 police shootings dating back to 2009.

In 2022, the city reported a record 17 police shootings and a total 53 police shootings dating back to 2018.

Over the last nine years, the city diverted more than 15,000 emergency calls reporting incidents of mental health, substance abuse and homelessness away from the police to Albuquerque Community Safety, a city cabinet-level department.

“The Justice Department’s consent decree has provided the strong medicine necessary to remedy problems and improve the way policing is carried out across Albuquerque,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in a statement. “We are recognizing the progress that the Albuquerque Police Department has made towards achieving compliance with this consent decree for both the court and the public.”

Under the updated agreement, the police department will no longer be required to keep a “sufficient” number of crisis intervention certified responders on staff. Instead, the decree reflects the partnership between police and civilian responders.

With more than half of patrol officers having completed crisis intervention training, law enforcement will now focus on collecting and analyzing data “to better assess the city’s overall crisis response efforts and determine where gaps in critical services remain.”

The updated 107-page consent decree reflects the effectiveness of a civilian use-of-force review panel piloted last August. Civilians can review low-level uses of force, a role previously limited to sergeants. The agreement continues to require supervisors to review all other uses of force including officers' written or recorded account of the event.

"The United States’ goal has not shifted since the inception of this litigation: to remedy the defendant’s violations of constitutional and federal law and to ensure that the Albuquerque Police Department implements sustainable reforms that will result in effective and constitutional policing,” the motion filed by U.S. Attorney Alexander Uballez said.

U.S. District Judge James O. Browning, a George W. Bush appointee, must approve the updated agreement.

"The revisions will not relieve the city from the requirements related to the original purpose of the settlement agreement, but rather ensure that the requirements reflect the current reform efforts,” Uballez wrote.

Under the federal agreement, the police department also expanded its Division of Data Analytics and created the Bureau of Police reform.

According an assessment from the court-appointed independent monitor, the police department achieved 100% primary compliance with the current decree, 99% secondary compliance and 80% operational compliance.

The Albuquerque Police Department did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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Categories / Civil Rights, Government, Regional

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