Lawmakers want Department of Justice takeover of APD

Created: 04/01/2014 6:30 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Several state lawmakers from the Albuquerque metro area would like the city to invite the U.S. Department of Justice to take over the city police department right now – even before the DOJ investigation is over.

But don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

For two years the DOJ has been investigating police shootings and civil rights complaints about Albuquerque police. Similar investigations led to federal takeovers of police departments in Seattle and Newark, NJ. Albuquerque could be next – and should be, according to Rep. Moe Maestas, an Albuquerque Democrat who is part of the majority leadership in the state House of Representatives.

"The mayor has to do something drastic, because the officers at APD don't deserve the scrutiny of the citizens like they're getting," Maestas said. "They are good cops, but there needs to be a change in leadership and the city needs to have confidence and trust in the police force once again."

But Mayor Richard Berry says not so fast.

"What I would like to do is wait to see what the Department of Justice comes up with," Berry said. "We have a very collaborative relationship, a very professional relationship. They're here. They've been here almost two years. There's no breakdown in communications between the administration and the DOJ."

In the last 20 years, the Department of Justice has investigated 50 police departments, and has taken over 10 of them. Here's how it works: the DOJ appoints someone with deep legal and law enforcement expertise and experience as a federal monitor. That person must have no prior ties with the police department. The police chief becomes second-in-command while the monitor steers the department. The takeover may last up to five years.

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