What ABQ can learn from Seattle's DOJ investigation

Created: 04/03/2014 6:31 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The Albuquerque Police Department could be headed for a closer relationship with the Department of Justice. Mayor Richard Berry asked to work with DOJ monitors. KING 5 News Investigative Reporter Linda Byron reported on developments when the Seattle Police Department was monitored by the DOJ, and says the sooner one gets in, the better.

"The most important thing is to get on board with a federal monitor everyone can agree to and start those reforms and have everybody saying ok, here's the goal, here's where we're going," Byron said. "We have had a very fractured process here."

The DOJ’s investigation into the Seattle Police Department came after a series of high profile incidents.

"Some of them were fatal, others were just incidents caught on video where it appeared police were using force that wasn't necessary," Byron said. "We had a woodcarver, a native woodcarver, that was walking across the street while carrying a knife, he was shot and killed by a police officer, it didn't appear there was any provocation for was found that the use of wasn't justified by the Seattle police department."

Byron says the department in Seattle did not welcome the investigation at first.

"The investigation took place and the Seattle police department did cooperate but they really had no choice. The feds came in, they did a year-long investigation, then they announced their findings and said one out of every five times Seattle police used force it was either unnecessary or excessive," Byron said.

Next, the DOJ introduced mandates for reforms.

"There was a lot of pushback from Seattle police department initially and certainly from the police union, from our mayor at the time, questioning whether these findings were accurate and there are many that believe that set back the reform process quite a bit," Byron said.

As for whether the reforms are actually in place since they were first introduced in 2012, Byron says it will still take some time.

"We're at the point right now where you are scrambling the eggs to make the omelet. There's been a lot of disarray, there's been a lot of disagreement between the mayor's office, the city council and the city attorney, but we now have a new mayor, we have an interim police chief, and they have said this reform is top, top priority," Byron said.

Byron says a lot of concerns were about money, and it may have set the process back somewhat because people were focused on the money and not on implementing the reforms. Byron says Seattle PD has spent around seven million dollars on reforms so far.

She says it will likely still take some time for officers and the public to gain mutual trust.

"That is still something that's in process. There is a great deal of distrust still in the community with the police department both sides acknowledging that needs to change and trying to at least engage in the conversation. Making progress, not there yet," Byron said.

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