Mayor Berry selects team to help with DOJ talks

Updated: 04/11/2014 6:10 PM | Created: 04/11/2014 3:28 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Two men will play a major part in the city of Albuquerque’s negotiations with the U.S. Department of Justice over a new future for APD – and they’re not even from here.

“Been there – done it” could be their motto. Scott Greenwood and Tom Streicher are from Cincinnati. They started as adversaries in that city’s violent police crisis years ago. Today they’re partners, helping other cities work with the DOJ to make big changes in their police forces. Call them the Odd Couple: Greenwood was an ACLU lawyer who sued the Cincinnati police 19 times, and Streicher was the police chief.

“For a period of the better part of the next decade we spent working from opposite ends toward the place in which our community could succeed,” Greenwood said during a news conference Friday with Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry.

Greenwood and Streicher helped to hammer out collaborative agreements with the DOJ in Cincinnati. Results? No more riots. Fewer complaints about excessive use of force. New rules for cops using guns, tear gas, canines. A powerful citizen oversight process.  New hope for Albuquerque.

“This is about systems,” Streicher said. “This is about processes. This is not about demonizing anybody. This is not about demonizing an agency. It’s not about demonizing members of the community. It’s not about demonizing individual police officers.  It’s certainly not about demonizing the city of Albuquerque.”

The Justice Department blasted APD in a scorching letter of findings Thursday, zeroing in on police shootings and excessive use of force in general.

“The bad news is that the things that are in the findings look severe,” Greenwood said. “They are profound and they relate to the things we always have to get right in policing – use of force more than anything else. The good news is that everything in these findings letter, all of these challenges in Albuquerque are fixable. Every one of them is fixable.”

“There aren’t findings that there’s corruption here,” Streicher said. “There aren’t findings that somehow the agency is tied to some kind of illegal conduct or payoffs or whatever it is that other agencies have been confronted with. That’s a critical point here and it tells us that you’re starting out with an agency that’s good and it’s going to get better.”

Greenwood said Albuquerque’s problems are more straightforward and easier to fix than police issues in many other cities. He said that may add up to a less expensive ordeal for the taxpayers. The seven-year DOJ monitoring of the Cincinnati police cost about $13 million, according to one city official’s estimate.

That gets us to how much the Odd Couple’s legal services will cost the taxpayers. Mayor Berry said the initial contract will probably come in at $75,000 to get started. That’s the limit without City Council approval. A longer term contract will have to be worked out with the Council. Greenwood will be the city’s chief attorney for the DOJ negotiations.

“So much of this is new to Albuquerque, but it’s not new to other cities around the country,” Berry said. “We’re trying very, very early on to get moving.”

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