APD celebrates progress amid concerns over police shootings

APD celebrates progress amid concerns over police shootings

Data shows that since 2020, use-of-force investigations have been trending down.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It was a pattern of unconstitutional use of force that brought the Department of Justice to Albuquerque nine years ago. Now, city leaders hope to get out of federal oversight.

Data paints a much-improved picture, showing that use-of-force investigations have been trending down since 2020, and arrests are trending up.

“I am proud of the direction our officers have gone,” APD Chief Harold Medina said. “I am proud of the accountability that has been brought to the Albuquerque Police Department. I am proud that our officers have cut the use of force down by 43% while maintaining the number of arrests.”

New Mexico U.S. Attorney Alex Uballez said Thursday that there is “dramatic and sustained progress” in the federal monitor’s 18th report on the Albuquerque Police Department.

However, police shootings remain high. The 2022 police killing of Jesus Crosby is still seen as a debacle. A federal official said, “It’s hard to mess it up that bad…” regarding the force review board initially deciding that killing Crosby did not break police rules.

“People are still getting killed with mental issues,” said Barron Jones with the ACLU of New Mexico. “We need some continuity of accountability in order for us to pat ourselves on the back.”

The ACLU is one of many groups that are worried meeting technical requirements does not equate to meaningful change.

The police chief points to instances of accountability like the termination of officers Brenda Johnson, Eric Wilensky, and Violeta Baca after police shot two bystanders in July. Officer Christian Cordova resigned before the firings.

“Shot at a place and harmed two civilians that had nothing to do with the incident,” Jones said. “For them to say they fired someone and they did a great job about it… I’ll leave it there.”

APD is now at 94% for “operational compliance” right now. In federal court Friday, they said they want to see 100% compliance for two full years, meaning the federal oversight will be here until at least 2026.