APD chief claims improvement in use-of-force investigations

APD chief claims improvement in use-of-force investigations

Despite more police shootings, Albuquerque’s police chief is making his case for progress.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Despite more police shootings, Albuquerque’s police chief is making his case for progress.

“I am proud of the direction our officers have gone,” said APD Chief Harold Medina during a news conference.  

As we near the potential end of federal oversight of APD, Medina says the proof of the progress is in the numbers.

Despite the progress APD is pointing to, some groups say they are really concerned about trusting the police department to hold themselves accountable once the DOJ moves out of town.

Just after Christmas, APD officials announced that the DOJ is putting its use-of-force investigations back in the hands of the police.

On Wednesday, APD Chief Harold Medina is pointing to trends he says are showing they are not only doing more policing, but doing it without more violence.

Just outside of APD headquarters, Jesus Crosby’s picture hangs with a call for justice.

“We have a slight decrease from last year. But, last year was a record number of officer involved shootings in 2022 and 2023,” said Medina.

Crosby was one of a record-breaking 18 police shootings in 2022. Armed with nail clippers mistaken for a knife, police shot and killed him during a mental health crisis.

Crosby’s case is still pointed to today. APD Forward is a collection of nearly 20 advocacy groups who say his death was horrifying, unnecessary, and showed an “indifference to the spirit of the reform process among some of the leadership of APD.”

Ryan Lauhglin: “What if anything has been learned about it, and why that’s not an example of why the culture is broken here at APD?  

Medina: “One incident doesn’t create a pattern.”

The chief says Crosby was safely put in jail once, but after refusing to leave his cell to appear before a judge, he was released.

“That is a failure of the system, and it’s beyond the Albuquerque Police Department,” said Medina. 

The Crosby shooting preceded a change in the use-of-force policy to clarify when officers can use less lethal use-of-force.

This year, there have been 15 police shootings, but the chief says there is a much more meaningful drop in other use-of-force incidents.

Despite complying with nearly all of the DOJ’s requirements, concerns from community stakeholders remain high.

“I recognized a long time ago that there will be advocacy groups that do not respect the outcomes of this process. They didn’t support APD prior to this process, they were very unfairly critical of APD during several court hearings,” Medina said. 

One of those court hearings is scheduled for Thursday. 

The police are happy about an increase in arrests but a decrease in use-of-force incidents.

Back in 2020, arrests decreased along with use-of-force investigations. Now arrests are going up, but still use-of-force investigations are dropping by more than 40% since 2020 — despite the higher levels of scrutiny.

Police say they are making all this progress with the DOJ despite breaking a record for police shootings last year, and coming close again this year. 

But how did we compare with police shootings leading up to the DOJ back in 2014?

The feds found between 2009 and 2012 there were 20 police shootings. Despite seeing many more shootings now, the difference, according to APD, is they are now mostly justified and within policy.

Police shootings account for less than 3% of all use-of-force investigations. Of the 525 use-of-force investigations in 2023 only 16 were found to break the rules.

The chief points to this data as evidence APD is making progress.