Portion of APD-DOJ settlement suspended

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque Police Department officials say the department is finally able to suspend a portion of the U.S. Department of Justice settlement – essentially removing about a quarter of the requirements.

“We pointed out in court today that APD’s progress is here to stay,” Chief Harold Medina said. “We demonstrated that we are committed to the changes made in several key areas, and we no longer need federal oversight. We are making similar progress throughout the department, and we will shift resources to meet the remaining challenges we face.”

The changes will go into effect in less than a week, on Aug. 1. This announcement comes after a district judge stated the city demonstrated “sustained operational compliance.”

There are still a few key parts of APD that the federal government says still need improvement, including why the DOJ came to Albuquerque in the first place. 

“One of the biggest things we have to meet is that we need to investigate uses of force and hold officers accountable,” said Medina.

Back in 2014, the Department of Justice was investigating claims that APD was using excessive and sometimes deadly force when it wasn’t necessary.

After the feds published their findings, the city, APD, and DOJ entered into a settlement agreement where the DOJ brought in an independent monitor, Dr. James Ginger.

Since then, he’s overseen how APD has worked on improving things like its policies, training, and how they act in the field.

“It’s been a roller coaster ride,” Medina said.  

But in the last two years, they have gotten back on track.

“Fast forward to the next reporting period, today they spoke about how not one single case passed a deadline and all cases of force were investigated in that timeline

Because of those improvements, the DOJ will not oversee areas like field training, specialized units or staffing. APD will now self-monitor all of that. 

But there are areas the feds will still be keeping a close eye on.

“That’s the first thing is to get these use of force investigations done, complete, and fair the last part we need to work on is our ability to gather statistics,” said Medina. 

Medina says he can see the light at the end of the tunnel with this decision to allow the police department to have a bit more control.

The chief also hopes to be in full compliance with the DOJ recommendations, in the next two years. 

On Wednesday, APD will be talking about how this decision could help them hire new recruits. 

The DOJ started overseeing APD in 2014, citing a pattern of excessive force over the years – but the decision came just weeks after police shot and killed James Boyd in the Foothills.