The city of Albuquerque and the U.S. Justice Department have selected an independent monitor, Dr. James R. Ginger, to oversee police reforms. Ginger’s selection is part of a settlement the city negotiated with DOJ over the police department’s use of force. Ginger previously served as an independent monitor for a similar agreements reached with Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and the New Jersey State Police. He was selected from a pool of 17 applicants. A judge is expected to sign off on his selection Wednesday.
In 2014, DOJ found “reasonable cause to believe that APD engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” often against people posing a minimal threat. NPR member station KUNM previously reported that APD has shot 37 people since 2010, 24 of them fatally. The station says the Justice Department has been investigating the Albuquerque Police Department’s use of force since late 2012.
The DOJ announced its settlement with Albuquerque in October 2014. At that time, the department said of Albuquerque police, “Officers routinely use deadly force and less lethal force in an unreasonable manner and that systemic deficiencies in policies, training, supervision, and oversight contributed to the pattern or practice.”
The Justice Department says APD will implement reforms in nine key areas, including use of force, use of specialized units, crisis and mental health intervention, recruitment, and community engagement.
Albuquerque news station KOB gave some details on the reforms:
“APD will have four years to complete the sweeping reforms, aimed at [reining in] the department’s use of force, reforming specialized units within the department and giving officers more direction on how to deal with mentally-ill people.
“Officers will have 72 hours to document the use of force, and a new ‘Force Review Board’ will have 30 days to review the use of force and decide if it was reasonable. The board will be comprised of several bureau managers, a training director and a legal advisor.
“APD will also have to publish a report each year detailing how many uses of force there were citywide that year.
“The City of Albuquerque must also agree to eliminate the Repeat Offender Project, commonly known as the ROP Team, within 90 days.
“Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry said the city may spend $4-6 million in reforms in the first year, and that much of that money will go to new training.”
In March 2014, the shooting death of James Boyd, a homeless man who was camping illegally on the outskirts of town, touched off a wave of protests after video of the man’s death was released. Rita Daniels of NPR member station KUNM told NPR, “Marchers flooded … the freeway, shutting it down, and things got tense. The police department brought in SWAT teams, dressed in riot gear, and used tear gas. Protesters were demanding that the police chief resign, that the mayor be fired and that what they called killer cops be charged with murder.”
Earlier this month, another man was killed in an officer-involved shooting in Albuquerque, setting off more protests.
In a statement, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry said, “The selection of the monitor is an important step. I am encouraged that we came to agreement with the DOJ as quickly as we did; it bodes well for the implementation process as we move forward.”