Stiffened Resistance to Reform
Carefully Thought-Out Resistance
“A culture of accountability is markedly absent at” the Albuquerque Police Department, even three years into the DOJ-mandated reform process, the independent monitor in the reform effort said Wednesday.
And APD's ability to track and properly deal with use-of-force cases is trending into disorder, the monitor, James Ginger, said in his sixth report on the reform effort to U.S. District Court Judge Robert Brack. Ginger's report, which covers the period between February and July of this year, was filed with Brack on Wednesday morning, the day after the city filed a court document claiming that Ginger was biased against APD.
The report also found that APD's training processes are "substandard," that its training academy appear to be too easy and that there is a "stiffened resistance" among APD's command staff to writing policies that comply with the settlement agreement. In fact, the command staff has worked to weaken previously approved policies and has engaged in a "carefully thought-out resistance to the requirements of the CASA [Court Approved Settlement Agreement]," the report said.
Ginger also ripped Assistant Police Chief Robert Huntsman for not even knowing that the department's internal units had a backlog of use-of-force cases to be investigated.
“As of this reporting period, we consider APD’s force management system to be in a severe state of entropy, exhibiting problems that extend well beyond supervision and involve issues of leadership, command reliability, and critical systems support mechanisms such as FIT, CIRT, the Force Review Board, and administrative support mechanisms,” Ginger's report said.
“Command and Control continues to need substantial improvement; integrated developmental systems for training, supervision, discipline and follow-up process development have not been addressed, and, in the monitor’s professional opinion, based on six-decades of experience in law enforcement on the local and national level, a culture of accountability is markedly absent at APD.”
Ginger's main summary said this:
“We continue to note pervasive lapses in processes related to use-of-force oversight at the Area Command-level, and at the force-review and response mechanisms within the administrative processes of APD. In short, even after hundreds of man-hours of consultation, reports, recommendations and repeated (sometimes intense) conversations with APD leadership over a two-year period, APD continues to fall seriously short of CASA requirements relating to management and supervision—particularly regarding use of force-related issues. Arguably, some of these lapses can be attributed to staffing issues.
“Nonetheless, performance on tasks outlined in these sections of the CASA remain out of compliance, despite the monitoring team’s two years of intensive consultation, documentation, and suggestion. We found problematic performance in supervisory training regarding response to use of force, computerized systems designed to 'flag' problematic officer behavior, internal 'oversight' mechanisms relating to use of force, management of force-review functions, and over-arching leadership of the department related to uses of force in-field practices, supervision, training, oversight, and leadership. Considering that use of force is one of the main areas of focus of the CASA, issues encountered this reporting period related to uses of force identification, classification, investigation, assessment, findings development and remediation are troublesome.”
Here's what the report said about Huntsman:
“We learned in May 2017, during our work for IMR-6, that APD was reporting only those cases (serious uses of force) that were closed, not all cases that were reported. That shielded the fact that there were numerous cases pending and those cases left significant gaps in the data. It also raised serious questions as to why cases were pending for such extended periods of time. Even more troubling, we found that even the Chair of APD’s Force Review Board (an assistant chief of police) [Huntsman] claimed ignorance of this discrepancy!
"To find that, at this late date, the chair of the Force Review Board was unaware of this 'backlog' is more than puzzling. It is extremely troublesome, and reflects a significant lack of awareness and focus on use of force issues at APD."
Here are some other excerpts from Ginger's report:
"Training processes, however, continue to exhibit problems and issues. We have noted since the early days the APD’s tendency to “shortcut” accepted training practices and cycles, and have devoted hundreds of team-hours to reviewing and critiquing (directly to APD Academy managers) what we found to be substandard practices in training development, documentation, and evaluation. Despite the work product provided by the monitor to APD regarding training, we still find training product that fails to meet nationally accepted practice, and/or monitor-communicated standards."
Easy academy classes, or coaching
"We also note that testing at the APD academy routinely show unusually high mean scores (well above 95 percent) which indicates to us either remarkably easy assessment tools or coaching. While one would expect high marks from professional training (and while the acceptable 'pass rate' articulated in the monitor’s training assessment methodology requires that greater than 95 percent of those tested 'pass,' an average score of 95-plus percent is a statistically worrisome outcome, potentially indicating an overly easy testing mechanism. If 95% of those who took the test 'passed' (e.g., a 70 or above) that would be one matter, but if the average score is 95 that is a different, and suspect 'outcome.'"
"One of the more serious deficiencies we noted at APD in our IMR-5 report was 'Assessment of citizen-police interactions to ensure that policing practice conforms to policy.' We noted during monitoring team interactions with APD during the IMR-6 reporting period, a stiffened resistance to crafting policy that would lead to compliance with the CASA. The monitor found that, on several occasions, he simply had to refuse APD-proposed changes to policy that in the monitor’s opinion, would not comply with the requirements of the CASA. In other instances, APD attempted to revise previously approved policies in ways designed carefully to weaken previously approved policy versions. We can only describe these attempts as carefully thought-out resistance to the requirements of the CASA."
The report said that APD is in 53 percent operational compliance with the settlement agreement. Operational compliance means “that 95 percent of the time, field personnel either perform tasks as required by the CASA, or that, when they fail, supervisory personnel note and correct in-field behavior that is not compliant with the requirements of the CASA,” the report said.
APD must hit an operational compliance mark of 95 percent and stay there for two years before the DOJ can even consider leaving town, according to the settlement agreement.
In Ginger's last report, which was filed in early May, APD hit an operational compliance rate of 47 percent.
Ginger said that the most difficult times lay ahead for APD in terms of reaching a 95 percent operational compliance rate.
“The easy work is done,” the report said. “Much remains to be accomplished, and it is some of the most difficult work in policing.”