APD Monitor: Small Group of Sergeants and Lieutenants Not on Board With Reform Effort
- City Can't do Anything About the Foot-Draggers Because They're Protected by Contracts and Civil Service Rules
- Parties to the Settlement Agreement Still Can't Write an Acceptable Use-of-Force Policy
- APD's Compliance Bureau Doing an "Absolutely Spectacular" Job
- New Training Academy Director Angela Byrd Doing a Great Job
There is a small, but widespread group of sergeants and lieutenants in the Albuquerque Police Department that aren't totally committed to APD's reform effort with the U.S Department of Justice, but because they have civil service protection, there's not much APD can do about them, the independent monitor in the reform case told a federal court judge earlier this month.
The sergeants and lieutenants aren't actively working to subvert the reform process—they're not destroying computer files or anything like that—but they're foot-draggers who aren't “completely committed” to the reform process,” the monitor, James Ginger, told U.S. District Court Judge Robert Brack during a Sept. 10 status conference on the reform process.
Ginger also told Brack that while APD's new Compliance Bureau has been “absolutely spectacular over the last six months,” in working to comply with the city's settlement agreement with the DOJ, the city and other parties to the settlement agreement are having a hard time in writing a new use-of-force policy for APD and that he found the proposed policy lacked "multiply key aspects" of good policy and that he had to rewrite it. Ginger also praised APD's new training director, Angela Byrd, for writing “the first training design piece that I've reviewed from APD that complies to professional standards and professional process.”
But it was the small group of foot-dragging sergeants and lieutenants at APD that were the subject of much of the discussion during the status conference. Here are some excerpts of the discussion based on a transcript of the hearing.
JAMES GINGER: There's one issue we have that has the monitoring team, as a whole, concerned. And we mentioned it in the technical assistance report and we mentioned it in-depth to APD when we were on site. And that is what I have come to call the "counter-CASA effect" within APD. It's a small group, but it's a widespread collection of sworn personnel at sergeant's and lieutenant's levels with civil service protection that appear to be, based on my knowledge and experience, not completely committed to this process. I had a conversation with the Chief in depth about that issue. He's cognizant of it. And I know he's trying, as best he can, to work through it. But it's difficult because those folks are in ranks and positions that are protected by civil service, and the bid through the Union contract tends to keep them there. So it's something we're all aware of and we will be working through.
JUDGE BRACK : Dr. Ginger, you indicated one item of concern, what you've described as the "counter-CASA effect." And you said that this particular group you've identified are not committed to the process. I think that was what you said just a moment ago, but I'm concerned that -- is it they're just ambivalent to the process or are they undermining the process?
JAMES GINGER: Well, they are certainly ambivalent. Based on my experience in these projects, that ambivalence, alone, because they're -- the ones I'm speaking of are in critical areas, and that ambivalence, alone, will give rise to exactly the sort of issues that we've seen in the past at the training Academy. So while it's not overt, you know, there's nobody sabotaging computer files or that sort of thing, it's a sort of a low-level processing, but nonetheless, it has an effect. It has, I think, a direct and substantive effect. It's the critical issue I see with APD at this point.
JUDGE BRACK: And you've talked with command staff about this. I think if this came up at the prior status conference, I wasn't here, as you recall, but I'm just curious to know how this comes to your attention and what sort of reaction you get when you have brought it to the attention of command staff.
DR. GINGER: It came to my attention through protracted issues over the past year, I guess, maybe a little bit less than a year. You know, the same sort of issues we had before Chief Geier and his crew came in, we found again after Chief Geier and his crew came in. And it was directly -- those issues were directly associated with the same people that we had had problems with before. I had a conversation with the Chief. I don't think that was any news to him, but you know, given the fact that these folks have civil service protection, his choices are limited at this point.
JUDGE BRACK: Well, that's got me scratching my chin. We've got a group you've identified as people that are at least ambivalent and obviously not a positive part of moving the process forward, even if they aren't actively undermining it, but there isn't anything to be done about that ambivalence. There isn't anything -- because of their protection, we're just left to -- how do you deal with that in systemic reform? You've bound to have run into something like this before.
JUDGE BRACK So Dr. Ginger, with that directive, I'll ask that you-all meet immediately afterward and discuss this, but just in more general sense, how do you deal with recalcitrance in the ranks when you've got civil service protection?
JAMES GINGER: The process of addressing that is the old tried and true method of oversight and supervision. And we have two or three people who, while they may not be directly disobeying orders, are somewhat slow to move along, and that's just a matter of supervision, consultation, notification, continued review of their work product. And then, if it continues to not meet standards, then something needs to be done through a disciplinary process. So it is addressable. They addressed it at New Jersey State Police. They addressed it at Pittsburgh. Eventually, they addressed it at Los Angeles. This is not an irreconcilable issue, but it is an important issue. But it was in our second mini report that we produced to the Court. It received specific notations in that report. I've had conversations with the Chief about it prior -- prior to this. And I think he's familiar with what we're talking about. So I've been working with PD on this for quite some time and it's been reported.
CHIEF GEIER: Your Honor, again, after discussions with Dr. Ginger, even before that, we noticed some of that -- again, some of those problems that were being identified basically were at the higher level. And they weren't just in the membership of the APOA, but some of the unprotected positions at commander and whatnot that we identified problems and, again, some of that resistance that
carried over from a previous administration, I believe. We have made changes. Some of those people have been removed from those positions, as well as being replaced by other people who have picked up the slack. Because I think the word got down to the lower levels, the sergeants and lieutenants, it was a matter of loyalties to previous commanders or a matter of miscommunication in terms of the where the direction the Department was going, trying to go forward with the CASA, and there was still some old-school resistance. So we are on top of it at the higher levels. I think we've made some significant changes, Cdr. Byrd being one of those people that stepped up and addressed some of deficiencies, even with her own people that had miscommunications from previous command staff. So it isn't something we're not aware of, as you have implied, yourself. It is something that is deep-seated and is a little harder to find a quick fix or solution to it, but I think, in the long term, by having this foundation with new leadership and a new direction from the top down, we should be able to get through this and survive it.
Here's what Ginger said about the efforts to write a new use-of-force policy:
JAMES GINGER: Yes, sir, Your Honor. I hate to be the one to rain on the parade, but I just simply have to report the facts. I received the latest use-of-force document, 2-52, from the parties last week. I found it lacking in multiple key aspects. It was missing key components. Issues that needed to be dealt with in a Use-of-Force Policy were not dealt with. I had questions about enforceability. So I'm working on writing the resolution document ... I found it necessary to basically rewrite the policy. There were, at last count, 50-plus changes that I saw as needing to be made. So it's been a fairly complex process. Those have been made. They're in draft form. As soon as I finish proofing that draft, it will go out to the parties immediately.