APD's alleged catastrophe
By Dennis Domrzalski
The court-appointed independent monitor for the Albuquerque police reform effort, James Ginger, must have flunked Vocabulary in grade school. He had to have flunked because he doesn't seem know what the word “catastrophe” means.
I'm sure that some of you would consider it an “utter failure”—the definition of catastrophe—if your high school or college grade point average was 85 percent, which would basically be a B. But most of you would be very happy with that and might actually want to celebrate and shout about it to friends and family.
But if you were thrilled about that B average, someone like Ginger would be there to berate you, call you a loser, wag a scaly, crooked finger and warn that you were on the verge of catastrophe and failure. Ginger has done exactly that to the Albuquerque Police Department.
On Oct. 6, 2020, Ginger told the federal court judge who is overseeing the APD reform case that the department was basically collapsing.
(Photo: Jim Ginger.)
“We are on the brink of a catastrophic failure at APD,” told the judge. “[The department] has failed miserably in its ability to police itself. … If this were simply a question of leadership, I would be less concerned. But it’s not. It’s a question of leadership. It’s a question of command. It’s a question of supervision. And it’s a question of performance on the street. So as a monitor with significant amount of experience – I’ve been doing this since the ’90s – I would have to be candid with the Court and say we’re in more trouble here right now today than I’ve ever seen.”
So is APD really on the verge of catastrophic failure? No, it isn't. In his 12th report on APD's reform progress, Ginger laid out exactly where the department was in reaching its goal of complying with more than 200 items in the city's settlement agreement with the DOJ. And overall, the department has an 85 percent compliance rate, which is a B.
There are three levels of compliance that APD must meet in order to satisfy the DOJ and Ginger. Primary Compliance is writing new policies that meet the DOJ's requirements for constitutional policing. Secondary Compliance is training all officers to those polices, and Operational Compliance means implementing those policies and training in the field and making sure that officers who violate them are held accountable.
So where, according to Ginger, was APD in relation to these compliance levels as of July 2020? Here it is:
Primary Compliance, 100 percent.
Secondary Compliance, 91 percent.
Operational Compliance, 64 percent.
The average overall compliance was 85 percent. And for Operational Compliance, which is the real biggie, APD officers and their supervisors were doing the right things nearly two-thirds of the time. Honestly, it should be much better after six years, but under former APD Chief Gorden Eden, the department's command staff was basically in open defiance of the reform process for three years.
So how is having an average compliance rate of 85 percent a catastrophe? Well, it isn't. And I doubt that Ginger flunked Vocabulary. It appears that Ginger is an extreme nitpicker. He and his team have already made millions off Albuquerque taxpayers. Could it be that he wants to string this process out for a few more years and collect a few more millions?
The general public doesn't read Ginger's 300-page reports. They get their information about the reform process and progress from the newspapers and TV news. And those outlets look for the juicy and inflammatory quotes, and Ginger knows how to deliver them. He's no idiot; he knows how to use language, and I'm beginning to think that he's using language to keep this thing going.
You'll never see a headline that screams, “APD has 85 percent compliance rate!” It just won't happen. Instead, you'll get headlines about alleged catastrophic failure. And I'm wondering if the federal court judge who is overseeing the Court Approved Settlement Agreement (CASA) is actually reading Ginger's reports. If he is he'd have to notice Ginger's intense nitpicking, and that should cause him concern.
I'll have more on Ginger's nitpicking tomorrow. But until then, think about this: Maybe the real catastrophe here is Jim Ginger.