City to hire outside investigators to probe APD use of force cases
By Dennis Domrzalski
-- Another layer of bureaucracy that will probably be with us for years. No mention as to how much it will cost, but it will probably add millions onto the millions already spent on APD reform.
The city of Albuquerque has agreed to hire an outside investigation team to investigate serious uses of force by Albuquerque police officers. And the city has agreed to staff APD's Internal Affairs force investigations unit with 25 investigators to look at uses of force by police officers.
The agreement came in the form of a stipulated order in the city's police reform settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The order was filed filed Friday and would have to be approved by U.S. District Court Judge James Browning before it could take effect.
The agreement calls on the city to form and staff an External Force Investigation Team to look at uses of force by police officers. The team would also train APD Internal Affairs investigators on how to properly investigate uses of force instances by police officers.
The proposed order doesn't say how many people would be on EFIT, exactly when the unit would be disbanded—other than that it would go away when APD became proficient at investigating itself—or how much it will cost the city. In other words, it's an open-ended deal that could go on for years and potentially cost city taxpayers millions of dollars in addition to the millions it has already spent on the six-year-old reform effort.
This is what the proposed order says about why it is needed:
“In the first months following the entry of the Stipulated Order, the Order requires the City to make three key improvements, in addition to establishing EFIT, to bring its force investigations into compliance with the CASA (Court Approved Settlement Agreement) and to maintain compliance after EFIT is gone. First, within two months of the entry of the Order, the Order requires the City to submit to the United States and the Independent Monitor a proposal for redesigning its internal affairs investigation process. After the Parties and Monitor have agreed on the proposal, the City will receive guidance and technical assistance from the Independent Monitor to implement the proposal. The Parties expect that the redesigned process will result in changes to APD’s policies that are long overdue. Second, the Order requires the City to increase the number of force investigators at APD, a commitment of resources that is necessary to ensure that APD can investigate all force incidents in a timely manner. The Parties anticipate that staffing will increase over time and may fluctuate as EFIT and APD determine whether individual force investigators have the relevant investigative skills. Third, the Order requires APD to develop new training for force investigators within three months of the entry of the Order. These improvements are necessary to ensure that APD can make positive and durable changes to its force investigations.”
The agreement requires the city to go out to bid for an EFIT administrator by early March and to have that person hired by May 3. Again, the agreement doesn't say how many investigators the EIFT administrator will have to hire or how much it all will cost.
The agreement also says that no EIFT personnel “shall have any current or previous employment relationship or contract for services with APD or the City.” That line basically rules out anyone in Albuquerque. It means there's a good chance that people from out-of-state might have to be hired.
Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association, said formation of an outside investigations team is another layer of bureaucracy, but is necessary to get APD on track and in compliance with the settlement agreement.
“It is kind of a necessary evil. We are understaffed everywhere,” Willoughby said of APD. “It's a huge investment of resources for an understaffed police department, but I don't think they had any other option.”
In the end, the hiring of an outside investigative team is another layer of bureaucracy. For instance, the agreement calls for two sets of investigators to to to the scenes of serious of force cases—Ones from APD Internal Affairs and ones from the EFIT.
“It's another evolution of monitoring,” Willoughby said. “They have to hire the people and train the folks. We have to train the trainers, and then the trainers have to train and monitor APD.”