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Albuquerque Police Department Backtracks, Begins to Self Destruct

“Backslider’s Wine” is a Jerry Jeff Walker woesome ditty from the early 1970s. But in 2020 it could be the title of a song about the Albuquerque Police Department after the scathing report filed by the federal monitor in charge of overseeing police reforms.

Blue Boys Better Behave

Dr. James Ginger, the independent federal monitor put in place by the United States Department of Justice to oversee the reforms, said at an Oct. 6 court hearing that, “We are on the brink of a catastrophic failure at APD.” Among other things, Ginger went on to say that the department has failed miserably to police itself. No mincing of words here. Police bosses have to discipline and even remove, if necessary, the officers that are not able to control themselves.

Back in October 2014, the Justice Department reached an agreement with the City of Albuquerque to bring forth wide-ranging police reforms. After a year-long investigation, the feds found that our police department had a pattern and practice of excessive use of force against civilians. Enter Dr. Ginger and a Court Approved Settlement Agreement to make sure they do what they are supposed to do.

The department is seemingly making good gains in some areas. In the recent reporting time period, APD was in 100 percent primary compliance. This refers to the revamping of overall policies. It had a 91 percent secondary compliance, which is training of the officers. It dropped to 64 percent compliance in operational matters, such as whether officers and their supervisors are behaving according to new policies and procedures and whether they are being disciplined and corrected when they do not act as they should. Dr. Ginger cited a case in the report that he called borderline sadistic. We know that the majority of the officers on the streets of Burque are trying to do the right thing by protecting and serving and not further hurting, mentally or physically, any of our residents, criminal or not.

Who Is To Blame?

Fingers point all around on this one. Mayor Tim Keller’s administration has said the problem was former Police Chief Michael Geier whom Keller had lauded as “perfect for the job” of reform three years earlier. Geier was told to hit the road because the Keller administration felt he was resistant to holding his officers accountable. Geier didn’t help his case much when he said he thought Ginger was too harsh, threw officers under the bus and it hurt morale. Get us a violin.

Dr. Ginger said during the court hearing that it was not just a matter of ineffective leadership. He said it was also a command and supervision problem that is showing up on the streets. Dr. Ginger told the court that in his 30 years as a police monitor he has not seen a department in more trouble.

Interim Chief Harold Medina said that there will not be any more “sweeping counter-CASA culture under the rug at APD.” Medina said he is taking the reform process seriously and is taking discipline seriously. Medina fired the ineffective leader of the police academy to address deficiencies at the training level. The city is currently looking for a new chief. Dr. Ginger said in his report that it was imperative that the next police chief needs to step up, speak out, set and meet reform goals. [ ]

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