Chatter over proposed amendments by the Albuquerque City Council to the city’s Civilian Police Oversight ordinance dominated two meetings held Monday afternoon. The meetings were held to gain input about amendments to this important ordinance that is meant to keep an eye on what our men and women in blue are up to on the streets.

Oversight Drama

There always is a bit of drama surrounding attempts to implement civilian police oversight. The city’s police department has been under Department of Justice oversight since 2014 when it was found to have a pattern and practice of excessive force. APD and its civilian oversight have struggled throughout with an inability to fulfill all of the measures in the agreement. The civilian oversight agency has been hobbled by an inability to keep a full board and inadequate funding to provide oversight as intended by the consent decree.

Albuquerque’s latest stretch of unrest began in October when then Civilian Police Oversight Executive Director Edward Harness resigned. Then the Superintendent of Police Reform resigned, along with nearly half of the CPOA board. To boot, the police department has come under fire from the federal monitor appointed to oversee the reforms. And our police-involved fatal shootings are second in the nation. Whew, all of this has created a mess.

We Did Something!

Last year, Councilors Brook Bassan, Isaac Benton, Pat Davis and then Councilor Lan Sena introduced some changes to the civilian police governing document. Councilors kicked the can down the road into 2022 after Sena was unseated in the November election.

The seemingly bipartisan amendments tackled and gutted some significant requirements. At the city council workshop, councilors made the smart decision to shut up and let the CPOA board members present speak about how the changes will impact the job they do keeping an eye on the police department. There were not a whole lot of accolades by the board members over the proposed changes or their time spent on the board.

“Overall my experience has been lackluster not because of the members but because of the role of being able to affect change has been lackluster at best,” one member said during the study session. “I am here for the citizens–to be an unbiased eye and ear–but I don’t see an effect.”

Help Us Help You

The excitement caused by the proposed amendments lapped over into the regular meeting of the CPOA board held later in the day. During the three-hour meeting, the group discussed in careful detail the proposed changes made in the 27-page ordinance. It seemed one of the most important items they agreed on was that the CPOA should have at least one percent of APD’s total budget in order to provide adequate police oversight. They also did not like the relaxation of the training requirements among a myriad of other recommendations to the city council. The full city council will take up this complicated topic at a future meeting.