Ed Harness says that his six-year term as director of the city's troubled Civilian Police Oversight Agency has been so exceptional he should be automatically reappointed for another term. But his civilian oversight board and the DOJ monitor overseeing the city reform efforts disagree. On Tuesday night, that division played out in public. Harness announced to the board that he would resign next month instead of undergoing a public review of his job performance as a candidate for the position when his current contract expires.
Harness scolded the civilian volunteer members of his board for not automatically appointing him to another term and posting the position for public applications. "Despite my request to be reappointed as executive director, you decided to deny my request and open my position to applicants," Harness told the board. He went on to warn that failing to return him to his position "will set back the organization its ability to maintain compliance with the."
Although Harness said that under his six-year term, the CPOA "has been a shining star according to the [Dept. of Justice] and the monitor," the independent monitoring team reporting on the city's compliance with court-mandated reforms has been critical of the failure of CPOA to staff its team of investigators fully. Harness' term has been marked by ongoing disputes between the board and Harness, and conflicts with the City Council and board members.
The monitor's most recent report found that a random sampling of CPOA investigations under Harness' leadership was insufficient and deficient. In one case "The CPOA investigation considered an inapplicable [Standard Operating Procedure—SOP] and failed to consider more applicable SOPs." In another case, "The reasoning of the CPOA investigator was shallow and conclusory."
The monitoring team also discovered 50 unprocessed files at the CPOA that had been pending so long that the officers were no longer subject to discipline. The monitor wrote in its most recent report to the court that, "75 percent of the completed CPOA cases selected in our random sample were untimely."
In 2019 Harness attempted to leave his contract early when he applied to lead the City of Fort Worth, Texas' oversight agency. He was not selected and remained in Albuquerque.
As The Paper. reported in May, the independent monitor was critical of the city's overall police reform efforts and suggested that the Keller administration is close to being in contempt of court because of its "catastrophic failure" to implement reforms to avoid abuses of force by officers. Independent monitor Dr. James Ginger wrote in the May report to the court, "APD is willing to go through almost any machination to avoid disciplining officers who violate policy or supervisors who fail to note policy violations or fail to act on them in a timely manner." However, the report found that civilian employees not represented by the police union were often disciplined with the maximum penalty for even minor violations, seemingly implying that the Keller administration was unwilling or unable to address resistance by the union and its members.
A recent poll conducted by The Paper. found that 34 percent of likely city voters believe police officers and their union are most to blame for delays in reforms. At the same time, 46 percent said DOJ policies were "preventing officers from doing their jobs."
Earlier this year the civilian oversight board chose to post the director's position for applicants and publicly encouraged Harness to reapply. The position will remain open, and the board will send a final list of recommended applicants to the city council members who will select a new director.
You can watch Harness' speech to the board on the GOV-TV Youtube channel.
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