Major changes are underway for how the Department of Justice will issue consent decrees on how police reforms will be monitored. The Albuquerque Police Department has been under DOJ oversight since 2014 and is in the process of executing several police reforms. Mayor Tim Keller and Albuquerque Police Chief Medina hope that the changes announced will allow APD to renegotiate its settlement agreement with the DOJ.
On Monday U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced that monitoring teams hired by cities to oversee a consent decree will have their monitorship redesigned to minimize costs to jurisdictions and avoid any conflict of interests. Monitorships will also be given a set term of five years that can either be canceled or renewed. The redesigned consent decrees seek consistent access compliance across jurisdictions and improved community engagement by monitors, and monitors will now be incentivized to effectively bring consent decrees to an end.
"Monitoring is a public service, and there should be no question that the monitors' commitment is to the department and community they serve—not to their bottom line," AG Garland said during his speech today to the International Association of Chiefs of Police. "Organizational change takes time, but a consent decree cannot last forever," AG Garland said.
The mayor and APD responded to news of these reforms with optimism. APD has been under federal oversight for the last six years, and the cost of the monitorship falls directly on Albuquerque taxpayers.
"We appreciate that the attorney general of the United States listened to our concerns and is making changes to reflect the realities we're facing," Keller said. "In this city we want to make reforms that are actually meaningful to our local communities rather than out-of-state consultants. I believe that Albuquerque has what it takes to do that while supporting our officers, tackling crime and making our city safer for people from all walks of life."
APD Chief Medina also responded to the announcement by the AG, praising the reforms. "The people of Albuquerque demanded that we change the culture at APD, and we have made tremendous progress," Chief Medina said. "But the public also deserves a fully staffed police department that has the resources to focus on fighting crime. The pendulum has swung too far in the wrong direction where officers do not feel supported. We need the local flexibility to ensure we can balance fighting crime while protecting the rights of all citizens."
The announcement by the AG comes after the Keller met with officials from the Department of Justice, along with the Major Cities Chiefs Association, to outline concerns with the existing process on how the DOJ has monitored APD. A significant concern that the Keller administration emphasized was the cost of the monitoring team on Albuquerque taxpayers. Since 2015 Albuquerque taxpayers have had to pay the monitoring team $7.5 million.
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