ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller announced a new city monitoring team that oversees reform efforts meaning it could end federal oversight of the Albuquerque Police Department. For nearly a decade, APD has been answering to federal monitors which is part of a settlement agreement to bring major reform to the department.
“We’re going to obviously listen and learn from best practices but we’re not always going to take them. We’re going to do what is best for us,” said Mayor Keller during a press conference.
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Now, the city has announced its own, internal team to monitor officer discipline and ongoing reform hoping it could end its settlement agreement with the federal government known as CASA.
“We obviously couldn’t have gotten here without the journey that we’ve gone with respect to CASA. But this, now sets us up going forward to not have a consent decree and to not have a monitor and to still demonstrate a commitment to real reform ongoing, perpetually at APD,” said Keller.
The city contracted three monitors to oversee the division and the office led by Superintendent Eric Garcia. “We’ve created three internal monitoring positions in APD that are done by folks outside APD who are civilians. We’re very fortunate to have two former judges fulfilling the role and one expert on use of force. They’re no strangers to the criminal justice system here in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That’s exactly why they’re such a good fit for this role,” said Mayor Keller.
Garcia said the department used to have about 20 disciplinary personnel and struggled to give out fair discipline. That is now scaled back to four people. “Now, all discipline is fair and consistent throughout the entire department,” said Garcia. He answers directly to the mayor’s office but also updates APD Chief Harold Medina on use-of-force investigations, reform, and disciplinary actions. Garcia said this helps Chief Medina focus on day-to-day operations.
Other roles on the team include a monitor of police training, monitor discipline and misconduct, and a monitor of use of force.
Former Judge Sharon Walton is the Monitor of Police Training; Former Judge Victor Valdez is the Monitor of Discipline and Misconduct; and Christopher Darcy, a retired undersheriff and founder of Fairfax Consulting Group in Nevada, is the Monitor of Use of Force.
“We wanted a blend of local judicial perspective but also outside expertise that will bring in those national best practices,” said Mayor Keller. The Mayor said part of being able to get out of the federal oversight is being able to show the city and department can monitor themselves moving forward.
“This demonstrates that,” said Mayor Keller. “In a way it’s preventing a CASA down the road. Had we had this set up, we would’ve never needed the CASA in the first place.”
According to the city, the outside monitor and the city have recently agreed to end nearly one-third of the original requirements in the CASA because of the city’s compliance. A federal judge will soon look over the city’s progress.