ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Scrutiny over Albuquerque Police Department’s rise in officer-involved shootings has pushed the department to revise its nonlethal use of force policy. The hope is that officers will try other alternatives before feeling the need to use their guns.

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According to the department, this change in policy is meant to make it more clear when officers can use non-lethal force. Chief Harold Medina explained, “This is absolutely going to help us clarify language that officers feel more comfortable that less lethal be authorized earlier in these encounters and hopefully we will see a difference.”

The hope is that this will lower the number of deadly police shootings. Leadership within the department said there was a need to be more specific in the policy for when officers can use lower levels of force like tasers or bean bag shotguns. 

The updated policy outlines when officers should discharge electronic control weapons and when an officer can use force in dangerous situations. This allows officers to use less lethal force sooner than they were able to under the previous policy. 

Chief Medina went on to say, “I also recognize there’s community concern. Eighteen officer-involved shootings last year and that’s why we’re trying to make these changes to ensure that the community knows that we’re hearing their concern, we are doing evaluations and we are making adjustments as necessary.

Three years ago the department overhauled its use of force policy as part of the city’s agreement with the Department of Justice over the use of excessive force. The DOJ has approved APD’s revised nonlethal use of force policy. Over the next few weeks, the policy will be implemented with formal training programs throughout the department. 

The ACLU, which has been vocal about the department’s excessive use of force, released a statement on APD’s policy change. 

Barron Jones, Sr. Policy Strategist at ACLU-NM:

This is a positive step in reducing the deadly force used by law enforcement officers against the Albuquerque community. The city must continue to ramp up alternative responses to reduce interactions between police and those living with mental health and substance abuse disorders and other quality of life issues.