ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – After years of changes brought on by a Department of Justice settlement agreement, Albuquerque Police Department (APD) is making a big, time-saving shift in how it investigates its own officers.

“When I took over as chief of police, the number one complaint I heard from first-line supervisors, sergeants, and the officers when I would meet with them was the amount of time it would take to clear the level one use of force,” said APD Chief Harold Medina.

After a year of testing, Chief Medina said a new program has gone live, changing how the department investigates, what they call, “level one” use of force cases.

“Level one is our lowest level of force you can have, and it is not likely to cause any injury or complaint of injury, it is only meant to cause, or it may cause, transitory temporary pain, disorientation, or discomfort during its application,” said APD Deputy Chief Cori Lowe.

APD reported around 600 use of force cases in 2022, saying about 96% were found to be within policy.

“It shows again that we are having complete and thorough investigations in a timely manner, and we are in policy with our applications of use of force for the vast majority of the time and also the use of force overall has gone down,” said Lowe.

About 26% of the department’s use of force cases are considered low-level but still take hours to investigate.

“In the past, that could be three officers lost for a grand total of 15 hours, and it could even be more sometimes,” Chief Medina said.

The department has now switched to a mainly civilian-led use of force investigative team, helping clear low-level cases quicker and freeing up busy officers.

“Now, suddenly in an hour, we are getting everybody cleared out. Sergeants going back. That is four more additional hours that an officer gets to do to conduct police work that they wouldn’t have had otherwise,” explained Chief Medina.

That new civilian use of force investigative team is composed of five civilians, two sergeants, and a deputy commander. APD said it has also been working to train civilian investigators on fatal crash cases to help free up officers in the department’s Motor Unit