ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Albuquerque Police Department says it will make several changes related to the use of deadly force after a recent review of all of last year’s police shooting cases. APD charted 18 shootings in 2022, more in a single year than the department has ever recorded.
At a news news conference Thursday, the department outlined seven topics where officers are expected to receive more targeted training. The list includes increasing the use of hands-on or empty handed techniques; increasing consideration of the use of less lethal munitions; increasing supervision on certain types of calls; continued mentorship with younger, inexperienced officers; new equipment for officers; policies surrounding how quickly scenes are cleared; and more immediate wound care.
Some of the areas mentioned Thursday will be addressed in continued department training expected to begin in April, with 20 hours of classroom times and 20 hours of reality based training. Last week, APD gave the public a behind the scenes look at use of force policies and training. The department also overhauled its non-lethal use of force policy in January.
The announcement came in a first of its kind news conference for Albuquerque Police Thursday, as the agency continues to address reform under a Department of Justice settlement agreement signed in late 2014. Albuquerque Police Chief Harold Medina said he plans to hold comprehensive police shooting reviews every six months in the future.
The effort, according to the Chief, is to continue transparency in the realm of officers using deadly force and to “catch trends” earlier. At a November 2022 news conference, APD said the department recorded 54 shootings over the prior five years.
“This [presentation] was [designed] to help improve the department, this wasn’t about us re-looking and re-disciplining officers, this wasn’t about us placing blame on officers” Medina said. “This was about looking at us as an organization and seeing how we could be a much better organization and how we could have better outcomes.”
Last week, APD release detailed information about Albuquerque’s 2022 crime statistics. Discussing the overall crime stats for the city, APD Chief Harold said last Thursday that he believes “great progress has been made since 2017.”
Details behind the seven areas APD wants to improve
At the top of APD’s list of changes when considering 2022’s police shootings, the department says it wants to increase hands-on or empty handed techniques. APD’s Accountability Bureau Deputy Chief Cori Lowe said while officers already train on the techniques, they want officers to get more frequent training.
“Officers already are required to attend more than 80 hours of training, and supervisors [attend] more than 100 hours of training for 2023,” Lowe said. “We want to evaluate options on how we can provided additional training such as defensive tactics.”
The use of less lethal force
APD also highlighted a goal of increasing the consideration surrounding the use of less lethal munitions. Lowe said the department identified a few police shooting cases where less lethal “may have been used prior to the officer involved shooting.”
“That [isn’t to say] that [using less lethal] would have remedied or avoided the officer involved shooting overall, however, we want to put that in consideration,” Lowe said. Lowe continued, emphasizing that APD has already made changes to its non-lethal use of force policy as of January. Officers will begin training on that newer policy in April.
“It was a complete overhaul,” Lowe said of the newer use of force policy. “We focused on areas such as passive and active resistance and totality of circumstances as [well] as when they can use less lethal munition, making it more consistent.”
Supervision and mentoring of younger officers
APD is also hoping to increase supervision in situations that could lead to officer involved shootings. Lowe said in several 2022 shooting cases, the department saw “critical situations that could have benefitted from a supervisor on scene.”
To improve, APD says it wants to revise policies to include types of calls that require a supervisor to respond. The department also wants to change policies surrounding calls for service that normally wouldn’t have a supervisor, but evolve into a crisis.
“It’s going to work in tandem that officers, supervisors will be listening on the air in addition to our communications where we receive dispatch,” Lowe said, emphasizing more communication about ongoing responses.
Mentorship was also highlighted as a work area for APD in the realm of use of force. The department noted that a “significant number” of officers involved in shootings in 2022 had six or less years of service with the department.
“We want to make sure that [first-year officers] are not sent to calls together, so two P2C’s (patrolman second class officers), we want to see if we can add an experienced officer with them to help with decision making and growth,” Lowe said. “We already do limit the number of P2C’s bidding in the same unit, every year.”
New equipment & unnecessary confrontation
APD also hopes additional equipment can help officers, including ballistic shields and magnifying optics on rifles. Lowe emphasized the equipment allowing officers more protection and allowing more distance between suspects and officers.
“The shield, when we have a critical incident, that can protect officers as they’re trying to maneuver, depending on where they’re at in the call for service, if someone is armed or actively shooting,” Lowe said. “Ballistics optics on rifles, this is for distance, to keep our officers from closing distance, where they can remain behind cover, so they can have a better opportunity to see what the person is armed with.”
APD is also looking into how quickly officers clear scenes. In 2022, one police shooting took place after the primary suspect was taken into custody. APD says it will “evaluate policies to ensure officers do not have potentially unnecessary confrontation with” people who aren’t suspected of a crime.
More immediate medical care for the wounded
Finally, police say they’ll work to emphasize more immediate medical care for suspects who’ve been shot. While APD police requires that officers attempt to render medical aid following a police shooting when safe to do so, at least one shooting case is being investigated for an officer’s failure to treat a wounded suspect.