ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It is a victory for the City of Albuquerque after a ruling on its use of force policy the police union was fighting. It now puts a bigger responsibility on police officers to investigate and gather more information about a suspect before they resort to using force.
The city is celebrating what it says is a win for its use of force policies. U.S. District Judge James Browning recently ruled in favor of a higher standard of the city’s use of force overhaul.
“These policies put very clear limits on the use of force by officers, make sure officers are investigated thoroughly and fairly and make sure everyone is held accountable when they use force,” said Assistant City Attorney Lindsay Van Meter.
Van Meter said it all started as a disagreement between the city and the Albuquerque Police Union over the wording of one policy in early 2019, when the city was revising all use of force policies. “I was never really clear why they took as much objection to it as they did,” Van Meter said.
The city’s policy reads that detectives investigating use of force cases ‘shall consider the facts that a reasonable officer on the scene would have known at the time the officer used force.’ The Union wanted to change it for investigators to consider the facts ‘known to the officer at the time of the incident.’
For example, APOA said if an officer is rushing to a scene but doesn’t have time to see on his computer that the person is mentally ill, then uses force, they would be scrutinized for what they ‘would’ or’should have known.’ The APOA said this ruling says the officer should have read and known the person was mentally ill, which could have changed his interaction. The APOA believes the wording is unconstitutional. “It is kind of subjective in our opinion to what I would have heard on the radio or on the scanner or what if, what if, what if,” said Shaun Willoughby of the APOA.
The city disagrees. “By limiting it to facts known to the officer at the time of the incident, that in our view would not allow the investigator to consider that other officers on scene did observe that particular circumstance and would show if an officer actually had reason to know something they say they didn’t know,” said Van Meter.
The city said the policy creates an incentive for officers to fully assess a situation before deciding to use force. Both the city and APOA agree it’s a higher standard from the department’s policy prior to the Department of Justice reforms, which Van Meter said did not identify a standard. Van Meter said with this increased level of oversight it is easier to hold officers accountable when force is used.