ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – For years, the Albuquerque Police Department has been under a federal consent decree to ensure the police don’t overstep constitutional limits. Now, both the city and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) say the police have made enough progress to terminate some portions of the federal oversight.
“This motion for partial termination, if granted, would only affect certain paragraphs. It would not affect the paragraphs for which the city and APD is out of compliance,” said Aja Brooks, Executive Assistant United States Attorney for the district of New Mexico.
The DOJ came to Albuquerque after a series of controversial police shooting incidents a little over a decade ago. In 2014, the DOJ announced that the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) engaged “in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”
Since then, APD has been under independent monitoring and a consent decree with the DOJ, a process that has cost the city millions of dollars. Year after year, the police have worked to meet goals outlined by the consent decree and have been allowed to self-monitor some of their progress. Now, the department may have shown enough sustained improvement to get out from under some of the consent decree requirements altogether.
To do so, they have to ask a federal judge. Both APD and the DOJ have filed a joint motion in federal court to do just that.
“Our filing with the court demonstrates that the Justice Department’s consent decree has been critical to driving real reform and moving the Albuquerque Police Department toward the goal of ensuring effective and constitutional policing,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a press release. “Our filing makes clear the real progress that has been made in transforming aspects of the department’s policing over the last eight years. The Albuquerque Police Department has demonstrated its ability to independently sustain compliance with important requirements of the consent decree. The Justice Department will continue to support police and city leaders as they forge ahead with full compliance with the consent decree, and we will continue to stand with residents of the city. The residents of Albuquerque deserve fair and constitutional policing, and nothing less.”
The DOJ says Albuquerque Police have made progress on things like establishing a clear investigative process that involves the Multi-Agency Task Force, bringing the swat team up to national standards, increased transparency through civilian oversight, and other improvements. So, they’re asking the federal judge to end portions of the consent decree that requires oversight on those topics.
If the federal judge approves the request, the DOJ oversight won’t completely go away. Rather, the consent decree will be modified to remove requirements that APD has already made progress on.