APD reform advocates criticize city officials for ‘undermining’ independent monitor’s work

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Advocates pushing for the Albuquerque Police Department reform effort are now accusing city officials of intentionally trying to undermine and discredit the independent monitor overseeing the process.

One day after the city of Albuquerque filed a court motion accusing Independent Monitor James Ginger of bias, a collective of community groups known as “APD Forward” is weighing in.

Representatives from APD Forward’s member groups spoke out at a news conference in front of the APD headquarters on Tuesday afternoon. Speakers claim the city’s latest accusation against Ginger shows a growing pattern of leadership that is unwilling to accept the Department of Justice (DOJ) related APD reforms.

“It just seems like a new tactic to undermine the integrity of the monitor,” said Steve Allen, Public Policy Director for the ACLU of New Mexico. The ACLU of New Mexico is part of the “APD Forward” group.

APD Forward representatives also point to the timing of the city’s motion against Ginger. It came just one day before Ginger released his sixth monitoring report on APD reforms.

“And I think the timeliness of this is what we all should be aware of,” said Adriann Barboa, field director for “Strong Families New Mexico,” a community group that is also part of “APD Forward.”

At 439 pages in length, Ginger’s latest report is the most extensive yet on APD’s work toward reform. While the report’s summary says, “APD continues to make progress,” it also says, “a culture of accountability is markedly absent.” According to Ginger’s metrics, APD continues to improve its operational compliance with the reform efforts with a “53 percent” rating.

READ: Independent Monitor’s sixth report on APD reform

Meanwhile, several events surrounding the monitor have occurred in the last two weeks leading up to the report’s release.

On Oct. 23, one Democrat and two Republican Albuquerque city councilors criticized the cost of Ginger’s contract. The councilors are now calling for an audit of Ginger’s work.

“If he’s getting a million dollars a year, what is his internal incentive to wrap up?” said Councilor Don Harris during a news conference announcing the request for an audit.

Three days later, on Oct. 26, APD publicized the launch of a new website about the reform effort. The website, in part, touts the department’s accomplishments in the effort.

“We encourage you to take a closer look at the progress we have made,” says Chief Gorden Eden in a video posted on the website.

Then on the following Tuesday, Oct. 31, the city filed a motion in federal court accusing Ginger of holding a bias against APD. According to the city, Ginger’s bias is evident in a secret lapel camera video recording that captured a verbal argument between Ginger and Albuquerque City Attorney Jessica Hernandez.

“I’m not going give up on you guys (APD brass). It’s Jessica and I that have issues,” said Ginger at one point in the recording.

Reform advocates are condemning the city’s latest accusation against Ginger.

“The department is moving to more overt tactics to undermine our monitor,” said Allen.

APD Forward members argue that it’s a ploy to deflect attention from the actual work of changing APD’s policies and culture.

“Instead of engaging in these tactics, we need new leadership at this department, we need new leadership in this city if this department is ever going to be turned around,” said Allen.

The city says its motion questioning Ginger’s neutrality speaks for itself. A federal judge has yet to set a date for a hearing on the motion.

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