ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – For years, the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) has been under watch by an independent monitor as part of a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). With the monitor’s latest progress report, the police department says they’re getting near the end of costly reform-related oversight. But they’re not quite there yet.

“APD has made substantial progress this reporting period,” the latest independent monitor report says. “Force investigations continue to be professionally and timely completed and are well-documented.”

The latest progress covers a timeframe from August 2022 and February 2023. It marks the 17th update the monitor team has published on APD’s progress reforming the department.

The DOJ’s APD settlement agreement first took shape in late 2014, months after the department’s Civil Rights Division released a series of findings about Albuquerque Police. In the April 2014 findings, the U.S. Department of Justice concluded that “APD engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.” Since then, APD has been working on improving on a series of measurable goals.

“We have gone from 70% [August 2021 through January 2022] to 92% in reaching operational compliance in the last year, which demonstrates how close we are to reaching the end of the consent decree,” APD Chief Harold Medina said in a press release. “This doesn’t mean we are done with reform. It means we know what it takes to be in compliance, and we are proving we can stay in compliance with all of the changes we’ve made.”

While APD has made measurable progress, the independent monitor does note key issues that remain. “For example, some supervisors occasionally continue to misclassify uses of force,” the independent monitor says. And a remaining question is how well APD will continue to build on progress once help – such as the external team hired to investigate use of force incidents – leaves and the department is on its own, the monitor notes. 

In order to get out from under the consent decree, APD has to reach and continue a 95% operational compliance level (I.e. day-to-day compliance). As of this report, APD is at 92% operational compliance.

Originally, Albuquerque agreed to try to reach full compliance within four years of the consent decree. It’s now been more than eight years, but work continues.