ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Department of Justice says APD has a big backlog of use of force cases and has for years. The department says it just doesn’t have enough manpower to cover it all.
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During a federal hearing Wednesday, APD unveiled a plan to tackle the problem. The department says the case backlog is why they want an external force investigative team to help them out and sort through the cases. “It’s actually a very extensive investigation, they can take a lot of time – a lot of video has to be reviewed, make sure officer statements match what’s on the video,” says Zak Cottrell, interim deputy superintendent of police reform with the Albuquerque Police Department.
The department says from 2020 to 2021, close to 660 cases of use of force events occurred. APD is working with E-Fit, along with their own officers, to look at those cases. Currently, the department is going to have E-Fit look at their Level Two and Three use of force incidents alongside their own internal affairs investigators.
Level Two use of force is when an officer has to use force and the person is not injured. Level Three includes anything that sends someone to the hospital or death, like officer-involved shootings.
The police union says the department should be looking at their policy rather than spending $3 million on this program. “We’ve had backlog after backlog after backlog, and the real nooks and cranny of the problem we are always going to be in a backlog. There is always going to be a backlog at this police department until the police department changes the policy,” says Shaun Willoughby, president of the Albuquerque Police Officers Association.
The Department of Justice has complained for years that APD doesn’t investigate use of force cases thoroughly and they are slow to look into cases. Currently, APD has 25 sworn officers and civilians working in its Force Investigations Unit. E-Fit would bring 22 people to look at use of force cases.
APD, the city, and the Department of Justice are in the process of negotiating the contract with the External Force Investigative Team. If it is approved, the contract would cover two years.