Police reform groups criticize police union’s campaign, call for sanctions

Politics - Government

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Police reform advocacy groups are calling for sanctions on the Albuquerque Police Association. The group, APD Forward, said the union’s recent Crime Matters More campaign directly goes against the Department of Justice reform measures they, the city, and Albuquerque Police, agreed to. The organization wants the union held accountable.

“At the end of the day, that campaign is made to try to undermine the very process that they have signed on to. And they’re not operating in good faith and we think that should merit some sort of sanctions or some sort of response to bring them back in line,” said Peter Simonson, Executive Director of the ACLU of New Mexico, which is a member of APD Forward.

The union’s $70,000 campaign argues that officers should be focusing more on fighting crime and less on getting in trouble with the DOJ. It urges the public to get involved and tell their elected city officials to direct officers to focus more on crime and not, “wasting millions of dollars on endless Department of Justice oversight.” 

APD Forward is just one of the groups that wrote letters criticizing the campaign. “The important thing is they result in the APOA continuing to act like a formal party to this litigation and taking responsibility for their actions or no longer being part of the effort because they obviously can’t act in good faith,” Peterson said.

The group Community Coalition, which is headed by state lawmaker Antonio “Moe” Maestas, is also criticizing the campaign and said it supports sanctions. “We’d like to identify actors that are blatantly rolling back the reforms,” Maestas said.

In the group’s letter, it argues the union, as a formal party in the litigation, should be taking a leadership role in the reform efforts. Police reform groups are asking the campaign concerns be addressed in a public hearing in federal court on Wednesday.

No one with the APOA was available to talk about the campaign backlash but President Shaun Willoughby defended it back in April when it launched. “They’re more afraid of going to Internal Affairs and losing their job than they are of actually the bad guys they’re trying to catch, that’s a serious problem,” Willoughby said in April.

Police reform advocacy groups are also raising concerns about the External Force Investigation Team coming to assist and train APD on how to properly handle internal use of force investigations. It comes as Independent Monitor reports continue to paint a picture of APD internal affairs poorly handling these investigations. Simonson said the incoming assistance is a good start but it may not be enough to get to the root of the ongoing problem.

“We’re raising the question, is the problem not strictly a lack of training, a lack of adequate preparation, but rather it could be the intention or competence of the people who are performing the job,” Simonson said. “So one of the things APD Forward is asking, is whether or not there should be some move to remove some of those folks from their job so they can be replaced with more competent, well-intentioned individuals.”

The EFIT would train APD on how to properly handle internal investigations. Court documents indicate it could cost at least $100,000. The city recently requested and was granted an extension in getting the team up and running. It has until the end of June to have an approved contract. The delays are also concerns to police reform advocates.

“It’s always a concern when the city delays and doesn’t meet the timelines itself has, it has set for itself. This is not the first time this has happened in this process. We’re sort of cautiously optimistic that they will still bring on a qualified firm to carry out the role of an external investigations unit,” Simonson said.

“The delay is very troublesome. But we just got to do better. We got to turn around these reports quicker…we just all have to be better and take pride in this work. This is why we’re so disappointed in the leadership of APOA. Every officer needs to take pride in this new APD in this new way of policing,” Maestas said.

KRQE News 13 reached out to APD to comment on the incoming External Force Investigation Team, but Chief Harold Medina was not available by the deadline.


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