Federal judge signs Albuquerque police reform settlement

Jun 2, 2015, 5:00 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday approved a settlement between Albuquerque and the U.S. Department of Justice on overhauling the city’s police force.

The agreement approved by U.S. District Judge Robert C. Brack was negotiated amid allegations of excessive force by police officers, including more than 40 shootings involving officers since 2010.

According to a Justice Department report, officers too frequently used deadly force on people who posed a minimal threat and used a higher level of force too often on those with mental illness.

The settlement is the result of five months of negotiations between the city and federal officials. Hundreds of hours were spent in meetings and on telephone calls to craft the agreement, according to court documents.

Brack said in a 30-page order that the agreement “lays the foundation for building systematic reform” within the Police Department.

The settlement ranges from more training for officers and revised use-of-force policies to the creation of a mental health advisory committee.

A police union objected to aspects of the agreement, but Brack said the provisions do not conflict with state law or the collective bargaining agreement that covers officers.

“Incidents of unprofessional and violent policing tarnish the image of all officers — fairly or not,” the judge wrote. “With the help of this agreement, APD will be in a better position to mold an exemplary police force that will benefit the city, the citizens of Albuquerque, and the officers who protect the city.”

Brack also ordered annual hearings on progress in implementing the agreement.

The order acknowledges that some elements of the settlement should be impervious to change because they affect the constitutional rights at the heart of the case, but other aspects could evolve as circumstances change as long as the court approves.

Brack also directed the city and justice officials to take into consideration community comments as the reforms are implemented.

“Neglect of community voices gave rise, in part, to the concerns stated in the complaint. The court does not want that to be an on-going problem,” Brack wrote.

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