The court-appointed Independent Monitor tasked with assessing the reforms being implemented by the Albuquerque Police Department said in a report released on May 3 that officers still routinely use unnecessary force and often escape punishment. The Independent Monitor was appointed in 2015 when the city entered into a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice following an investigation into civil rights abuses by APD officers and the excessive use of force. When questioned about the report, the APD chief of police said the department takes allegations of police brutality seriously and is working its way through a large backlog of cases.
According to the Independent Monitor’s report, the APD often issues officers with written reprimands following civilian complaints. The department’s written disciplinary policy calls for suspensions of between eight and 32 hours in these situations. An Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association representative dismissed the report and said it ignored all of the good work done by APD officers and criticized them for minor violations like wearing sunglasses when dealing with the public.
Department of Justice investigation
The Department of Justice concluded its investigation into the APD in April 2014. In a letter sent to Albuquerque’s then-Mayor Richard Berry, the agency’s Civil Rights Division said that the department had structural and systemic deficiencies that had given rise to a pattern of excessive force and unnecessary violence. The DOJ cited inadequate policies, lax oversight and poor training as the primary causes of the problem. As part of the investigation, the DOJ examined 20 deadly incidents involving APD officers that took place between 2009 and 2012. The investigators determined that most of these shootings were unconstitutional.
Holding government agencies accountable
The victims of police brutality are often members of marginalized communities who may be fearful to step forward due to fears of retaliation against either themselves or their loved ones. Attorneys with experience in this area may explain that the protections provided by the U.S. Constitution apply to all, and they could advocate on behalf of victims and seek compensation for the time they spent behind bars and their physical injuries, emotional distress and lost income.