NM city agrees to court oversight of police
The city of Albuquerque has agreed to let both a court and an independent monitor oversee reform of its troubled police department
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The city of Albuquerque has agreed to let both a court and an independent monitor oversee reform of its troubled police department, officials said Thursday.
The Department of Justice and Mayor Richard Berry signed off on a framework of principles for addressing the eight problem areas Justice officials identified in a scathing report on police practices earlier this year.
Attorney General Eric Holder said the agreement "marks an important step forward in addressing the unreasonable use of deadly force uncovered in our investigation into the Albuquerque Police Department."
Among the findings released in April: 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.
Albuquerque police have shot 41 people since 2010, 27 of them fatally.
The agreement calls for improvements in recruiting, training, use of force policies, interactions between officers and the mentally ill, the handling of internal investigations and civilian complaints, management and community engagement.
It also say the city is committed to working with the Justice Department to craft a court-enforceable agreement to address the problems, and to have an independent monitor brought in to oversee the reforms once the plan is approved and filed with a federal court.
Berry said the agreement shows "we are rolling in the same direction."
U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez said the idea is "to go to court together, instead of as adversaries."
Albuquerque joins a growing list of cities targeted by the Justice Department over allegations of brutality and violations of constitutional rights. Seattle, Denver, New Orleans and Los Angles are among others whose departments have operated under oversight from independent monitors amid similar complaints.
In the Albuquerque probe, federal investigators focused on 37 shootings, finding that the majority were unreasonable and violated constitutional rights. They also uncovered a significant number of instances in which officers used less lethal measures such as Tasers in an unconstitutional manner.
Shortly after the results of the nearly two-year investigation were released in April, the department saw a new spike in fatal shootings, including that of a homeless camper who was fired on as he appeared to be surrendering. Video of that shooting sparked national outrage and led to series of sometimes violent protests, an attempted takeover of a city council meeting and a sit-in at the mayor's office.
The latest shooting came this week, when officers killed a 33-year-old man who they say pulled a gun as they were attempting to arrest him on a federal warrant. Jeremy Joe also was facing charges of aggravated assault on a police officer with a deadly weapon stemming for a case earlier this year.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press
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