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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Berry urges DOJ to release APD investigation findings

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By Aaron Sweet / New Mexico Daily Lobo

In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Richard Berry announced that he has sent a letter to the DOJ urging them to release preliminary findings of its APD investigation to him.

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After multiple rounds of protests against the Albuquerque Police Department this week, the mayor has urged the Department of Justice to rush its investigation on the city’s police.

In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Richard Berry announced that he has sent a letter to the DOJ urging them to release preliminary findings of its APD investigation to him. Berry said that in his letter, he also requested to meet with the federal department to discuss plans to improve the police.

But Berry said he still backs APD.

“It wasn’t an easy letter to write, and I didn’t take it lightly,” he said. “This letter should not be taken as an indication that I have lost my faith in the Albuquerque Police Department. They go to work every day. They risk their lives to protect our families our property and our city.”

Berry said he was forced to rush the DOJ in the aftermath of the fatal officer-involved shooting of James Boyd.

“With the length of time that has taken the DOJ to complete the review coupled with the events surrounding the James Boyd incident, I do not feel that I can take any longer to take actions like those spelled out in the letter today,” he said. “I believe it’s the right thing to do with the city of Albuquerque, and it’s the right thing to do with the Albuquerque Police Department.”

On March 16, APD shot and killed James Boyd, a homeless man who was caught illegally camping in the Sandia Foothills. In a video that was taken from an officer’s helmet camera, Boyd can be seen turning away from APD officers as they open fire.

According to the letter, Berry aims to facilitate a partnership with the Department of Justice with regard to increasing community confidence with APD. He said he has “dedicated one million dollars in my proposed budget to aggressively moving forward.” He said he has been working with APD Chief Gorden Eden.

Berry said he has passed 60 reforms to the police department since the beginning of his administration. To decrease police violence, Berry said he plans to instate additional reforms to APD.

For example, Berry said he plans to hire a fourth deputy chief who would be in charge of accountability and training measures and more intensive evaluations for officers. He said this person will implement “department-wide training programs for constitutional awareness.”

Berry said he considers requiring crisis intervention training among all APD field services bureau officers. This would mean that APD would also require new cadets from the Albuquerque Police Academy to have crisis intervention training as soon as possible.

He said 27 percent of all field services bureau officers have crisis intervention training.

Berry also suggested having the DOJ monitor APD operations in the future. He said this would consist of having an individual from out of state craft initiatives and accountability measures for the department.

“Frankly, the James Boyd officer-involved shooting incident really was a game changer,” he said. “We want to continue with those reforms, and we will continue with those, but pending the outcome of the DOJ investigations, we wanted to reach out to them today and start crafting a monitoring plan that I personally feel would be part of what will take place in the future.”

But Eden said this does not mean total DOJ oversight of his department.

“What we’re asking for them is to tell us what it is that they’re going to be suggesting, what it is that can make the department better,” he said. “This in no way should be even thought as asking, or even suggesting, a Department of Justice takeover. What we’re asking for is answers and recommendations.”

Eden said he has already met with DOJ representatives last week, but he said he was unable to get a timeline of the investigation.

“I asked them then, ‘What’s the timeline?’” he said. “For me, it’s an important thing to have. I didn’t like the response… I know that we can just do things better. That’s what we’re going to do. I want to start seeing greater positive outcomes with all our citizen encounters.”

At the moment, the officers who shot Boyd dead are on administrative leave, Eden said. He said the DOJ has instructed him to give further comment on Boyd’s case.

Berry said he calls on the City Council to initiate reform that would make the Police Oversight Commission more efficient. He said he also calls on the state Legislature to draft laws that would increase people’s access to mental health services in the state.

Berry said he fully supports the creation of a new mental hospital in the city.

But Berry said he does not blame APD for the number of fatal police shootings in recent years. He said he will leave that duty to the DOJ.

“The easy thing to do would probably be to point fingers,” he said. “I’ve never done that, and I’m not going to do that today. I have a job as a mayor, and that job is to determine through investigations if that was or wasn’t the case.”