Voters will determine whether Mayor Berry will require the City Council’s approval when hiring a new police chief.
The legislation that would put the question on the November ballot passed 7-2 at the May 19 Council meeting, said Ken Sanchez, Council president and co-sponsor of the legislation.
If voters approve the proposal during the general election in November, the Council’s advice and consent will be required for the appointment of Albuquerque police chief and fire chief.
It is vitally important that the Albuquerque community be able to vote on the initiative, Sanchez said. An amendment by Councilor Isaac Benton would also allow the Council to remove the chief with a two-thirds vote, Sanchez said.
“We’ve heard from the public now for over four years on wanting to see change in the Albuquerque Police Department,” he said. “We have an opportunity here to give the public that opportunity.”
Brad Winter, a council member who co-sponsored the legislation, said he could not approve of the bill because of the amendment that would allow the Council to fire the chief with a two-thirds vote.
“I don’t agree with that part; it changed the whole intent of what I had in mind when we started,” he said.
Council Vice President Trudy Jones also voted against the bill.
The Council rejected a similar measure that would allow voters to decide whether the chief of police should be elected by the Albuquerque community. Councilor Rey Garduño, who sponsored the bill, was the only affirming vote.
Not all discussions about APD were so easily resolved at the meeting.
The council postponed legislation that would eliminate the Police Oversight Commission.
One bill, sponsored by Garduño and Winter, would abolish the POC on Dec. 31, and would replace it with a Civilian Police Oversight Agency.
A second bill, sponsored by Benton and Sanchez, would immediately suspend the commission, pending the establishment of new oversight.
Garduño and Benton moved to postpone their legislation until the next meeting on June 2, in order to allow time for discussion among community members.
Earlier in the meeting, Scott Greenwood, a civil rights attorney, said civilian oversight is a critical component of police reform. But there will later be recommendations regarding oversight resulting from negotiations between the Department of Justice and the city, he said.
“I would urge you not to, prospectively, put some things in place that might be harder to undo,” he said.
The city hired Greenwood and Tom Streicher, former chief of the Cincinnati Police Department, to negotiate on its behalf with the DOJ on APD reform.
Greenwood said he and Streicher expect a draft soon about what an agreement would look like between the DOJ and the city.
Chloe Henson is news editor for the Daily Lobo. Contact her at email@example.com or via Twitter @ChloeHenson5.