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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Police oversight reforms postponed

The Albuquerque City Council has postponed two pieces of legislation that would have abolished the Police Oversight Commission.

Last week council members discussed a bill sponsored by Councilor Rey Garduño and Councilor Brad Winter that would have abolished the POC on Dec. 31 and replaced it with a Civilian Police Oversight Agency. Winter moved to postpone the matter until Aug. 18.

The second legislation, co-sponsored by Councilor Isaac Benton and Council President Ken Sanchez, was also postponed. The bill would have immediately suspended the operation of the POC, pending the establishment of a new system. The matter will be heard on Aug. 4.

Peter Simonson, executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said he believes there is an urgency to reform the commission, but there are further opportunities that could be explored with the new CPOA.

There have been several attempts at establishing sufficient oversight in Albuquerque since the 1970s, he said.

“I feel strongly that we need to get it right this time,” he said. “I would urge us to defer this measure: Let’s take some more time and really make sure that we have something that’s going to work, not just now, but well into the future.”

In April, the Department of Justice released a report that stated the Albuquerque Police Department frequently engages in excessive use of force. The report stated that deficiencies in oversight have enabled the excessive force to continue.

“Albuquerque’s external oversight structure could do much more to address unreasonable uses of deadly force,” according to the report.

While he consented to deferring the proposal, Garduño said his initial reaction to postponing the bill was negative. He said the council shouldn’t keep postponing legislation because it isn’t perfect. The council could amend the legislation at any time if the need arose, he said.

“I don’t want us to think we’re going to be able to do this forever just because we think that we’re going to find the ultimate answer, because I don’t think there is such a thing,” he said.

Sanchez said he was pleased that the legislation was being deferred.

“I think it’s going to take a little more time,” he said. “I think it’s paramount that we incorporate some of these changes that the Department of Justice is going to recommend.”

Chloe Henson is news editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or at Twitter @ChloeHenson5.