Monday, July 12, 2004

Complaints Against APD Are On Rise

By Jeff Proctor, Journal Staff Writer

Citizen complaints against the Albuquerque Police Department are on the rise, according to a report compiled by the city's Independent Review Office.
The report also concludes that APD and the district attorney's office need to deal more swiftly with cases that involve police shootings and possible criminal wrongdoing by officers.
A record 25 citizen complaints were made to the Albuquerque Police Oversight Commission in June, bringing the yearly total to 136, according to the quarterly report.
The 220 complaints filed last year were the most in the commission's five-year history, and Rowland is convinced that record will be broken this year.
However, the rising volume of complaints doesn't reflect negatively on APD, said Independent Review Officer Jay Rowland.
"It means citizens have more faith in the system and they're more willing to come forward for resolutions," he said. "These complaints have (been) shown to benefit the department. This is what oversight is all about."
For example, the POC for months was inundated with complaints about inadequate staffing, medical care and other shortcomings at a prisoner transfer station, Rowland said.
The station was closed March 10 after an inspection by Rowland and an APD Internal Affairs commander.
Though the citizen complaint portion of the oversight process has improved each year, cases involving police shootings and officer wrongdoing are taking far too long to be resolved, the report shows.
Those cases begin with an APD criminal investigation, then go to the DA and Internal Affairs before Rowland reviews them.
Rowland said he knows of at least eight cases that are backlogged at APD and the DA's office, some of which have been pending longer than 18 months.
Several months ago, the POC sent letters to Mayor Martin Chávez and the DA's office requesting police shooting cases be dealt with faster, Rowland said.
Since then, the DA's office has completed five cases and sent them to the POC, he said.
Commissioners and police recently began researching ways to speed up cases involving criminal wrongdoing by officers, he said.
"We're starting to gather information about which cases are pending (with APD) so we can keep the system moving," Rowland said.
The POC has resolved 99 of this year's citizen complaints; 37 are pending, according to Rowland's report. In 17 cases, the oversight commission has sustained the complaint.
APD has disciplined 94 percent of the officers in sustained cases, the report shows.
Last year, officers were disciplined in 87 percent of sustained cases, as compared with 58 percent in 2002 and 60 percent in 2001, according to the report.

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