Departing District Attorney To DOJ: Albuquerque Police Department Is A 'Continuing Criminal Enterprise'

from the rotting-from-the-top-down dept

District Attorney Kari Brandenburg is done with Albuquerque. More to the point, she's decided not to seek re-election because she's especially done with the city's police force. On her way out the door, Brandenburg -- who found herself locked out by the PD after bringing murder charges against two officers for shooting a homeless man -- is letting the Department of Justice knows its work with the PD isn't done yet.

In early 2014, the DOJ released its report on the Albuquerque Police Department. In it were descriptions of the department's indiscriminate, unchecked uses of force.

Our investigation looked at officer-involved shootings that resulted in fatalities from 2009 to 2012 and found that a majority of them were unreasonable and violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. We found that officers used deadly force against people who did not pose an immediate threat of death or serious harm to officers or others, and against people who posed a threat only to themselves. In fact, sometimes it was the conduct of the officers themselves that heightened the danger and escalated the need to use force.

We found that officers use other types of less lethal force, especially electronic control weapons, or Tasers, in an unconstitutional manner. Our investigation looked beyond just the use of deadly force and found a significant number of improper uses of force in our review of over 200 force reports generated between 2009 and early 2013. We found that officers routinely fired their Tasers, which discharge 50,000 volts of electricity, against people who were passively resisting and non-threatening or who were unable to comply with orders due to their mental state. Indeed, we found that encounters between police officers and persons with mental illness or in crisis too frequently resulted in a use of force or a higher level of force than necessary.

Since that point, accusations have arisen that APD officers routinely delete and alter dashcam and body cam footage, allegedly at the behest of supervisors who don't care for recordings that don't sync up to the official narratives contained in incident reports. These allegations came in the form of a signed affidavit from a contractor who worked with the police department for several years.

Former DA Brandenburg makes note of these recent allegations in her angry letter [PDF] to the DOJ. But the primary focus of her letter is the toxic Albuquerque police culture, which has turned these public servants into an unaccountable mess.

Since the Settlement Agreement was reached between APD and the Department of Justice, we have seen little progress. Please refer to the independent monitor's reports for more specific information. In his most recent report, James Ginger, noted the behind the scene reality was that APD has almost no appetite for correcting behavior that violates existing policy." Further, it was pointed out that investigations looking into use of force by officers appears to rationalize or explain away officer conduct." Throughout the monitoring process, APD has failed to comply and meet agreed upon standards and measures. In fact, their performance can accurately be characterized as grossly noncompliant.

This part lets the DOJ know just how useless its consent agreements are if it's not interested in doing anything to ensure the PD lives up to the promises it made to the federal government. So far, the APD appears to be rolling forward with "business as usual" policing -- virtually unchanged despite a DOJ investigation and consent decree.

On top of that, the APD appears to be in the (ongoing) business of covering up misconduct and excessive force. The letter notes that whistleblowers have come forward with allegations that police supervisors tend to hand out promotions to officers who help keep department misdeeds under wrap.

Brandenburg sums this up for the DOJ's convenience, using terms it understands.

Frankly, if any other group of individuals were acting the way APD has allegedly been acting, some of us in law enforcement might refer to them as a continuing criminal enterprise and/or engaged in the act of racketeering. I appreciate how bold a statement that is.

Brandenburg also admits her own office's culpability in the APD's toxicity. Since 2010, the APD has shot more members of the public than the NYPD despite policing a population sixteen times smaller. And it's done this largely without repercussion, thanks to a DA's office that generally considered itself to be working for cops, rather than working for the public.

One of the major areas of concern are the number of officer involved shootings and instances of unreasonable use of force by APD. In all fairness, our office has been part of that controversy, as we declined to criminally prosecute any officer involved in an officer involved shooting until January 2015.

Of course, Brandenburg now knows from firsthand experience why cops tend to go uncharged in incidents like these. No one wants to bite the hand that feeds it prosecutions, especially not when the bitten entity can bite back just as hard. If the DOJ's Civil Rights Division is truly serious about fixing American policing, it will need to take a trip back to Albuquerque and start throwing its federal weight around.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jan 2017 @ 1:33pm

    You're leaving out how all this is Trump's fault!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Jan 2017 @ 1:40pm

      Re:

      Will he threaten to send the feds in there to clean up the cops? You know, like he wants to clean Chicago?

      If not then fuck him - it is his fault.

      Aren't you glad you brought it up?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Jan 2017 @ 2:03pm

      Re:

      I have some alternative facts that clearly state this as Trumps' fault. So sad.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DannyB (profile), 25 Jan 2017 @ 2:15pm

      Re:

      Why are you trying to make this Trump's fault when it isn't?

      If you are trying to find things to criticize Trump over, there are plenty.

      I can understand why you might be strongly against Trump. Please don't resort to making things up.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      art guerrilla (profile), 25 Jan 2017 @ 4:23pm

      Re:


      Puuuuuuuuuu-tiiiiiiiiinnnnn ! ! !

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Jan 2017 @ 5:15pm

      Re:

      Well obviously no because it is Obama's fault, just like we have been told for the past eight years

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 27 Jan 2017 @ 2:23am

        Re: Re:

        I don't recall the former president setting up a federal task force to investigate institutional abuses by law enforcement agencies.

        The current incumbent would win a vote of approval from me if he does. I did say that if he does something right I'll acknowledge it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jan 2017 @ 1:37pm

    Trotsky knows your pain

    Police are violent agents of the state,their only purpose is to suppress the population for the interest of the very very few, harassing, monitoring, thieving, murdering

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Jan 2017 @ 3:20pm

      Re: Trotsky knows your pain

      but we need roads... and for that we are willing to put up with the harassing, monitoring, thieving, murdering...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeremy2020 (profile), 25 Jan 2017 @ 1:38pm

    Any interest they may have had certainly evaporated on January 20th

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Jan 2017 @ 2:49pm

    The DA needs to serve as a defender now

    Now that she realizes how unbalanced the scaled of justice have become, she should start fighting to correct it. I would bet that Netflix would pay her quite a sum to be lead on a new series about the real Albuquerque justice system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Jan 2017 @ 3:11pm

      Re: The DA needs to serve as a defender now

      Are You Suggesting that Netflix finance a snuff series, cause
      Stay tuned Next Episode Another APD Murder.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 25 Jan 2017 @ 4:00pm

    That can't be right...

    You mean to tell me that saying 'Pretty please could you stop indiscriminately murdering people?' doesn't work?

    But... it includes the words 'pretty please'... what more could the DOJ possibly do beyond that?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 26 Jan 2017 @ 5:05am

    "Frankly, if any other group of individuals were acting the way APD has allegedly been acting, some of us in law enforcement might refer to them as a continuing criminal enterprise and/or engaged in the act of racketeering. I appreciate how bold a statement that is."

    We've been saying that for years now. APD is only one of the examples.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 26 Jan 2017 @ 6:17am

      Re:

      Yeah, 'bold'... and something people have been pointing out for a good while now. Still, nice of them to actually admit it on an official document for once.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    DC Pathogen, 26 Jan 2017 @ 7:19am

    One bad Apple...

    It's time to throw out the barrel.

    Fire the entire police force and then ban them from serving as a LEO anywhere in the the state. Hablar 'Security Guard?'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    GEMont, 26 Jan 2017 @ 12:21pm

    T.Rump and the Fanatic Gang's Devolution of Amerika for Christ

    Sounds to me like the APD is just about perfect - perhaps even better than the NYPD - for selection as the Model for all Police Forces in America, ALA T. Rump.

    I'm surprised that T. Rump has not actually given commendations to all the bad apples in the APD yet.

    Then again, he is kinda busy right now, eliminating all the protection laws that prevent him and his buddies from legally stripping America of its wealth.

    Has anyone here ever read Margaret Atwood's book "A Handmaid's Tale"?

    Looks as though the book has turned out to be a tad "predictive" of Amerika's bold new future as the world's Most Evil Empire Ever.

    I guess time will tell.

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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