2022 was a record-breaking year for the Albuquerque Police Department in terms of police shootings. There were 18. Ten people were killed and three were injured.
That is extremely disheartening, since the APD has been under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Justice since 2014. The DOJ concluded that the APD “engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force.” The supervision period was supposed to improve the situation.
Recently, an APD leadership working group reviewed each of those 18 shootings from initial dispatch to Force Review Board report (if there was a report).
“We went case by case and we tried to figure out what was similar between all of them … and what trends that we saw from each of our individual aspects,” Cori Lowe, a member of the working group, told reporters.
The working group didn’t just end its review when they determined a shooting had been within APD policy. They looked at how the officers could have handled the situation without shooting.
The group has just announced some reforms they believe will make the situation better.
First, and this is controversial, the department proposes using less-lethal force more often. That means Tasers, police dogs, beanbag shotguns and 40-milimeter impact launchers, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
While less-lethal force is certainly preferable to lethal force, it is not a panacea. These weapons can cause serious injuries to the victim and, in some cases, they can in fact be lethal.
Ideally, the APD should be trying to use less force overall, not just less lethal force.
Other reforms the working group recommended include, for example:
- Giving the police magnifying scopes to make it easier to see whether someone is holding a gun or something else, like a cellphone
- Giving officers ballistic shields to protect them
- Training the police on how to disarm a suspect using hand-to-hand combat
- Pairing less experienced officers with veteran partners, since less experienced officers were involved in a disproportionate number of shootings in 2022
Training on the proper use of less-lethal weapons will begin this month. Officers will receive 20 hours of classroom training and 20 more of reality-based exercises.
Lowe also told the Journal that officers will be given mentors to help address any mistakes and improve young officers’ performance over time. Further, they will be trained on rendering life-saving first aid since officers failed to administer any first aid after two of last year’s fatal shootings.
Chief Harold Medina says that officers also need positive reinforcement when they do things right. To promote that, he has announced a “de-escalation of the month” award.
He also announced the working group will do another review like this one every six months.