Albuquerque city council prepare to vote on members of new police oversight panel

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ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — Candidates for a new civilian panel aimed at monitoring Albuquerque's troubled police department could be voted in soon, a city official said Saturday.

City Council President Rey Garduno said councilors may approve members for the nine-person police oversight board at their next meeting and get everyone seated by next month. The board would be implemented as part of city bill to reform the police department.

City councilors approved a measure in September creating the new civilian agency independent of the mayoral administration and the council, according to the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/1JB0iRP ). A retired police officer, a pastor and a counselor are among the applicants recommended by a task force to sit on the board. The task force also named nine alternates.

The board would investigate and decide citizen complaints against police, analyze trends and provide policy recommendations. It would replace the police oversight commission, which makes recommendations to the police chief, who can choose whether to follow them. Under this new system, the chief would have to explain in writing why the panel's recommendations are being overruled.

"Neither the City Council nor the city administration will have any influence, implied or actual, over this board," Garduno said. "That's very important."

The panel is part of a sweeping reform plan that is part of a proposed settlement between the U.S. Justice Department and the city. A Justice Department investigation found Albuquerque police had a pattern of using excessive force and that the city's civilian oversight of police was ineffective.

For months, the city has been rocked by angry protests and a Justice Department investigation involving cases of excessive force. The city also has faced scrutiny for more than 40 police shootings since 2010.

The Albuquerque Police Department now requires all officers to wear lapel cameras in interactions with the public, and it has increased the requirements for incoming cadets.


Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com

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