On the same day the Department of Justice (DOJ) released its findings on civil rights violations at the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), the city told its Police Oversight Commission (POC) that it couldn't rule against whatever the police chief decides about complaints against cops.
Three members of the commission complained about their toothlessness in letters of resignation this week. Via KOAT:
"The city attorney's office addressed the POC on April 10, 2014, and stated that we have no power to decide against the APD Chief or against the independent review officer's findings regarding citizens' complaints," reads [one of the quitting members, Jonathan] Siegel's letter. "I cannot continue to pretend or deceive the members of our community into believing that our city has any real civilian oversight."
The city's response pointed to the DOJ's findings about the role an "effective" oversight commission can play and said the government was "hopeful" the City Council would work with the DOJ on "continued efforts to reform and implement needed changes." The DOJ, in fact, called Albuquerque's "broken civilian oversight process" one of the "deficiencies" that contributed to the use of excessive force. No charges were announced by the DOJ in conjunction with the findings of a pattern and practice of excessive force by members of the APD.
The fight over robust civilian oversight's an old story in Albuquerque. As the Washington Post Radley Balko explains at The Watch blog, the cycle of police abuse, cover-up, and scandal has been going on for some time. One reform- minded police chief brought in in 1998 to fix that generation's problem of police abuse was then railroaded out of the department just three years later with the help of Albuquerque voters.
More on Albuquerque's problems at Reason 24/7.