The Albuquerque Police Department has been involved in a reform process for years after federal investigators pointed to a pattern of officers using excessive force. The monitor charged with overseeing progress released the sixth report on Wednesday, and has been critical of the department’s willingness to make real changes.
Just a few days ago, APD unveiled a website designed to educate the public about the reform process. APDreform.com cost $40,000 to build, and the department will spend another $30,000 advertising it. KUNM spoke with APD spokesperson Celina Espinoza about what the department hopes the new website will accomplish.
ESPINOZA: I host our community policing councils, and one of the main things we hear repeatedly is that there’s no one place to go for information concerning the settlement agreement. We thought if we put everything on one website where it’s easily accessible and people could open documents and read through reports and look at information that they find of value to them, that would be very helpful. So that’s what APDreform.com is aimed to do. It has all of the information that has been in the past monitor's reports, all of the monitor's reports, all of APD's reports, up on that site in one convenient place.
KUNM: What are features of the website that you feel will be most useful to the public that maybe weren’t available before?
ESPINOZA: What this does is really break down the monitor report, so if you’re someone who’s interested in recruiting, you can click on the “recruiting” link and see what’s being done as far as getting people in the door and how the department views recruiting. It also, if you’re interested in maybe policies or procedures, there’s a subsection there.
It really allows you to digest the information as you would like as opposed to having to read through maybe a 300-page report or look through one of the agency reports that’s not as user-friendly.
KUNM: This website, it came out right before the monitor is set release its sixth report on how the reform process is going. And the monitor’s reports so far have offered a lot of criticism. Is this website a way to kind of get out in front of that criticism?
ESPINOZA: No, not at all. The monitor’s reports are still on this website. His criticisms and the things that the department is doing to address them are included in the website. And the sixth report when it comes out from the independent monitor will also be updated to be added onto this site.
KUNM: So in the last report, the monitor mentioned a lot of problems with APD’s approach to compliance. The monitor pointed out delays, there’s the word “passive-aggression” that appears there, foot-dragging, resistance, command not taking responsibility. Does the website intend to pull out any of those larger systemic issues and talk about how the department’s addressing those problems?
ESPINOZA: That’s why the different links are valuable when it comes to the website. If somebody’s concerned about policy development, or you’re concerned about how we’re training supervisors when it comes to the monitor’s criticism of supervisor use-of-force investigations, you can go to the section that you’re interested in, click on it, and read what the department has done.
Now if you think it’s not enough, or you think that we should be doing more, or maybe you have a great idea of how we can work further in our reform efforts, that’s why we have community policing councils, and the information for those is up on the site, as well. That’s where we invite the public to give feedback and come up with ideas and create recommendations to help move the department in the direction that they would like to see.
KUNM: On the overview page of this website it says the goal of the site is to “educate the public about changes taking place within the police department that may be overlooked by traditional media.” Tell me more about that. What’s being overlooked?
ESPINOZA: I think a lot of the time you won’t see our positive news covered. We graduated the most cadets ever last year in 2016. We graduated almost 100 cadets from our academy. I don’t know how many members of the public actually know that. And so things that are generally positive about APD don’t get much coverage in general. So this helps highlight some of those positive efforts and the good things the department is doing.
We’ll hear concerns from an Albuquerque coalition that’s critical of the site tomorrow.