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ABQ due balanced deal with union

Mayor needs to negotiate 3 changes to contract

BY PAUL HAIDLE

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, N.M.

CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYERS ASSOCIATION; MEMBER, APD FORWARD COALITION

The recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery have once again catapulted the issues of systemic racism and police violence to the forefront of the national conversation and galvanized a large crosssection of America to demand long overdue changes to our systems of policing. Unfortunately, not enough attention is being paid to one of the primary obstacles to police accountability: police unions.

Public service unions like those that represent firefighters, teachers and police provide public servants with the critical ability to collectively negotiate fair wages, better benefits and safe working conditions. But police unions are unique in that they also negotiate some of the terms under which their members use state-sanctioned violence against people in their communities. Over the course of decades, police unions have used their political and cultural power to make it exceedingly difficult to hold individual officers accountable when they brutalize or kill someone. One of law enforcement’s favorite claims is that racist and violent officers in their employ represent only a “few bad apples.” If that is true, it is also true that police unions have intentionally made it nearly impossible to meaningfully discipline or remove “bad apples” from the barrel.

This summer we have an opportunity here in Albuquerque to restore a proper balance between fairness to officers and officer accountability as the city renegotiates its collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Albuquerque Police Officers Association (APOA). Some provisions cannot be changed because they track language in state law.

But APD Forward is calling on Mayor Tim Keller to renegotiate these provisions: 1. Remove the 90-day limit on investigations of police officers.

The current CBA requires any administrative investigation of an officer accused of misconduct to be completed within 90 days, subject to a possible extension of up to 30 days if approved by the chief of police. Both the Civilian Police Oversight Agency and the independent monitor overseeing APD’s reform agreement with the U.S.

Department of Justice have singled out this provision as a significant obstacle to officer accountability, resulting in many complaints expiring because the clock runs out on their investigations. The mayor should insist on a limit of no fewer than 180 days for administrative investigations, in line with the standard for most other police departments nationally.

2. Release information about officer misconduct to Police Oversight Board.

Section 20.1.10 severely restricts the information the director of the Civilian Police Oversight Agency may share about investigations into officer misconduct with the Police Oversight Board (POB), even though the board is responsible for approving the findings of the director and any disciplinary recommendations to be made to the chief of police. The current CBA even prohibits the POB from knowing the identity of the officer, preventing it from identifying officers who are repeat offenders. Mayor Keller should strike this limitation from the agreement.

3. Don’t give officers unfair access to information.

Though the POB is precluded from knowing the names of officers under investigation, ironically, the CBA extends no such courtesies to people who file complaints. Section 20.1.3 requires the identity of the person or officer making the charge be shared with the officer under investigation, if it is known. People who file complaints against officers therefore must weigh the risks of possible retaliation before reporting misconduct.

The mayor should strike this requirement.

The collective bargaining agreement between the city and APOA expires at the end of this month, but the union may push to delay negotiations until late in the year when the fervor over police violence may die down and its leverage improves.

The people of Albuquerque need to seize this moment and urge the mayor to renegotiate the CBA now. We deserve an agreement that treats police like all other public employees and restores proper balance between fair working conditions and officer accountability.

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