CPOA getting much needed support from city

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The group created to hold the Albuquerque Police Department accountable, when it comes to complaints and use-of-force cases, is finally getting some needed support. In the first six months of 2020, the Civilian Police Oversight Agency investigated 157 complaints filed against APD officers.

During that period, the agency only had two investigators to do all of the work. After years of back and forth, the executive director says they’re finally getting more support from the city. “We’re in the budget process currently and we’re getting the backing that we’re asking for, so we’re certainly in a better position than we were a year ago, absolutely,” said Ed Harness, executive director of CPOA.

Harness says the city approved funding for the CPOA to hire two more investigators. Harness says even being short-staffed, the CPOA has still been making progress in its mission to make sure cops are not crossing the line.

From January to June of 2020, CPOA investigated 157 complaints, the most for a period since January 2017. The agency says the vast majority of those complaints were closed due to reasons like lack of information or no violation. However, when it comes to the highest level of use of force cases, four out of 72 cases were out of policy as was one out of six officer-involved shootings.

Harness didn’t have specific details on any of those cases but says APD is also being more transparent. “We are also gaining better access electronically to reports, computer-aided dispatch, police reports, and those kinds of things. So, we’ve increased our efficiency from an access standpoint greatly,” Harness said.

When the CPOA first got immediate access to APD lapel video in 2018, investigators reported a nearly 40% increase in unfounded complaints. City councilors will vote on a potential new member to the CPOA’s board. The board makes disciplinary recommendations to the chief. The board hasn’t been fully staffed in three years.