Justice News

Assistant Attorney General Perez Speaks at the Albuquerque, N.M., Police Department Press Conference
Albuquerque, NM
United States
Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Good afternoon and thank you for joining us. Thank you, Ken, for joining us today, and for all of your work in Albuquerque and across New Mexico. I am pleased to be joined here by Mayor Berry and Chief Schultz, for this announcement. I am also pleased to see that we are joined by several members of the Albuquerque community.

As you know, last year the Department of Justice, assisted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Mexico, started a preliminary review of the Albuquerque Police Department to determine if a full investigation into their policies and practices on use of force is necessary. After careful consideration of the information gathered during our review we have concluded that a full civil rights investigation is warranted to determine whether APD engages in a pattern or practice of violations of the Constitution or federal law. In particular the investigation will focus on use of force by APD, including but not limited to use of deadly force.

Our investigation into APD’s use of force practices will be thorough, fair and independent. We will peel the onion to its core, and leave no stone unturned. We will follow the facts wherever they lead us. We will gather as much information as possible from as many sources as possible. We will examine department policies and practices, review records and interact with police officers in the field. We will be assisted by seasoned police professionals, many of who are retired or current police chiefs with extensive experience in contemporary policing standards. We will talk to department leadership and rank and file officers. We will also actively engage with the community – a critical part of the process of determining whether systemic violations exist and how a police department can be improved.

Our goal with this investigation – as with all of our police pattern or practice investigations – is simple: to determine the truth, and to ensure that APD is an effective, accountable police department that controls crime, ensures respect for the Constitution, and earns the trust of the public it is charged with protecting. We will review cases individually and cumulatively to determine whether there are any patterns or trends.

We do not prejudge our investigations – rather we gather all available facts to determine, thoroughly and objectively, whether systemic violations have occurred. If we determine that a pattern or practice of excessive force exists, we will work with the city, the Police Department, and the community in a collaborative fashion to develop a comprehensive plan for sustainable reform. From the first time we met with Mayor Berry and Chief Schultz they pledged to fully cooperate with our review and they have done so. I am also pleased that we are joined today by community advocates. This is the community’s department, and it is important to hear from community stakeholders. Our experience has shown that when we have cooperation and engagement from a city, its police department, and the community we can conduct our investigation in a more efficient and effective manner.

We will not wait until the end of our investigation to offer technical assistance or other recommendations to address concerns that we identify. During the course of our investigations elsewhere we have frequently provided real time feedback that has enabled police departments to implement critical reforms in expedited fashion. We appreciate that Chief Schultz is not waiting for the conclusion of our investigation to identify and implement changes to improve the department. We expect to remain in regular contact with Police Department leadership over the next several months on these issues, and to continue to take appropriate steps together to improve the quality of policing by the APD.

Let me be clear: this is a civil investigation not a criminal investigation. We are focused on whether there is a pattern or practice of excessive force by the APD, including but not limited to the use of deadly force.

In 1994, in the aftermath of the riots in Los Angeles following the state verdict in the Rodney King case, Congress passed a key civil rights law giving the Justice Department the authority to combat systemic violations of the Constitution or laws of the United States by police departments. A hallmark of a thriving democracy and a vibrant community is an effective, accountable police department. The Justice Department has used this critical civil rights law to work collaboratively and effectively with police departments and communities across the country.

During the tenure of Attorney General Holder, the department has handled more police reform cases under the 1994 law than any point in the nearly two decade history of the law. This investigation brings our number of active investigations up to 14. In 2012, we have reached far ranging, court enforceable agreements with four jurisdictions to address serious and deeply rooted challenges, and we expect to finalize a fifth in the coming weeks. This is easily the largest number of agreements ever obtained in one year, and our work continues.

The road ahead will be difficult. This work is not easy, but this independent review is critical to ensuring and preserving trust between a police department and the community it serves. Community trust is among the most important currency an officer has.

In the months ahead, we intend to do a considerable amount of listening and learning. We will listen and learn from APD. To all of the men and women of the Albuquerque Police Department, we look forward to hearing your thoughts and suggestions, to riding along with you so that we can step in your shoes as best as possible. We have the greatest respect for the hard job that you have, and our role is to identify potential tools that will make your job safer and more rewarding, and will help you reduce crime while ensuring respect for the Constitution.

To the community, we will continue to seek out and hear your thoughts on what is working in APD in your opinion, and what needs to be fixed. We are hopeful and confident that everyone with an interest in this matter will approach the months ahead with a constructive sprit, mindful that we all have a shared interest in ensuring that APD serve the entire community with distinction. We invite anyone with information to email us at community.albuquerque@usdoj.gov or call our community voicemail box at (855) 544-5134, which is available in English and Spanish.

To the leadership of the city of Albuquerque, we appreciate your continuing cooperation. Our goal is not simply to fix the blame, but rather to identify and fix problems, if any are identified, in connection with use of force, and to work collaboratively with you and the entire community to build a department everyone is proud of.

Thank you.

Updated September 17, 2014