- Associated Press - Thursday, December 18, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Civil rights groups can now start submitting friend-of-the-court briefs for a pending settlement between the city and the U.S. Justice Department to overhaul Albuquerque police, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Robert Brack gives the public until Jan. 14 to submit up to 15 pages to argue positions for a final agreement.

The reform blueprint calls for new training and protocols for investigating officer shootings. It also calls for the agency to dismantle some troubled units.

An independent monitoring team will oversee how the changes are adopted, provide technical assistance and publicly report on the city’s compliance, according to the Justice Department.

The team also will have access to all documents, personnel, facilities and information related to the settlement agreement and will engage with officers and community members on an ongoing basis, federal officials said.

The police department serving a city of about 560,000 people has faced scrutiny for 42 police shootings - 27 of them fatal - since 2010. The fatal shooting of a homeless man in March sparked protests around the city after video footage appeared to show the man surrendering during a standoff.

Peter Simonson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said the group plans to file an amicus brief on behalf of APD Forward - a coalition of churches, civil rights groups and advocates for the homeless.

He said the brief will discuss ways the agreement could be improved and how community have been affected “by a lack of accountability” from Albuquerque police.

“We have some concerns on the part on how APD will deploy the use of tactical units,” Simonson said.

However, he said the agreement already has a number of positive parts that have pleased some advocates. Simonson said he especially sees the adoption of a federal monitor as a good move.

“(The agreement) presents an amazing opportunity to implement some good reforms,” Simonson said.


Follow Russell Contreras at https://twitter.com/russcontreras

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