- Associated Press - Friday, November 6, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - More than a year after a federal investigation found a pattern of excessive force by Albuquerque police, the number of deaths from officer shootings has dropped and the community has rallied around the beleaguered department in the wake of recent tragedies.

The shifting mood comes as an independent monitor appointed to track court-ordered reforms for the Albuquerque Police Department held the second of two community meetings Thursday with the U.S. Attorney’s office and a city councilor. James Ginger, the court-approved monitor, said some changes to use-of-force polices - specifically those involving when police can shoot at moving cars - are underway and a member of his team said more officers are being trained in how to handled crisis situations.

Ginger repeatedly stressed that the yearslong police reform process that is carried out under consent decree with the Justice Department is a “marathon” and sweeping changes would not come quickly.

“We didn’t get here overnight and we’re not going to be out of here over night,” he said. “We can make change and watch it fall apart; or we can make change the right way and it will last.”

Still, patience with many of Ginger’s responses to public questions and comment in the crowded hotel conference room Thursday appeared to wear thin, with occasional shouts among the some 200 people who attended accusing him of being vague. At one point, an officer escorted a man away from a microphone stand after contending at length that officials have lacked transparency throughout the reform process.

Ginger told the audience that he expected a first full report on the progress for reform to be released by the end of this month.

Albuquerque is one of several U.S. cities, including Cleveland, that are under consent decree with the Department of Justice after federal probes found unconstitutional policing resulted in instances of excessive, unnecessary uses of deadly force. Albuquerque police came under scrutiny for 41 shootings by officers - more than two dozen of them fatal - between 2010 and 2014.

So far this year, there have been roughly a half-dozen shootings by police officers in Albuquerque, two of them fatal. In the first of the two cases, police say a man exchanged gunfire with officers in January before he was shot. Eight months later, a kidnapping suspect raised his weapon at police prompting them to open fire, authorities said.

Six people were killed last year in confrontations with Albuquerque police, including James Boyd, the homeless man shot in March 2014 whose death sparked massive protest. Police video from the standoff showed Boyd had two knives in hand but appeared to be surrendering when officers opened fire.

“It takes a while to change the culture of an institution regardless of what that institution is. But it can be done when the city government and community work hand in hand,” said Ralph Arellanes, chairman of Hispano Roundtable of New Mexico, who was among those who filed a complaint against police. “We’ve gone through a lot in this city with unconstitutional policing.”

Ginger, appointed in January to monitor the reform process, is considered an expert in police reform after overseeing DOJ consent decrees with Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.


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