Albuquerque – KRQE recently reported that the Civilian Police Oversight Agency (CPOA) recommended an 88 hour suspension for an officer who had a negligent discharge and accidentally shot an innocent bystander in the back. Albuquerque Police Chief Gordon Eden decided to ignore the recommendation and instead give the officer involved a written reprimand.
Why do we have a CPOA if they have no power to do anything? What good is it to investigate a case and make a recommendation when the police chief can just choose to ignore it? If we are serious about improving APD and improving the relationship between APD and the people of Albuquerque, we have to give the CPOA a real voice in the oversight of the police department. I’m hopeful that someone on the city council will address this in the meeting on June 5th. For APD to regain the people’s trust, the city council needs to take an active role in oversight of the department. A first step that the council could take is to give the CPOA the power to enforce the disciplinary action that they find is appropriate.
This incident also makes me wonder if the police chief would feel the same way if I had a negligent discharge and accidentally shot a police officer in the back. Would I just receive a written warning because it was the first time that I handled a firearm in an unsafe manner? This officer made a mistake, and even if it was his first incident of mishandling a firearm it still needs to be taken seriously.
I sincerely hope that the next mayor will nominate a police chief who understands the importance of civilian oversight; a police chief that will take the recommendations of the CPOA in these cases and will work hard to increase the public’s trust in the police department. When I am on the council I will ask every nominee for police chief what he or she plans to do to increase the public’s trust in the department. I will also ask how they feel about civilian oversight and whether or not they think it is important. I will ask if they are committed to transparency in the department. If a nominee doesn’t have good answers for these questions I will simply not vote to confirm him or her.