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Outside investigators approved to help Albuquerque police

February 27, 2021 GMT

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A federal judge has approved an order proposing the creation of an outside team to assist the Albuquerque Police Department with investigations into officer-related use of force cases.

U.S. District Judge James Browning signed off on the order after a federal court hearing Friday, and said he will issue a written opinion on the matter in April in response to comments he made in court, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the city of Albuquerque proposed hiring an administrator and undetermined number of investigators for the External Force Investigation Team to assist the police department’s internal affairs force division in cases where police officers use force causing injury, hospitalization or death.

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External investigators, who would be privy to all evidence, documents and investigative notes, will be tasked under the order with evaluating the quality of internal investigators’ work and notify the police department and attorneys of any existing deficiencies.

The city hopes to have an administrator in place in May to start hiring the team.

Paul Killebrew, an attorney with the Department of Justice’s civil rights division, said during the hearing on Friday that the motion was necessary because the police department after six years is still not holding officers accountable for using force that is out of policy.

“What we have is a city that has failed to comply with that court order over and over and over again,” Killebrew said. “It’s not an option right now to do nothing. If we sit back and wait and use all the tools we’ve been using I don’t know why we would expect things to change on their own.”

The city has been working its way through a Court Approved Settlement Agreement since 2014, when the Department of Justice found the Albuquerque Police Department exhibited a pattern of using excessive force.