Should Police Oversight Groups See Draft Reports?
An unusual motion filed last Friday in the DOJ's Section 14141 police reform lawsuit seeks clarification of a Judge's "Directive Regarding City of Albuquerque's Report and Action Plan."
The "Joint Motion" by the City and Department of Justice asks Judge Brack to decide whether the City's civilian oversight agencies get to see and comment on the City's latest plans before they are approved by the parties and Monitor and filed with the Court.
The Motion was filed with the approval of the Settlement Agreement's compliance monitor, Dr. Ginger. The APOA ostensibly takes no position on the issues..
Negotiations between the U.S. Department of Justice and the City of Albuquerque more than three years ago resulted in a overseen by a compliance monitor and federal district judge.
The agreement included a substantial measure of community and citizen involvement, including the continuation of a police oversight agency, the CPOA, and a newly organized 9-member Civilian Police Oversight Board to investigate and report on policy and practice compliance. The agreement and City Ordinances also added a Mental Health Response Advisory Committee and 7 area Citizen Police Councils. The Oversight Board members have persistently complained about being shut out of meaningful reform of policies or practices by the City and its lawyers.
The joint motion filed by the DOJ and City's lawyers on Friday, June 2, asks for "an order clarifying the Court's directive that the City file a 'report and action plan' addressing certain matters raised during the May 10, 2017, hearing."
The parties are essentially asking Judge Brack whether he intended to include the Civilian Police Oversight Board, the Mental Health Advisory Board, and the Community Policing Councils in the mandatory but up to now closed-to-the-public discussions (or "review process") among the parties - the APD, the Police Union, and the DOJ - and Monitor.
The May 10, 2017, presentation of the Monitor's 5th Report included criticism by some of the community advocacy groups and the Police Oversight Board that they were being ignored and bypassed. Judge Brack ordered the City to file a "written report and action plan" within 30 days about how it would be addressing the lack of citizen and community involvement and participation that has marred the reform process up to now.
That Report would have been due to be filed on June 9. But after hearing the oversite boards' concerns and at the request of the DOJ, Judge Brack told the City to provide a draft report and action plan "to the Parties within 30 days and file its final report and action plan at 45 days, or June 24, 2017."
Despite the apparent intention of the Court to include and involve the public and its representatives, Judge Brack said nothing either way about providing the draft report to the oversight, mental health, or community policing boards and members, or about allowing them an opportunity to comment and suggest changes.
The motion concludes by asking:
whether the City should provide its draft report and action plan to the Amici and CASA Stakeholders when it provides the draft to the Parties on or before June 9, 2017, and consider their input in finalizing the report and action plan that it files with the Court on or before June 24, 2017.
Dr. Ginger's Draft Reports
Similar questions arose a few weeks ago when the Police Oversight Board members were allowed to see, but not comment on, draft copies of the Monitor's Fifth Compliance Report. Although the preliminary report was distributed to various groups and individuals including the APOA, neither the draft report or the comments on that report have been disclosed to the public.
At that time the CPOA's Executive Director and Dr. Ginger both cited a paragraph in the Settlement Agreement, paragraph 315, purporting to exclude Monitor Reports and communications among the parties from the definition of "public records:"
315. The Monitor is not a state or local agency or an agent thereof, and accordingly, the records maintained by the Monitor or communications between the Monitor and the Parties shall not be deemed public records subject to public inspection.
While the issue is still apparently not being discussed publicly, pending IPRA requests currently challenge the contention that proposals, comments, and communications among the parties are secret and not public records subject to inspection under the State law.
Allowing the oversight boards and CPCs to participate in the previously closed "review and report" process now would surely open that process to the public and the press, and whether the "parties" and Court can allow that to happen may be the real question the DOJ and City's Joint Motion for Clarification is asking the Judge to answer.