Skip to main content

APD officers use force less often, while arrests increase

97% of force incidents within policy
January 03, 2024

ALBUQUERQUE – APD officers are using force less often, even though they are arresting more suspects.


The number of use-of-force incidents has decreased by 44% since 2020 as the department has revamped its policies and training. Arrests also went down between 2020 and 2021 during COVID. However, arrests started going back up in 2021 and increased by 28% since then.


“What’s most important to me is officers are doing more proactive policing and they are using force properly in the vast majority of the arrests they make,” Chief Harold Medina said. “While rare, force is necessary during some arrests. And when officers use force, only 3% of these incidents violated our policies.”

Of the 525 investigations in 2023, 16 were found to be out of policy.

APD identifies three categories of force used by officers.


  • Level 1 is the lowest level and is likely to cause only transitory pain, disorientation, and/or discomfort during its application as a means of gaining compliance.


  • Level 2 is force that causes injury, could reasonably be expected to cause injury, or results in a complaint of injury.


  • Level 3 is force that results in, or could reasonably result in, serious physical injury, hospitalization, or death.


APD is under a Court-Approved Settlement Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to change officers’ approach to using force during arrests. APD created the Office of the Superintendent of Police Reform and a new Compliance Bureau to oversee reform efforts and overhaul policies, training, force investigations and discipline.


APD now has a reliable system to identify and investigate force incidents. Sergeants investigate Level 1 use-of-force incidents and a team of investigators investigate Level 2 and Level 3 incidents to ensure the officer’s decision to use force was reasonable, minimal, and necessary.


Chief Medina also made changes at APD outside of the Court-Approved Settlement Agreement that scrutinizes officer-involved shootings every six months. The review, which can be found on APD’s web site, is conducted by a working group of APD deputy chiefs, one APD major, one legal advisor, and one external contractor who specializes in uses of force. Chief Medina started the reviews to look at OIS incidents collectively and at a high level to identify patterns.


In January 2023, APD also made revisions to its use-of-force policy to make it clearer to officers when they can use different levels, including ‘non-lethal’ use of force when taking and individual into custody.


In November, APD reached 94% operational compliance of its settlement agreement with the DOJ.


In December, APD resumed control of all use-of-force investigations, which marked yet another major milestone at the end of federal oversight of the department.