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APD Revises Non-Lethal Use-of-Force Policy

De-escalation remains a priority for department

Jan. 26, 2023

ALBUQUERQUE – APD completed 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 a suspect into custody. These modifications are designed to remedy early CASA era policies that have been cited as potentially increasing the likelihood of officer involved fatal shootings. The changes come as part of broader efforts toward reform and reduction of officer involved shootings.

APD overhauled its use-of-force policy three years ago as part of the City’s Court Approved Settlement Agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. Since then, leadership within APD felt the need to clarify the policy regarding when officers should use certain levels of force, such as tasers, beanbag shotguns, 40-millimeter impact launchers, or canine deployments.

The updated policy outlines when officers should discharge electronic control weapons (ECW) and when an officer can use show of force with ECWs in dangerous situations to encourage compliance. The updated policy removed immediate threat and kept imminent threat throughout, in order to eliminate any confusion between the similar definitions.

“We wanted officers to be clear on when they could use less lethal force,” said Superintendent of Police Reform Retired Judge Victor E. Valdez. “We found officers should be able to use less lethal force sooner than they were formally able to under the previous policy. These revisions allow better protection to both the public and the officers when confronted with a violent individual.”

In the most recent Monitor’s Report, APD reached 100% primary compliance, 99% secondary compliance, and 80% operational compliance. These self-identified policy changes reflect the department’s commitment to lasting reform and keeping the community safe as it nears a point of exit with the CASA.

“De-escalation continues to be the main objective for our officers,” said Chief Harold Medina. “Our goal with these changes is to make sure that if de-escalation is not possible, we exhaust every tool available to apprehend offenders, only using a firearm as a last resort.”

The changes have been approved by the DOJ and will be implemented with formal training programs in a phased approach throughout the department over the next quarter.