A practice of a police union giving payment reimbursements of up to $500 to Albuquerque police officers after shootings from the Albuquerque Police Officers Association (APOA) continues. The Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday on how one officer, Jeremy Dear, went to Hooters and a Chinese massage parlor two days after he fatally shot 19-year-old Mary Hawkes. Part of that report, unrelated to Dear’s actions, says “police union officials confirmed officers are still reimbursed up to $500 by the union to use for vacations and other ways to decompress after being involved in a shooting.”
It’s a practice that first surfaced publicly in 2012 when news broke that the union had given out payments to 23 officers involved in shootings. The revelation led to an outcry from critics over the appearance of awarding cops for shooting people in a department where a culture of “excessive use of force” eventually landed a court-ordered consent decree from the federal Department of Justice demanding a reform process. The city of Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Police Department are still working on the implementation of the reforms.
At the time, Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and then-APD Chief Ray Schultz called for the practice to stop.
An advocacy group says data in a legislative report confirms suspicions that a majority of pending Medicaid applications in the last two years were eligible for benefits. For Sovereign Hager, a staff attorney with the Center on Law and Poverty, the fact that the vast majority of those applications were still eligible for benefits is vindication of her organization’s legal battles with the state on the issue. According to figures from the state Human Services Department, which administers the federal Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the department saw 223,000 overdue renewal applications for Medicaid benefits between May 2014 and December 2015. The state agency estimates 97 percent of those applications met Medicaid requirements, despite being overdue. “These overdue cases are the ones HSD would like to close for procedural reasons,” Hager said.
Tens of thousands of New Mexicans are put at risk because of the state’s continued failure to adequately provide health care and food benefits to the poor, according to a legal motion filed by a group seeking to protect low-income residents. Later this month, the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty will argue that a federal court should appoint an independent monitor to oversee some of these key tasks from the New Mexico Human Services Department. It all stems back to a decades-old federal consent decree that advocates say the state is still struggling to meet. Issued in 1990, the consent decree came as a result of a class action lawsuit that accused HSD of failing to provide food stamps and Medicaid benefits to recipients. “The state wasn’t processing [food stamp and Medicaid] applications on time.
Two reports released on Thursday have different views of the Albuquerque Police Department’s compliance with a consent decree between the department and the U.S. Department of Justice. A status report by James Ginger, the federal monitor appointed to oversee APD’s reforms outlined in the consent decree, warns that the police department is not developing a new use of force policy fast enough. “The monitoring team have twice worked with the APD to provide guidance regarding the pending APD use of force policy,” his report states. “As of yet, no use of force police has been developed that can be approved by the monitor.”
The report from APD, however, painted a much rosier picture in its own status report, maintaining that “methodical planning, innovation and hard work” have led to “considerable gains.”
The consent decree is the result of a federal investigation that concluded in April 2014 that the police department’s practices of use of force repeatedly violated the U.S. Constitution. A settlement agreement between the DOJ and APD last fall outlined the reforms the police agency must follow through the consent decree.