By Josiah Ward
Controversies over policing and use of force nationwide have led the Corrales Police Department to examine its own policies. After the death of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, protesters took to the streets to demand that officers be held accountable and that reforms be made. Across the nation, the procedures, training, and practices of police departments were questioned.
Within the last month, the use of force by police officers has been called into question once again after a police officer fatally shot Patrick Lyoya in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And earlier this month, Albuquerque police fatally shot a man in what is thought to have been a sucide-by-cop incident. This year, APD has fatally shot subjects six times, five of which ended fatally.
Public outcry has once again called for examination and reform of police department’s policies.
These national events have led to reforms nationwide; including in Corrales. According to Corrales’ Chief of Police, Victor Mangiacapra, “The use of force incidents that have been taking place over the last couple years… have prompted us to look at our policies and then essentially tweak them where necessary.”
In 2020, the Corrales Police Department issued its first “use of force” policy to clearly outline the procedures that officers should be taking. The Corrales Police Department has not received an excessive use of force complaint since 2015, and a review of the department’s use of force policy is set for Feburary 2025.
“If circumstances reasonably permit, officers will use time, distance, verbal persuasion or other tactics to de-escalate the situation. And that was the understanding, but it was not in writing,” Chief Mangiacapara went on to say.
According to the policy, “An officer must exercise control of an individual displaying resitance or aggression in order to protect himself/herself or others from an immediate threat. The level of force employed must be commensurate with the threat posed by the subject of the seriousness of the immediate situation.”
Using proper force has also been integrated into officer training. These policies are reviewed “several times a year,” Mangiacapara said. It is mandated that use of force training is reviewed during the bi-annual firearms training for officers.
Corrales police are scheduled to train with the Sandoval County Sheriff’s Department using a virtual reality simulator. “We’re not only going to review the use of force policies again, but also do a scenario based training,” explained Mangiacapara. The training aims to help officers make correct decisions on using lethal force or not.
Mangiacapara also detailed that the department was currently working on getting all of their officers through crisis intervention training in order to prepare officers for any person that may be experiencing a mental health emergency.
Mangiacapara stressed the importance of officers remaining calm and allowing, “cooler heads to prevail,” in the field. “You want to try and set the tone and maintain a calm demeanor,” he explained.
Even with unruly or resistant suspects, Mangiacapara stated that they would be treated with “a minimal amount of force,” in order to “keep them from being a threat to the officers, themselves, or to bystanders.” However, he warned that, “If you fail to obey a lawful order, or comply with a lawful arrest, then that could be another criminal charge.”
Aside from training and preparing officers for the field, Mangiacapara said, “It really starts at the beginning,” adding, “We try to hire that officer without that aggressive demeanor.”
Mangiacapara said that much of the recruiting done by the department was done through “word of mouth.” However, the department does have job listings posted on the Village website, the New Mexico Municipal League website, Indeed.com, and the Albuquerque Journal.
To retain officers, a pay increase was given in April. “The pay increase was implemented not only to recruit, but also retain police officers, and the department is participating in the state-funded program resulting from House Bill 68 which provides retention stipends of five percent of their annual salary to officers with four, nine, 14 and 19 years of service,” he explained.
In an email the police chief said, “CPD strives to cultivate a favorable work environment by recruiting and retaining the highest quality officers available, maintaining open communications and transparency within the department and seeking out the best possible training and equipment accessible for personnel to be able to safely and effectively do their jobs.”