Surprise! Feds Find Pattern of Excessive Force in Albuquerque PD

made a wrong turn in albuquerqueWDEFThe Department of Justice (DOJ), which opened an investigation into the use of force at the Albuquerque, New Mexico, police department in late 2012, announced today that its "exhaustive review" has "determined that there is reasonable cause to believe that the Albuquerque Police Department is engaged in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including the use of unreasonable deadly force."  

That conduct, Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels explained in remarks on the findings earlier today, would violate the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which she described as "a powerful civil rights law that has allowed us to reform troubled police departments across the country," noting work the DOJ has done in Pittsburgh (its first case), Cincinnati (opened in 2001 after the fatal police shooting of Timmy Thomas led to riots), and Los Angeles (which it investigated more than a decade ago but could probably investigate again). Samuels also noted ongoing reviews and partnerships with departments in places like Portland, Oregon (where the DOJ reached an agreement on reform with cops and the city last year) and Puerto Rico (with whose police department the DOJ entered into an agreement on reform in 2012).

In Albuquerque the DOJ blamed "organizational deficiencies" for causing a systemic pattern or practice of abuse, specifically finding that:

Officers use deadly force in an unconstitutional manner.  Our investigation looked at officer-involved shootings that resulted in fatalities from 2009 to 2012 and found that a majority of them were unreasonable and violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  We found that officers used deadly force against people who did not pose an immediate threat of death or serious harm to officers or others, and against people who posed a threat only to themselves.  In fact, sometimes it was the conduct of the officers themselves that heightened the danger and escalated the need to use force.

We found that officers use other types of less lethal force, especially electronic control weapons, or Tasers, in an unconstitutional manner.  Our investigation looked beyond just the use of deadly force and found a significant number of improper uses of force in our review of over 200 force reports generated between 2009 and early 2013.  We found that officers routinely fired their Tasers, which discharge 50,000 volts of electricity, against people who were passively resisting and non-threatening or who were unable to comply with orders due to their mental state.  Indeed, we found that encounters between police officers and persons with mental illness or in crisis too frequently resulted in a use of force or a higher level of force than necessary.

Albuquerque has one of the deadliest police departments by population. In the last four years Albuquerque police shot more people than New York City police did, despite New York being 16 times larger than Albuquerque. Tensions in Albquerque came to a head last month after the fatal shooting of a homeless camper was caught on helmet cam and sparked anti-police brutality protests to which police responded with tear gas and a SWAT team.

The DOJ will now work with the city and police department of Albuquerque on various reforms and has also referred some of the police shootings of the last four years, including that of homeless camper James Boyd,  to the DOJ’s Criminal Section.

Nevertheless, Samuels found it important to address police officers directly in her remarks today, to tell them it's not really about them:

To the women and men of the Albuquerque Police Department, we know your work is difficult and that you face dangers, known and unknown, when you hit the streets every day to keep this city safe.  We recognize that many of you are dedicated public servants who wear your badge with distinction.  We do not intend our findings today to mean that you must needlessly risk your lives or safety.  You must come home safely to your family and loved ones.  When you took your oath as officers, you were empowered to use reasonable force, including deadly force, to protect yourself, your partners, and the public.

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  • ||

    You must come home safely to your family and loved ones.

    Same shit, different day.

    #1 duty!!

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    to protect yourself, your partners, and the public.

    The order of these words says it all.

  • SusanM||

    Oh, come on. They need to throw that in there to try to deflect the "Obama's weakening the cops so the islamofascists can take over" shit that we all know is coming.

  • Dances-with-Trolls||

    Reason, fix your fucking website already.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    One word - Training.

  • Free Society||

    One word- government.

  • RFID||

    including the use of unreasonable deadly force.

    Is there some sort of, you know, "law", that would cover this sort of behavior?

  • Andrew S.||

    Police officers are subject to the law? Since when?

  • Free Society||

    If they were subject to the law, when they murder someone they would invariably be charged with murder. Instead they're charged with variations of professional negligence or misconduct as a matter of routine.

    Only a legal system rooted in morality has any legitimacy to arbitrate disputes and prosecute criminal activity. A legal system whereby special costumes entitle it's wearer to be guided by a separate set of morals is not a moral legal system. It is illegitimate and should be destroyed.

  • SusanM||

    http://www.bestpracticespolicy.....-practice/

    A little OT, but it's kind of connected to Arizona law enforcement.

  • Andrew S.||

    I was all excited until that last paragraph.

  • AlgerHiss||

    It makes no difference where you live, you will trust today's LEO at your peril. These people are best left alone. Stay away from them.

    They are nothing but trouble, especially for the law abiding.

  • Free Society||

    They are hired thugs who are paid to enforce the whims of their political bosses. Being a law-abiding citizen is an amoral proposition when so much of the law lacks positive moral content.

  • Brett L||

    ...And nothing else happened.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    We recognize that many of you are dedicated public servants who wear your badge with distinction.

    To distinquish them from the peasants who should get on their knees and thank Aqua Buddha daily that nothing they said or did was interpreted as a "furtive gesture."

  • Free Society||

    Why do we make euphemisms about what the cops did or do on a regular basis? When a cop murders someone, the investigation concludes that it was actually "an excessive use of force". The euphemisms are used in order to imply that cops are in another moral category of man, who play by a different set of moral rules compared to everyone else. These euphemisms are used to mask the undeniably immoral nature of political government and the thugs such institutions employ to commit it's moral crimes. Euphemisms are gloves to hide bloody hands.

  • Almanian!||

    The HELL you say!

    No wai!

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    "In fact, sometimes it was the conduct of the officers themselves that heightened the danger and escalated the need to use force."

    No. Fucking. Shit.

  • Almanian!||

    +1 surprise forced entry at 2:00am for "possession"

  • Swiss Servator, Alt-text FTW||

    AHEM! Dynamic Entry

    /Police One

  • flye||

    You know who else used excessive force in Albuquerque?

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Robert Oppenheimer?

  • ||

    Who is Powers?

  • Paul.||

    To the women and men of the Albuquerque Police Department, we know your work is difficult and that you face dangers, known and unknown, when you hit the streets every day to keep this city safe. We don't hold you responsible for shooting people and violating their fourth amendment rights, we are convinced that more training will stem the flow of murders.

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