By Joe Wright
The Department of Justice (DOJ) itself is a largely lawless institution, but after a nearly two-year investigation into the actions of the Albuquerque Police Department, even they have to acknowledge the systematic use of egregious violence and a laundry list of general misconduct.
The APD – also known by residents as Another Person Dead – has been making the news with increased frequency following a rash of suspicious deaths, as well as the blatant execution of a homeless man, James M. Boyd, whom they set upon for “illegal camping.” You can see the list of criminals involved in that execution here.
That event ratcheted up residents’ distaste for their peacekeepers and saw many take to the streets in protest. Not to be outdone, the APD shot another man under suspicious circumstances just hours later. More protests ensued which led to a near riot, with police unloading tear gas and making arrests to quell the demonstrations.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect to the actions of the APD are the statements made by APD leadership before and after this recent spate of violence.
As Lily Dane reported, despite an already long list of assaults on citizens of Albuquerque, the director of the Law Enforcement Academy, Jack Jones, issued a training program that clearly urges less restraint when confronting the public, setting up an adversarial relationship embedded into police culture:
Last July, (Phillip) Gallegos (a former instructor) was fired for insubordination after he refused to teach new cadets some of the firearms training Jones wanted to implement:
“The statement that he made to us [instructors] in a [January 2013] meeting was, ‘No, I want you guys teaching these guys how to make a car stop with a bullet.” Gallegos said, “This is the thing — why are you shooting at a car? You should be shooting at the individual that is shooting at you.”
Jones tried to justify that part of the training like this:
“We want them to see that if there’s a threat that’s inside a vehicle and they need to shoot at it, what happens to that round. They’re wearing a gun and a badge protecting you [the public] against the violence. Don’t you think they should be prepared for the most violent encounter that they can come up against?” (Source)
To make matters worse, the APD would not release the training manual in question to be opened for scrutiny. Moreover, instead of perhaps one rogue director, the statements made by Chief Gordon Eden following the outrageous actions that were caught on video in the execution of Boyd sounded like a glowing endorsement for further similar action:
Chief Eden called the shooting justified at the news conference, saying officers used non-lethal force first and that there was a direct threat made at an unarmed K9 officer. According to Chief Eden, Boyd was less than eight feet from the unarmed canine officer.
“Actually if you watch the video tape, all the less than lethal devices were in fact deployed. It was when the canine officer was down directing the canine dog that the suspect pulled out the two knives and directed a threat to the canine officer who had no weapons drawn. He was handling the dog,” Chief Eden said.
News 13 asked Chief Eden directly, “do you believe this was a justified shooting?”
Chief Eden responded, “Yes, if you follow case law, ‘Garner versus Tennessee’, there was directed threat to an officer.” (source)
A formal probe into the APD was launched in 2012 and has finally resulted in the conclusions discussed in the video below. A 40-page evaluation shows conclusively that a wide range of civil liberties violations have taken place in Albuquerque. Also highlighted is how trigger happy this particular department has become, resulting in roughly the same number of deadly officer-involved shootings as New York City which stands at 15 times the population of Albuquerque.
Furthermore, the letter to Mayor Berry acknowledges that the APD is guilty beyond just a few highly publicized cases, but have engaged in an entrenched pattern of abusive behavior:
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We write to report the findings of the Department of Justice’s civil investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department (“APD” or “the department”). Our investigation focused on allegations of use of excessive force by APD officers under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141 (“Section 14141”). Section 14141 makes it unlawful for government entities, such as the City of Albuquerque and APD, to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement officers that deprives individuals of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. The investigation was conducted jointly by the Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico. This letter is separate from, and does not address, any federal criminal investigation that may be conducted by the Department of Justice.
Based on our investigation, we have reasonable cause to believe that APD engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment and Section 14141. Our investigation included a comprehensive review of APD’s operations and the City’s oversight systems. We have determined that structural and systemic deficiencies—including insufficient oversight, inadequate training, and ineffective policies— contribute to the use of unreasonable force. At the conclusion of this letter, we outline the remedial measures that we believe are necessary to ensure that force is used in accordance with the Constitution. In some instances, these recommendations build on measures and initiatives that are already underway within the department.
The violations of the APD are enumerated and make the following points clear:
- Albuquerque police officers shot and killed civilians who did not pose an imminent threat of serious bodily harm or death to the officers or others.
- Albuquerque police officers used deadly force on individuals in crisis who posed no threat to anyone but themselves.
- Albuquerque police officers’ own recklessness sometimes led to their use of deadly force.
- APD Engages in a Pattern or Practice of Unconstitutional Use of Less Lethal Force.
- Albuquerque police officers used force against individuals who were passively resisting and posed a minimal threat.
- Albuquerque police officers used excessive force against individuals with mental illness, against individuals with impaired faculties, and against individuals who require medical treatment.
- Systemic Deficiencies Cause or Contribute to the Use of Excessive Force.
- The Department’s Inadequate Internal Accountability Measures Contribute to the Pattern or Practice of Excessive Force.
- Supervisory reviews do not address excessive uses of force.
- Force incidents are not properly documented.
- Shooting investigations are inadequate.
- Internal review mechanisms are not implemented.
- The Department’s Training Deficiencies Contribute to the Pattern or Practice of Unreasonable Use of Force.
- The Department’s Deficient Policies Contribute to the Pattern or Practice of Unreasonable Use of Force.
- Under-Use of the Crisis Intervention Team Contributes to the Pattern or Practice of Unconstitutional Force.
- The Department’s Ineffective Use of Its Tactical Deployments Contributes to the Use of Excessive Force.
- The Department’s Aggressive Organizational Culture Contributes to Excessive Force Incidents.
- The Department’s Limited External Oversight Contributes to the Pattern or Practice of Unconstitutional Uses of Force.
- Inadequate Community Policing Contributes to the Department’s Pattern or Practice of Unconstitutional Force.
Given this comprehensive list of just about every misconduct possible (and the details given about the points above are even worse), the final list of DOJ recommendations focus on additional training as well as better citizen oversight, which is often the light slap on the wrist that is issued for letting the situation get so far out of control that the DOJ needs to become involved in the first place. The DOJ does issue a final obligatory threat in case the APD cannot rein itself in:
However, if we cannot reach an appropriate resolution, Section 14141 authorizes the Department of Justice to file a civil lawsuit to “eliminate the pattern or practice” of police misconduct. 42 U.S.C. § 14141.
Citizens of Albuquerque should make it clear that any lawsuits (and payouts) should not come from the taxpayers who have already paid for this mockery of a police department, but will file lawsuits against all of the individuals who have enabled and directly taken part in this catalog of criminality.
Video transcript and research links posted below:
by Kristian Mundahl
In the 40-page evaluation, assistant attorney general Jocelyn Samuels alleges the APD often violates the 4th amendment, which covers unreasonable searches, thanks to inadequate training and insufficient oversight.
Officers used deadly forces against people who posed a minimal threat, including individuals who posed a threat only to themselves or who were unarmed.
The investigation started in 2012, but problems at the APD grabbed headlines last month when officers shot and killed James Boyd, a mentally unstable homeless man camping outside the city.
According to the report, from 2011 to 2012, Albuquerque saw 25 deadly officer-involved shootings which was the same number seen in New York City, which is fifteen times larger. Twenty fatal incidents from 2009-2012 are now considered unconstitutional.
Samuels says the investigation included hundreds of hours of police ride-alongs, interviews, meetings with city officials and examination of department documents.
Many of the allegations focus on the APD’s treatment of the mentally ill. That’s an area where Albuquerque mayor Richard Berry says officer training can be improved. (Via USA Today)
But it’s Berry who has received the brunt of the criticism. According to the Albuquerque Journal, citizens blame his inaction for years of police brutality. During a town hall meeting earlier this week concerning the Police Department, Berry was absent. The Journal writes “People went to the council meeting to talk to the city’s leaders, and the top city leader sent them a message that he was too busy to listen to them.”
The Department’s report recommends an overhaul of the APD’s Internal Affairs division, training focused on non-lethal force and a more powerful citizen oversight committee.
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