The Albuquerque police’s alleged use of excessive force has been judged as factual by the U.S. Department of Justice, who rendered a scathing assessment of the unit’s “pattern or practice of use of excessive force.” According to the NY Times on April 10, members of the Albuquerque police department “often acting recklessly and violating people’s constitutional rights.”
The department has an alarming number of incidents where the public has accused individual members of using unwarranted force. Since 2010, over three dozen separate incidents have occurred where Albuquerque police have discharged their weapons. In 23 of those shootings, the suspect has died.
The allegations were brought to a head last month when a homeless camper was shot dead at the Sandia foothills in Albuquerque. Killed in the shooting was 38-year old James Boyd, a homeless man who had been living at an illegal campsite and who initially threatened officers with a small camping knife.
Video showed police tossing a “flash bang” grenade, which disoriented Boyd, who appeared confused and unable to hear officers shouting at him to stand down and lay on the ground. As Boyd takes a step to turn away, appearing to gather his things, he is gunned down. For more on that story, see the linked article below.
Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said that “inadequate oversight, inadequate investigation of incidents of force, inadequate training of officers to ensure they understand what is permissible or not,” have led to “a pattern or practice of systemic deficiencies that have pervaded the Albuquerque Police Department for many years.”
Fox News said the DOJ has been reviewing hundreds of the department’s actions over the course of a year, and found that officers, on far too many occasions, engaged individuals who “posed minimal threats” with the use of deadly force. The 46-page report goes on to say that those mental illnesses have been "grossly mistreated" as well.
Samuels said the department needs a complete overhaul, and acknowledged changes may come slowly, as a new “culture” is needed. “The reforms we are proposing ... are going to result in the kinds of structures that will over time create a change in the culture,” she said. “It starts with commitment from the top.”
The report comes as validation for residents of New Mexico's largest city who have been brutalized by the heavy-handed use of stun guns, police beatings and general hot-shot aggressive behavior. Read the full DOJ findings letter.