If you reside within the Albuquerque, New Mexico area you cannot help but see in the news the many cases of individuals killed by the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). From 2009 to 2014 the APD was involved in over thirty-five shootings, resulting in twenty-three deaths. It was, however, the shooting death of James Boyd, an unauthorized camper, that grabbed national headlines. This incident was captured on video and was viewed on the internet by the general public. This sparked a protest of over three hundred Albuquerque residents who called for an end to the excessive force of Albuquerque’s police department.
In 2012 a survey was given to 900 members of the police department. The intent was to find out the internal thoughts of the Police Union, and, was done with the hope of bringing a resolution to the scrutiny that was encompassing the department. This scrutiny was an examination of not only the excessive force, but also of the misallocation of union dues and some lesser non-compliance issues. The results of this survey initiated an investigation by the Civil Rights division of the Department of Justice (DOJ). This investigation was done in alignment with the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. This DOJ investigation included examining files of cases that involved allegations of excessive force and of wrongful death. In addition, interviews were conducted with witnesses, police officers, and police superiors that were involved with these cases.
The DOJ released the findings of their investigation in a press conference given in April 2014. These findings were revealed by Acting Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division, Jocelyn Samuels. In her forty-five page document to Albuquerque’s Mayor Richard Berry, she concluded that the APD did violate the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. She communicated that this violation occurred because of the APD’s use of excessive force when dealing with people who were passively resistant, and, that the APD showed a pattern of using deadly force when dealing with people affected by mental illness.
Following is the DOJ outline of findings:
- APD engaged in the practice of using excesses force during arrest and detention of individuals, a violation of the Fourth Amendment
- Officers often times used tasers on those who presented minimal threat
- Officers frequently used excessive force against people with mental illnesses
- An Internal accountability structure was not in place to investigate, document, or discipline officers
- Officers supported and encouraged other officer’s compliance violations of other officers