We at the Albuquerque law firm of Collins & Collins, P.C. are like most residents of Albuquerque very concerned about the recent report from the Department of Justice (DOJ) on the excessive and unnecessary use of force by the Albuquerque Police.
Excessive Use of Force Continued Even While DOJ Investigation Ongoing
The report is troubling not just for the historical findings but also the fact that 5+ pages of remedial recommendations have been made. Among the most concerning aspects of the investigation is the continuation of the practices and policies regarding the use of force by APD officers.
In light of the seeming arrogance of some APD officers in the continuation of APD’s routine use and/or sanction of excessive and unnecessary force even during this rather long and extensive DOJ investigation, it is not at all certain that the suggested changes will meet with any level of urgency, enthusiasm or commitment by APD or the City of Albuquerque.
The findings in the report are not surprising to most who have followed the issue of excessive force by Albuquerque Police. Rather, the report serves to validate the many complaints and lawsuits filed against APD by victims of excessive force.
Pattern or Practice of Excessive Force
The report makes a number of important findings. These findings closely correspond to the counts that would be laid out in many excessive force claims. The 46 page report is extensive and has a full 5 pages of remedial recommendations.
Unfortunately, among the most damaging findings are the findings related to a history, culture and administratively sanctioned use of unnecessary and excessive force. Not only is there an unnecessary use of deadly force but also excessive and unnecessary use of less lethal force.
Extensive Use of Unnecessary Force – Both Lethal and Less Than Lethal
Deadly force and less lethal force have been used routinely on those that pose no threat to anyone, including the officers. The wrongful deaths associated with the use of deadly force is well-documented as are the large jury verdicts associated with them.
The unnecessary death of a victim of abusive APD policies, culture and tactics is tragic and unacceptable. So too are many instances of excessive and unnecessary use of less than lethal force. The use of less than lethal force involves a wide spectrum of forceful and often brutal tactics by APD.
Less than deadly force may cause serious and permanent injuries meriting equal concern.
Although these gain less attention, they often result is serious and sometimes permanent physical injuries. Although they may not result in the death of the victim, they are equally concerning for the injuries they cause and the disdain for the rights of citizens that they reflect.
Change Will Not Come Over Night
The Department of Justice report has shed light on APD. The report will no doubt come into play in both ongoing and future lawsuits. Unfortunately, the history, culture and policies of APD are not going to change over night. After all, the investigation has been ongoing for several years and this has not deterred some APD officers in the slightest in their abusive and unconstitutional tactics.
Incidents of excessive force likely to continue due to history and culture at APD.
Despite the report, and in light of the history of the investigation, there is no reason to expect that much will change in the near future. Until that change comes, citizens will continue to suffer the excessive, unnecessary and unconstitutional use of force routinely sanctioned by APD.
Perhaps, the most important result of the report, is that it will encourage citizens who have been abused by APD to step forward. Only with constant and unrelenting pressure from not just the Department of Justice but also from citizen complaints and lawsuits, will APD and the City of Albuquerque finally initiate change.
Unfortunately, it seems that the only thing that may sway APD and the city will be the strain on city budgets that lawsuits will bring. This coupled with the extraordinary costs of the remedial measures and outside oversight should bring some movement where simple morality and the United States Constitution has failed.
No-Settlement policy has contributed to the problem. Refusal to recognize wrongdoing is to condone it.
As these cases unfold, perhaps the City of Albuquerque and the Mayor’s office can reassess their historical no-settlement policy which has both costs the city millions in defense attorney expenses while also contributing to the culture of violence that they now lament.
After all, if there is a policy against settlement and the tacit recognition of any wrongdoing no matter how vile the behavior, where is the incentive for APD or its officers to change?