Despite the damning 46-page report from the Department of Justice, apparently the beat goes on at APD. There have numerous cases since the release of the report regarding the use of excessive and unnecessary deadly force. Now it appears that APD will be equipping its officers with military grade weapons which in light of the DOJ findings seems very ill-advised.
New Fire-power, Old Habits
KOB news today reported that the APD has plans to purchase 350 AR 15 military rifles at a cost of $1000 each. According to the story, these are same weapons that were used to kill the mentally ill homeless man, James Boyd.
Interestingly, the report reminded us that these weapons were in the past purchased by APD officers on their own. They were viewed as status symbols. Following the DOJ report and the spate of shootings following the issuance of the report, officers were told to leave their toys at home.
With the plans to purchase these weapons for APD officers, the initial response prohibiting use of these personal weapons on the job seems pointless and empty. The original response fell far short of action necessary to prevent further acts of excessive force and yet even this small progress is now being reversed.
It is worth a review of the DOJ findings in consideration of these plans.
The DOJ findings include 31 pages of detailed incident reviews, legal analysis, and conclusions on the constitutionality of APD’s history and culture of excessive and unnecessary use of force. The following are simply the paragraph captions. Each has extensive support behind them in the report, which is again worth reviewing in its entirety.
One thing worth noting from the outset is the definition of range of non-lethal force to which the report refers extensively. Less than lethal force includes, according to the report, the use of Tasers, batons, bean bags, kicks, arm-bars, strikes and so on. Though these are not necessary lethal, they can be and they can most definitely result in serious and sometimes permanent injuries.
Without further adieu, here are the findings:
A. APD Engages in a Pattern or Practice of Unconstitutional Use of Deadly Force.
1. 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.
2. Albuquerque police officers used deadly force on individuals in crisis who posed no threat to anyone but themselves.
3. Albuquerque police officers’ own recklessness sometimes led to their use of deadly force.
B. APD Engages in a Pattern or Practice of Unconstitutional Use of Less Lethal Force.
1. Albuquerque police officers used force against individuals who were passively resisting and posed a minimal threat.
2. Albuquerque police officers used excessive force against individuals with mental illness, against individuals with impaired faculties, and against individuals who require medical treatment. (When failure to follow commands may not constitute a refusal to comply).
C. Systemic Deficiencies Cause or Contribute to the Use of Excessive Force.
A number of systemic deficiencies contribute to the department’s pattern or practice of use of excessive force. The most prevalent deficiency is the department’s endorsement of problematic police behavior by failing to conduct thorough and objective reviews of officers’ use of force.
1. The Department’s Inadequate Internal Accountability Measures Contribute to the Pattern or Practice of Excessive Force.
a. Supervisory reviews do not address excessive uses of force.
b. Force incidents are not properly documented.
c. Shooting investigations are inadequate.
d. Internal review mechanisms are not implemented.
2. The Department’s Training Deficiencies Contribute to the Pattern or Practice of Unreasonable Use of Force.
3. The Department’s Deficient Policies Contribute to the Pattern or Practice of Unreasonable Use of Force.
4. Under-Use of the Crisis Intervention Team Contributes to the Pattern or Practice of Unconstitutional Force.
5. The Department’s Ineffective Use of Its Tactical Deployments Contributes to the Use of Excessive Force.
6. The Department’s Aggressive Organizational Culture Contributes to Excessive Force Incidents.
7. The Department’s Limited External Oversight Contributes to the Pattern or Practice of Unconstitutional Uses of Force.
8. Inadequate Community Policing Contributes to the Department’s Pattern or Practice of Unconstitutional Force.
Do Not Delay – Deadlines Can be Short
if you or a loved one have been harmed and any of the findings above seem familiar to your case, you should seek legal guidance immediately. The deadlines on claims against governmental entities such as APD can run pretty quickly.
In cases such as these, the deadlines are slightly more complicated because some deadlines will be governed by the New Mexico Tort Claims Act while others are governed by the Federal Civil Rights Act.
It is important that you understand and abide by the deadlines applying to these claims. Missing a deadline can jeopardize your claims.