Reprinted from dissenter.firedoglake.com
A Department of Justice civil investigation has found that a majority of shootings by Albuquerque police officers between 2009 to 2012 were unconstitutional. Officers "too often use deadly force" when using their firearms.
"Albuquerque police officers often use deadly force in circumstances where there is no imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm to officers or others," according to findings from the investigation. "Instead, officers used deadly force against people who posed a minimal threat, including individuals who posed a threat only to themselves or who were unarmed. Officers also used deadly force in situations where the conduct of the officers heightened the danger and contributed to the need to use force."
"The use of excessive force by APD officers is not isolated or sporadic," according to the Department. "The pattern or practice of excessive force stems from systemic deficiencies in oversight, training, and policy. Chief among these deficiencies is the department's failure to implement an objective and rigorous internal accountability system. Force incidents are not properly investigated, documented, or addressed with corrective measures."
The Department noted that "a significant amount of the force" that was reviewed "was used against persons with mental illness or in crisis." It faulted the APD for not having policies to respect the rights or safety of mentally ill individuals.
The investigation was started in 2012 in response to the number of fatal shootings by Albuquerque police.
In March, two shootings that killed people led to protest and reinforced the need for investigating the department. Two police officers shot James Boyd. Boyd was homeless and suffering from schizophrenia. He had been camping illegally and was carrying a pair of knives, but video shows that he was shot when he turned away from police.
Boyd was shot with beanbag rounds and a flash-bang grenade before live rounds were fired and killed him.
The other shooting took place on March 26. Officers claimed Alfred Redwine exited an apartment with a weapon and shot at them first. However, cellphone video called Albuquerque Police Chief Gordon Eden's version of events into serious question. This shooting happened just as hundreds were protesting the police shooting of Boyd.
Albuquerque police deployed tear gas on protesters after they had been ongoing for nine hours. The police donned riot gear and after firing tear gas made multiple arrests.
The investigation did not only find problems with police fatally shooting individuals. The use of "less lethal force" was found to often occur in an unconstitutional manner.
A review of a random sample of over 200 force reports found the "officers frequently misused" Tasers, "resorting to use of the weapon on people" who were "passively resisting, observably non-threatening but unable to comply with orders due to their mental state or posed only a minimal threat to the officers."
Tasers were used in dangerous situations. For example, in one instance, officers fired Tasers "numerous times at a man who had poured gasoline on himself." The discharges "set the man on fire, requiring another officer to extinguish the flames."
Rather than de-esclate situations, police often do the opposite and wind up employing physical force "without regard for the subject's safety or the level of threat encountered."
Twenty "officer-involved shootings" occurred between 2009 and 2012.
The report released described examples of police killings of civilians that were not justified. One example: