On May 25, African American George Floyd died when Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, was taking Floyd into custody and pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for upwards of 9 minutes with some reports saying as much as 14 minutes. A bystander’s cell phone video caught the incident while Floyd struggled as he said at least 14 times “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” until he succumbed to death. Floyd’s death sparked violent protests in the city Minneapolis and beyond. The death led to the Black Lives movement demanding police reforms and the “defund the police” movement.
The Floyd family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in July of last year against the city, Derek Chauvin and the 3 other fired police officers charged in his death. The federal lawsuit alleged in part that the Minneapolis Police violated Floyd’s rights when they restrained him and that the city allowed a culture of excessive force and racism to flourish in its police force.
The federal lawsuit filed sought unspecified compensatory and special damages. It was requested that the damage amount to be determined by a jury. It also sought a receiver to be appointed to ensure that the city properly trains and supervises officers in the future.
On Friday, March 12, the city of Minneapolis agreed to pay $27 million to settle the civil lawsuit filed by the George Floyd family over his death in police custody. The settlement was announced as jury selection continued in the criminal case of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin who has been charged with murder for Floyd’s death.
Three weeks for jury selection has been set aside and with opening statements no sooner than March 29. The other 3 former police officers charged in Floyd’s death face an August trial on aiding and abetting charges. The aiding and abetting charges were brought in part against the other 3 officers for their failure to take any action to intervene and stop Derek Chauvin from using the knee tactic to subdue George Floyd.
The Minneapolis City Council approved the settlement in a closed-door session. The settlement includes $500,000 for the neighborhood where Floyd was arrested. City Council President Lisa Bender in announcing the settlement had this to say:
“I hope that today will center the voices of the family and anything that they would like to share. … But I do want to, on behalf of the entire City Council, offer my deepest condolences to the family of George Floyd, his friends and all of our community who are mourning his loss.”
The Floyd family private Attorney Ben Crump said the settlement was the largest pretrial federal civil rights settlement of its kind ever, and had this to say:
“[This] sends a powerful message that black lives do matter and police brutality against people of color must end.”
COSTLY CITY AND COUNTY PAYOUTS
The George Floyd settlement of $27 Million may be the largest single amount paid in an excessive use of force or deadly force cases, but the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County have had more than their fair share of such a cases. Over the past 7 years, the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County have paid out large judgments costing millions, especially for police use of deadly force and deadly force cases.
Just 4 cases have cost the City of Albuquerque $26,318,000 in out of court settlements for law enforcement use of deadly force cases. There have been 5 Bernalillo County Sheriff Office (BCSO) cases settled by the county for $8,595,000. Combined, the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County have paid out $34,913,000 or $7,913,000 greater than the George Floyd case, but settling 9 cases.
A review of those cases are in order, as well as the city’s consent decree, as proof that it has happened here time and again. It could very easily could happen again with much larger judgments if things do not change with APD and BCSO.
APD’s “USE OF DEADLY FORCE” CASES
The City of Albuquerque has paid out $26,318,000 in settlements in use of deadly force cases by APD over the last 7 years. Following are those cases with amounts paid:
2011 SHOOTING OF CHRISTOPHER TORREZ: $6.018 Million
On April 12, 2011, APD officers Detectives Christopher Brown and Richard Hilger went to a residence to serve Christopher Torres, age 27, with a warrant for his arrest in connection with a road-rage incident. Torrez, who suffered from schizophrenia, lived with his parents. Torrez got into an altercation with the 2 police officers in the backyard of the northwest Albuquerque home. It ended with the 27-year-old getting shot three times in the back at point blank range. APD publicly said that Torrez had a lengthy criminal history, which was false.
On June 10, 2014 it was reported that a State District Judge rejected claims by the officers in the state court action that they were acting in self-defense when they shot Christopher Torres. The court concluded that Detectives Richard Hilger and Christopher Brown committed batteries on Christopher Torres with Hilger beating him and Brown by shooting the unarmed Torres three times in the back at point-blank range.
The Judge also found the testimony by the officers, who were in jeans and sweatshirts the day of the shooting, was “not credible.” It was argued that Torrez did not know that Brown and Hilger were cops and Torrez presumed someone was breaking into his parents home. The District Court Judge awarded more than $6 million to Stephen Torres, Christopher’s father and personal representative of the estate. The payout was limited to $400,000 under the state Tort Claims Act.
A separate civil rights lawsuit based on Christopher’s killing was filed in U.S. District Court and a trial was soon to follow after the state case.
On May 22, 2015, it was reported the federal case was settled with the city for $6,018,385.82.
In the five years before the Torrez shooting, the Albuquerque Police Department had shot 38 people, killing 19 of them. More than half were mentally ill. At the time of the Torrez shooting, Albuquerque’s rate of fatal shootings by APD was 8 times that of New York City.
2014 SHOOTING OF KEN ELLIS, II: $10.3 MILLION JURY JUDGMENT
One morning in January, 2010, APD pulled over Kenneth Ellis III, a former army infantryman who served in Iraq and who suffered from service-connected post-traumatic stress disorder. APD was conducting a sweep for stolen vehicles when they pulled over Ellis’ because his license plates didn’t match his car. It was a stop made on a false suspicion of auto theft. When Ellis pulled into a Northeast Heights 7-Eleven convenience store, a police car pinned his car in from behind and at that point the 25-year-old suffered a psychotic episode. Ellis got out of his car, put a pistol to his head, called his mother on a cell for help and asked her to come help him.
Police at the scene testified that Ellis took one step toward an officer, still with the gun pointed to his own head and another officer shot Ellis, once in the neck killing him. It was then Lieutenant Harold Medina, who is now the APD Chief who authorized the use of deadly force. Medina was never disciplined for his failed leadership in the case. Former APD Chief Geier was serving on the use of force board and held the opinion that there was a failure of leadership by Medina and that he should have been disciplined, but Medina was not.
On March 13, 2013, a civil jury unanimously awarded Ellis’ family $10.3 million. The Court found the City clearly liable ruling Mr. Ellis was only a danger to himself when he was shot and killed by APD. On January 27, 2014, it was reported that the $10.3 million dollar judgment appealed by the City of Albuquerque was settled by the city for $7.5 million for the police shooting and killing of Kenneth Ellis, III.
2014 JAMES BOYD SHOOTING: $5 MILLION SETTLEMENT
On March 16, 2014, homeless camper and mentally ill James Boyd was shot and killed by Albuquerque police in the Sandia Foothills . Neighbors who resided in homes adjacent to the open space area called to complain about Boyd camping out where he was not allowed to be. When open space officers attempted to arrest Boyd for trespassing, he became agitated and resisted arrest. The incident escalated out of control. A 15-hour standoff occurred where the APD crisis intervention was attempted. Boyd was armed with 3 inch knifes, one in each hand, as APD Crisis Intervention attempted to settle him down and be allowed to be taken into custody. During the entire 15 hour standoff, no one assumed total command of the incident and no orders to stand down were given to police to allow a “cool off” and surveillance of Boyd.
During the standoff, upwards of 21 APD were dispatched including 2 SWAT Officers. As Boyd began to walk down with the knives in his hand but as if he was going to turn himself in, holding of the knives was viewed as an aggressive act. APD fired “flash bang” shells at Boyd, the K-9 Unit was dispatched and James Boyd was shot 3 times by the SWAT Officers. The shooting made national headlines with police lapel camera footage capturing the incident. One photo of Boyd on the side of the foothill looking down on 6 armed police officers lined in a row behind each other pointing their weapons at Boyd appeared on the front pages of newspapers. The two SWAT officers were charged criminally, with one officer retiring. A jury could not reach a verdict on the murder charges and the charges were dismissed.
On July 15, 2015, the city agreed to pay $5 million to the family of James Boyd for his wrongful death and APD’s use of deadly force.
2014 MARY HAWKES SHOOTING: $5 Million SETTLEMENT
On January 17, 2018, it was announced that the City of Albuquerque reached a $5 million settlement with the family of Mary Hawkes, a 19-year-old woman who was shot and killed by police during a foot chase in 2014. APD Police Officer Jeremy Dear said he fired his gun after Hawkes pointed a gun at him while he was chasing her through Southeast Albuquerque. Dear’s lapel camera was unplugged during the encounter and the incident was not recorded. Dear fired five times, hitting Hawkes with three rounds. Hawkes was shot in the back as she fled.
The Hawkes family argued in their lawsuit that scientific evidence did not support Dear’s version of events. The bullet trajectories, they said, showed the “impossibility of his account” and Hawkes’ fingerprints and DNA were not on the gun found at the scene and allegedly used by Hawkes. Hawkes was killed just days after the Department of Justice announced the city’s police department had a pattern of using excessive and deadly force, and the Hawkes family alleged that the police department’s “structural and systemic deficiencies” led to her killing. The $5 Million settlement resolved the lawsuit filed by her family against both the city and then APD Officer Jeremy Dear.
BCSO “USE OF DEADLY FORCE” CASES
Bernalillo County has paid out $8,595,000 in settlements over a 2 year period in 5 cases involving the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO). The cases involve the allegations of unconstitutional uses of force, deadly force and racial profiling. Following is a listing of those cases and payouts:
2015 WRONFUL DEATH OF FIDENCIO DURAN: $1,495,000 SETTLEMENT
On Bernalillo County settled the wrongful death case of Fidencio Duran for the sum of $1,495,000.
It was on September 14, 2015, Fidencio Duran, 88, died after he was shot numerous times with a “pepper ball” gun after he encountered BCSO Deputy Sheriffs in the South Valley. Mr. Duran was partially blind and deaf and suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. His wife of 67 years had died the day before after a three-year bout with illness. Duran wandered around the neighborhood shirtless. He banged on the door of a neighbor, who called the BCSO.
When BCSO Deputies arrived, a 90-minute standoff ensued, in which Mr. Duran, shirtless and wearing one shoe and reportedly holding a four-inch knife, spoke, sometimes incoherently, in Spanish. Eventually, the BCSO officers fired over 50 rounds of pepper balls at him from two directions. Some of the pepper balls penetrated his skin, causing contusions and embedding fragments of plastic.
BCSO officers unleashed a muzzled K9 police dog after shooting with pepper balls. The dog knocked the 115-pound man over, breaking his femur and hip. He was taken to the hospital, where it took doctors days to remove all of the pepper ball fragments. He never left the hospital, succumbing to pneumonia as a complication of his injuries a month later. A doctor from the Office of the Medical Investigator “determined that the manner of death was Homicide” according to a civil lawsuit filed.
In an ostensible act of defiance, Sheriff Manny Gonzales issued commendations to the deputies involved.
2017 WRONGFULL DEATH OF ROBERT CHAVEZ: $700,000 SETTLEMENT
On August 16, 2017, Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputies spotted a stolen car near Coors and ILiff. When they tried to pull over the vehicle a chase ensued. The stolen vehicle crashed into Robert Chavez’, 66, car near Broadway and Avenida Cesar Chavez in the Southwest part of the city. When Robert Chavez was hit, Chavez broke his back, shoulder, forearm, wrist, ribs and pelvis in the crash and also had other internal injuries. Chavez went into a coma and died 11 days after the crash. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the county and BCSO.
The BCSO Sheriff Department’s old policy would not have allowed officers to pursue for a stolen vehicle, but Sheriff Manny Gonzales changed the hot pursuit policy allowing such chases a year before the fatal crash. Bernalillo County settled with Mr. Chavez’ family for $700,000 but not before the county backed out of a $1 Million settlement.
2017 KILLING OF MARTIN JIM AND SHOOTING OF ISAAC PADILLA: $3.3 MILLION SETTLEMENT
On November 17, 2017, BCSO Deputies, at around 4 am in the morning, initiated a high-speed chase of a stolen truck about 4 a.m. across the South Valley on Nov. 17, 2017. A deputy rammed the truck at Coors and Glenrio NW on Albuquerque’s West Side obliterating the front driver’s-side wheel. With the truck at a standstill, two sheriff’s deputies parked their vehicles to block the truck from moving forward.
BCSO Sheriff Deputy Joshua Mora soon arrived on the scene. Mora is the son of then-undersheriff Rudy Mora and had worked for BCSO about 18 months as a sheriff’s deputy. In the span of 18 seconds, Mora jumped from his car, ran to the truck, yelled commands at the driver, and fired 7 shots into the vehicle occupied by 3 passengers, including a 4-year-old child. Mora didn’t realize Martin Jim was sitting in the back seat. A settlement in the case was reached after Senior U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera of Albuquerque ruled that a “reasonable jury could conclude that Deputy Mora acted unreasonably.”
On May 21, 2020, it was reported that the family of Martin Jim, 25, the man killed in 2017 incident settled the federal excessive force lawsuit against the county for $1.5 million. An earlier $400,000 state court settlement arising from the same deadly shooting paid to Jim’s partner, Shawntay Ortiz and his four-year-old son, amounted to $1.9 million. That is an addition to the $1.36 million settlement paid to the estate of the driver of the pickup truck, Isaac Padilla, 23, who was killed. Another $40,000 was paid to two other passengers in the truck. The total payout to resolve legal claims related to Deputy Joshua Mora’s actions was $3.3 million.
The defendants, Mora, the county and Sheriff Manny Gonzales maintained Martin Jim’s death was unintentional and that the killing of Isaac Padilla, the driver of the truck, was justified. No weapons were found in the truck negating Mora’s defense that his actions were in justified and in self-defense.
2019 THE KILLING ELISHA LUCERO: $4 MILLION SETTLEMENT
On July 21, 2019, Elisha Lucero, 28, who suffered psychosis and schizophrenia, was shot to death in front of her RV, which was parked in front of her family’s South Valley home. BCSO Deputies had responded to the home after a relative called 911 saying Lucero had hit her uncle in the face. According to the 911 call, a relative said Lucero was mentally ill, needed help, and was a threat to herself and to everybody else. Just one month prior, Lucero had called BCSO and asked to be taken to the hospital for mental health issues.
According to the lawsuit, when deputies arrived, they said Lucero initially refused to come out of the home. Eventually, the 4-foot-11 Lucero, naked from the waist up, ran out screaming and armed with a kitchen knife. The BCSO Deputies pulled their revolvers and shot her claiming they feared for their lives. According to an autopsy report, Lucero was shot at least 21 times by the deputies. The two BCSO Deputies who shot and killed Elisha Lucero were not wearing lapel cameras. Sheriff Gonzales refused to have lapel cameras purchase and mandated for the BCSO.
The Lucero lawsuit filed on January 13 alleges Sheriff Manny Gonzales has fostered a “culture of aggression” in the department and too few deputies are trained to handle people with mental health issues. The Lucero family civil suit states:
“The deputies created a situation where they were forced to use deadly force against Ms. Lucero or have justified their unlawful use of deadly force with the falsehood that Ms. Lucero presented a deadly threat to one or all of them.”
On March 6th, it was reported that Bernalillo County settled the Lucero family lawsuit for $4 Million dollars.
BCSO RACIAL PROFILING CASES SETTLED: $100,000 SETTLEMENT AND COUNTING
It was on December 6, 2017 that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed a lawsuit on behalf of Sherese Crawford, a 38-year-old African-American woman on temporary assignment in New Mexico as an Immigration and Customs Agent (ICE) deportation officer. The lawsuit alleged that Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) deputies racially profiled her by pulling her over three times, twice by the same deputy, within a month with no probable cause or reasonable suspicion that she was breaking the law. None of the three times she was pulled over was she given a warning or a citation.
ACLU of New Mexico Staff Attorney Kristin Greer Love had this to say at the time:
“Our client is an accomplished federal agent who was targeted for driving while black … BCSO unlawfully and repeatedly stopped her because she fit a racial profile. Targeting people because of the color of their skin is unconstitutional and bad policing. Racial discrimination has no place in New Mexico, and BCSO must take immediate action to ensure that this behavior does not continue.”
On July 8, 2020, it was reported that two black women from Wisconsin are suing Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales and two deputies alleging racial and religious profiling stemming from a traffic stop in July 2017. The lawsuit was filed about five months after Bernalillo County reached a $100,000 settlement with Sherese Crawford, a 38-year-old African-American who filed a lawsuit against BCSO after she was pulled over three times in 28 days by BCSO deputies Patrick Rael and Leonard Armijo, the same deputies named in the new lawsuit, in spring 2017.
The civil case was filed by Sisters Consweyla and Cynthia Minafee, and a 5-year-old child, Yahaven Pylant, were traveling from Phoenix back to Wisconsin when they were pulled over by Rael on Interstate 40 the morning of July 7, 2017. Cynthia Minafee was Yahaven’s legal guardian at the time. According to the lawsuit, the traffic stop lasted almost an hour and included an extensive search of the vehicle with a drug dog.
According to the lawsuit, Rael told the women to get out of the car and said he could smell marijuana on Cynthia. Cynthia said that she had not smoked in the car and that there was no marijuana in the vehicle. Consweyla Minafee, the driver, was not issued a traffic citation, but Cynthia Minafee was issued a citation for not having Yahaven properly restrained. The citation was dismissed in May, online court records show.
A link to a news source is here:
DOJ INVESTIGATION OF APD
On April 10, 2014, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), Civil Rights Division, submitted a scathing 46-page investigation report on an 18-month civil rights investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD).
You can read the entire report here:
The investigative report found a pattern or practice of use of “deadly force” or “excessive use of force” in 4 major areas:
APD’S USE OF DEADLY FORCE NOT JUSTIFIED
The DOJ reviewed all fatal shootings by officers between 2009 and 2012 and found that APD officers were not justified under federal law in using deadly force in the majority of those incidents. The DOJ found that Albuquerque police officers too often used deadly force in an unconstitutional manner in their use of firearms. 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.
APD’s FAILURE TO USE DE ESCALATION TACTICS
The DOJ found that Albuquerque Police officers often used less lethal force in an unconstitutional manner, often used unreasonable physical force without regard for the subject’s safety or the level of threat encountered. The investigation found APD Officers frequently used take-down procedures in ways that unnecessarily increased the harm to the person. Finally, the DOJ found that APD officers escalated situations in which force could have been avoided had they instead used de-escalation measures.
APD’S USE OF DEADLY FORCE AGAINST MENTALLY ILL
A significant number of the use of force cases reviewed by the DOJ involved persons suffering from acute mental illness and who were in crisis. The investigation found APD’s policies, training, and supervision were insufficient to ensure that officers encountering people with mental illness or in distress do so in a manner that respected their rights and in a manner that was safe for all involved.
APD’S USE OF EXCESSIVE USE OF FORCE COMMON
The DOJ investigation found the use of excessive force by APD officers was not isolated or sporadic. The pattern or practice of excessive force stemmed from systemic deficiencies in oversight, training, and policy. Chief among these deficiencies was the department’s failure to implement an objective and rigorous internal accountability system. Force incidents were not properly investigated, documented, or addressed with corrective measures by the command staff.
APD COURT APPROVED SETTLEMEMT AGREEMENT (CASA)
Albuquerque has paid out upwards of $64 million dollars over the last 12 years for excessive use of force and deadly for cases and civil rights violations stemming from a “culture of aggression” found by the Department of Justice (DOJ). On November 10, 2014, the DOJ and the City of Albuquerque and APD entered into a 106-page negotiated Court Approved Settlement Agreement (APD) mandating 271 sweeping reforms of APD.
Major reform mandates under the settlement include:
1. Sweeping changes ranging from APD’s SWAT team protocols, to banning choke-holds, to auditing the use of every Taser carried by officers and re writing and implementation new use of force and deadly force policies.
2. The CASA mandates the teaching of “constitutional policing” practices and methods as well as mandatory crisis intervention techniques and de-escalation tactics with the mentally ill.
3. The City agreed that APD would overhaul and rewrite all of its “use of force policies” and “deadly force” policies, recruitment procedures, training, internal affairs procedures and implement field supervision of officers.
4. Stricter training and restrictions on the use of nonlethal force is required.
5. More training and controls over the use of Tasers by officers along with quarterly audits of their use.
6. The agreement mandates that APD adopt a new system to hold officers and supervisors accountable for all use of force incidents with personnel procedures implemented and outlining details how use of force cases would be investigated. It requires far more reporting by officers and field supervisors and also requires detailed reviews of those reports up the chain of command within the department.
7. Officers who point their firearms at a person, but don’t fire, must fill out a use of force report that will be reviewed by field supervisors. That review is separate from a city civilian police oversight agency that will be independent of the department and will review police use of force incidents as well as civilian complaints.
8. APD agreed to revise and update its policies on the mandatory use of lapel cameras by all police officers.
9. Certain types of hand-to-hand techniques are barred under the CASA unless the officer is in a situation that require the use of lethal force if it were available. Neck holds, sometimes called choke-holds, are explicitly forbidden to be used by officers except in situations where lethal force would be authorized.
10. A major change in the CASA bans APD officers from firing their weapons at moving vehicles in all but life-threatening situations.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
The $27 Million dollar settlement in the George Floyd should be a major wake up call to both the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) and to the Bernalillo County Sherriff’s Department (BCSO), but for totally different reasons.
ALBUQUERQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT
On Friday, October 6, 2020, the Court appointed Federal Monitor Ginger had this to say about APD:
“We are on the brink of a catastrophic failure at APD. … [The department] has failed miserably in its ability to police itself. … If this were simply a question of leadership, I would be less concerned. But it’s not. It’s a question of leadership. It’s a question of command. It’s a question of supervision. And it’s a question of performance on the street. So as a monitor with significant amount of experience – I’ve been doing this since the ’90s – I would have to be candid with the Court and say we’re in more trouble here right now today than I’ve ever seen.”
The $27 Million dollar Floyd Settlement should send a strong message in no uncertain terms about the need to embrace the reforms by APD. APD has been struggling for over 6 years with trying to implement the DOJ consent decree reforms. After six years and millions spent, APD still has a long way to go to be compliant under the settlement before the case can be dismissed. The reforms were to be fully implemented in 4 years, and after two years of compliance in 3 areas, the case was to be dismissed. APD management, the police union and rank and file have essentially done whatever they could to interfere with the reform efforts.
It is clear from the 12th Federal Court Monitors report filed on November 2, 2020 that “Operational Compliance”, which is managements adherence and enforcement to APD policies is apparent in the day-to-day operation of APD and police union resistance have been and continue to be the biggest sticking points for APD. Both represent the biggest obstacles for the department under the consent decree. Operational Compliance is attained at the point that the adherence to policies is apparent in the day-to-day operation of the agency. In other words, line personnel are routinely held accountable for compliance, not by the monitoring staff, but by their sergeants, and sergeants are routinely held accountable for compliance by their lieutenants and command staff. In other words, the APD “owns” and enforces its policies.
BERNALILLO COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT
Likewise, the $27 Million dollar settlement in the George Floyd case should be a major wake up call to the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s office. BCSO needs to review their standard operating procedures and recognize that the Sheriff’s Department is way behind the times when it comes to constitutional policing practices. BCSO for years has resisted civilian oversight often ignoring the citizen advisory board recommendations. Most recently, BCSO has resisted the U.S. Supreme Court mandated disclosures of police misconduct of officers who testify in court.
The deaths of Fidencio Duran, Robert Chavez, Martin Jim, and Elisha Lucero as well as the shooting injuries to Isaac Padilla, Shawntay Ortiz and his four-year-old son were all preventable had BCSO Sheriff’s Deputies been properly trained in constitutional policing practices. In this day and age of George Floyd and the Black Lives Movement, there is absolutely no excuse for BCSO involved with racial profiling cases involving any minority.
One of the biggest problems is that Bernalillo County Sheriff Manny Gonzales has shown himself to be a law enforcement “throw back” to by gone days, especially with his refusal to order the use of lapel cameras before the State legislature mandated it and his resistance to make mandatory disclosures of officer misconduct to the District Attorney’s office as mandated by the United States Supreme Court. Sheriff Gonzales is now running for Mayor on a “law and order” platform and his mismanagement of BCSO will likely be a major issue as well as his well known opposition to many of the reforms of APD mandated by the consent decree.
In a 2-year period Bernalillo County has been forced to pay out $8,595,000 in settlements involving the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office for deadly force and civil rights violations. It appears to be a question of not if but when the BCSO will get hit with another use of deadly force case unless the department does a major review of its practices and training and as Sheriff Gonzales moves on and his term expires in 2022.
Unless and until such time the Albuquerque Police Department fully implements the DOJ mandated reforms and the Bernalillo County Sherriff’s Department acknowledges an embrace reforms, it not a manner of if but when the city and county are confronted with other 6 figure judgments for excessive use of force or deadly force.