After more than a year of investigation, the US Department of Justice found that the Albuquerque Police Department "engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution."
When DOJ launched the investigation in November 2012, APD was under fire for shooting 25 people in two years, killing 17 of them. Since then, that number has swelled to 37 shootings since 2010, now with a total of 23 people dying. Recently, APD's March 16 shooting and killing of James Boyd, a homeless, mentally-ill man camping in the Sandia foothills in Albuquerque, prompted several protests and a national public outcry.
In a letter delivered today to Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry, the DOJ wrote that the APD's "insufficient oversight, inadequate training and ineffective policies" are contributing to the department's "use of unreasonable force."
The report also found that most of the APD shootings studied were unconstitutional and that "officers often use deadly force in circumstances where there is no imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm to officers or others." It also takes APD to task for violating the US Constitution in its non-deadly use of force by investigating 200 incidents between 2009 and 2013.
One incident detailed is particularly gruesome.
"Officers fired Tasers numerous times at a man who had poured gasoline on himself," the letter reads. "The Taser discharges set the man on fire, requiring another officer to extinguish the flames. This endangered all present."
The DOJ report also cites a lack of accountability from APD's administrators. "In nearly all cases, supervisors endorsed officers’ version of events, even when officers’ accounts were incomplete, were inconsistent with other evidence or were based on canned or repetitive language," the report reads.
The findings don't recommend a monitor of APD and state that the DOJ looks forwards to "working with you, the department, and the community to address our findings and forge a path forward to restore public trust and promote constitutional policing in Albuquerque." Earlier this week, APD Chief Gorden Eden appointed retired officer Robert Huntsman as a deputy chief to oversee the department's reforms.
Read the entire DOJ report below: