The Albuquerque police department, recently accusing of using excessive force by the U.S. Department of Justice and the many people who marched in protest of the killing of a homeless man who was shot as he turned away from officers, is trying to make things right by promoting two officers to a newly-created rank. Unfortunately, one of those officers was found by a federal jury to have used excessive force himself when he burned off part of a homeless man's ear in 2002.
From the press release (seen in full at the Albuquerque Journal), quoting police chief Gorden Eden:
'One of the deficiencies cited in the recent Department of Justice review of the Albuquerque Police Department was related to proper supervision of officers,' said Chief Eden. 'With this change we are now intensifying supervision and increasing accountability by splitting the Field Services Division into two sections ... We have chosen Commanders Gonterman and Montano because they have demonstrated the strong leadership skills necessary for us to move ahead with DOJ reform requirements.'
Commander Timothy Gonterman is now Major Timothy Gonterman, and said: "I look forward to the challenges of working with the DOJ and instituting the changes required to make APD a better police force."
Perhaps Gonterman is part of the solution now, but 12 years ago, he was part of the problem. As the AP points out, Gonterman and two other officers were found by a federal jury to have used excessive force when arresting a homeless man. A stun gun wielded by Gonterman gave the man second and third-degree burns, which led to him losing part of his ear. The man was awarded $300,000, and Albuquerque changed its Taser policy.
According to the DOJ's report, the Albuquerque PD "has engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force, including deadly force." That includes Tasers -- the DOJ found several instances of unconstitutional use of Tasers since 2009 (that's after the Taser use policy change inspired by Gonterman), including one when officers Tasered a man who doused himself in gasoline, setting him on fire.
Promoting a guy accused of police brutality seems like the worst way to prove to the community (and the DOJ) that you take police brutality seriously. Albuquerque PD's reforms, suffice to say, are not off to a great start.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.