Civil Rights

Excessive and deadly force by Albuquerque police violated civil rights, Justice Department concludes

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The U.S. Justice Department has concluded that police in Albuquerque, N.M., committed civil rights violations by using excessive and deadly force in inappropriate situations.

Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said the department found “a pattern or practice of systemic deficiencies,” report the New York Times, the Albuquerque Journal and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.).

The Justice Department report found that most of the 20 fatal shootings by police between 2009 and 2013 involved an unjustified level of force, the Albuquerque Journal says.

Samuels said Albuquerque police violated the Fourth Amendment rights of Albuquerque residents and used deadly force “in an unconstitutional manner,” the Times says. She told the Albuquerque Journal that there was a “culture of acceptance of the use of excessive force” because of systemic failures in the police department.

In one case, police officers shot a stun gun at a mentally ill man who poured gasoline on himself, causing him to catch fire, according to the report.

The Justice Department is calling for 44 changes, including clearer procedures for handling people with mental illness. In one controversial case, police shot a mentally ill homeless man after they were called to investigate his illegal camping. Police say they shot Boyd after he pulled two knives, but an officer’s helmet video of the scene appears to show Boyd turning away when he was shot.

Related coverage:

Albuquerque Journal: “Lawsuits against APD have cost city $23M since 2010”

Updated at 1:30 p.m. to add video from the press conference.

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