The Justice Department has issued a report on what it called “systemic deficiencies” pervading the Albuquerque Police Department, where officers have shot and killed at least 23 people since 2010. Most recently, the department faced scrutiny for the killing of James Boyd, a homeless man who appeared to be surrendering before police opened fire. The report calls for 44 changes to policies and training, including better procedures for handling the mentally ill. The findings were outlined by Jocelyn Samuels, acting assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.
Jocelyn Samuels: “Our investigation looked at officer-involved shootings that resulted in fatalities between 2009 and 2012 and found that a majority of them were unreasonable and violated the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. We found that officers used deadly force against people who did not pose an immediate threat of death or serious harm to the officers or to others, and against people who posed a threat only to themselves. In fact, we found that sometimes it was the conduct of the officers themselves that heightened the danger and escalated the need to use force.”
The report also details abuses involving tasers, or stun guns, noting police once tased a 75-year-old man who refused to leave a bus station; tased and repeatedly kicked a developmentally disabled man who was unable to talk; tased a 16-year-old boy who refused to lie on a floor covered in broken glass; and tased a man who had poured gasoline on himself, thereby setting him on fire.