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Justice: Albuquerque Police Show 'Pattern Of Excessive Force'

Riot police launch tear gas toward activists in downtown Albuquerque, N.M., last month following a 10-hour protest around the city, in response to a deadly police shooting.
Russell Contreras

The Justice Department says it has found "patterns of excessive force" in the Albuquerque Police Department.

Justice said it found "reasonable cause to believe that APD engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution."

Specifically, the DOJ says officers use deadly force too frequently against people who pose a minimal threat and use less lethal force (such as Taser guns) on people who are "passively resisting, non-threatening, observably unable to comply with orders."

It also said that police encounters with persons with mental illness "too frequently result in a use of force or a higher level of force than necessary."

The department's Civil Rights Division and U.S. Attorney's Office in New Mexico jointly launched the probe in 2012.

Acting U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez says the findings will help the city determine "the next generation" of policing, according to The Associated Press.

The announcement followed an investigation into allegations of civil rights violations and excessive force that spanned more than a year. The department has faced criticism over 37 shootings by officers since 2010.

Marisa Demarco of member station KUNM reports that the APD has shot 37 people since 2010, 24 of them fatally.

The findings coincide with protests surrounding the death of James Boyd, a homeless man who was shot and killed by police officers last month following a confrontation over illegal camping.

The New York Times says:

"City officials, mindful that calls for reform were inevitable, had already started to make changes of their own, like mounting video cameras on police officers' helmets and lapels. One of those cameras recorded the dispute in the Sandia Foothills that ended in Mr. Boyd's death. But by releasing the video in the name of transparency, the police department also stoked outrage in many residents, setting off protests that brought hundreds of people to the streets and, on one day, ended in violent confrontations."

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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