Thursday, September 15, 2005

Board Won't Rule In Police Abuse

By Jeff Proctor, Journal Staff Writer

Jay Rowland, Albuquerque's top police watchdog, found himself in an unfamiliar position earlier this year when he saw an APD officer kick a homeless man "for absolutely no reason."
Rowland filed a citizen complaint against the officer, who was not named, in the Jan. 7 incident, alleging excessive force.
Police Chief Ray Schultz agreed with Rowland that the officer used poor judgment but ruled that there was not enough evidence to sustain the excessive force complaint.
At its monthly meeting last week, the Police Oversight Commission heard Rowland's and APD's versions of the incident but declined to rule on the case, citing conflict of interest. The case will be decided by the city Chief Administrative Officer James Lewis.
Rowland normally investigates citizen complaints, makes a ruling, then reports to the commission.
According to Rowland:
The officer got out of his car— on First SE, near the Century Downtown movie theater— and began talking to a man who "looked homeless."
"I couldn't hear the conversation, but I heard the officer say 'curb,' '' Rowland said. "He then kicked the man so hard he almost fell down. ... The man kept saying, 'But you didn't have to kick me.' ''
Rowland did not approach the officer at the time, instead deciding to go to the movies with his daughter and son-in-law.
Rowland's daughter and son-in-law also testified they believe the officer used excessive force in the incident.
According to APD Lt. Matt Suazo, who investigated the case for the department's internal affairs division:
A woman had flagged the officer down and reported that a pair of transient men were throwing rocks at buses.
One of the men tried to flee, and the officer apprehended him. After the man tried twice more to get away, the officer "did grab him by the shoulder and strike him, but only enough to gain compliance," Suazo said.
The officer did not cuff the man, nor did he write an incident report, Suazo said.
"Both of those things should have been done, and he was disciplined appropriately," he said.
Rowland contends the man was "in no shape to run, so he wasn't going to escape."
"Maybe handcuff him," Rowland said. "But there are other things to do besides a kick of the magnitude I saw."

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