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."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Tic Tacs Apology Offered

By Andrea Schoellkopf, Journal Staff Writer

An off-duty police officer was reprimanded for not following procedure when he searched a middle school student accused of having drugs on the bus.
It turned out that the student only had a box of Tic Tacs.
The family of Scott Mills, now a Taylor Middle School eighth-grader, also has received a written apology from Albuquerque Police Chief Raymond Schultz after an investigation by the city's Independent Review Office.
"A preponderance of the evidence convinces that the off-duty officer should have called dispatch and either requested an on-duty officer to handle this issue or informed an on-duty officer what he was doing," independent review officer Jay Rowland said in the Sept. 8 letter to Joan Waters, an attorney for the Mills family.
Scott Mills had been ordered off a school bus and searched by an off-duty, out-of-uniform police officer, Rudy Llamas, after another student accused him of having drugs, though he had been sharing candy with friends.
His parents filed a lawsuit after failed attempts to learn the identity of the officer and the circumstances surrounding the search. The lawsuit alleged unreasonable search and seizure, excessive force, negligent hiring and supervision, negligence and defamation.
The Mills family announced last week that they planned to drop their lawsuit after the city began cooperating with them. They had reached a settlement with the bus company, Durham D&M, earlier this summer.
Waters said Monday while the police investigation supports the family's claim, they have no wish to pursue litigation and she doesn't believe Scott's constitutional rights were violated.
"The system works," Waters said. "And as an attorney, I'm pretty jaded. I had heard good things about the police chief and they're all true."
Arlette Mills said Tuesday she was "elated" to receive the letters from the city— which had both been written and mailed prior to the family dropping the lawsuit.
"I am glad that somebody got it," Mills said, "and they're going to fix it so it doesn't happen to the next person.
"I basically got an apology, I never thought I would get."
Schultz had written a letter Sept. 7 to the Mills family, indicating the officer had been disciplined in the matter and it would be noted in his permanent record.
"I would like to thank you for bringing this matter to our attention," Schultz wrote. "It is unfortunate that you had an unfavorable experience with a member of the Albuquerque Police Department; however, I would hope that this one incident does not taint your total impression of the department."
Rowland's letter said the investigation was made based on the complaint and an interview by the officer.
"In my opinion, there was no probable cause for a search for drugs, even a minor stop and frisk for drugs," Rowland said. "But I do not believe the officer should be disciplined under these circumstances for an illegal search."
Such a search, he said, would be acceptable on school grounds where the rules are "quite relaxed" on searches of children.
But he recommended that the police— in the future— require reports of all searches, pat downs or any touching of a minor.
The Mills family also had written the city with a similar request.
Rowland's letter also detailed the circumstances of the search.
According to the letter, Llamas was off-duty but driving a marked car. The bus driver— who had driven toward the police car— motioned for him to help her, telling him that two boys had marijuana.
The officer patted down both boys— found no drugs— and removed a case of Tic Tacs from Scott's pocket when he suspected a possible weapon.
A middle school girl riding the bus told the officer the drugs were in the candy case, but the officer determined there were no drugs.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Child Molestation Charges Dropped Against Former Police Officer

Associated Press

AZTEC — Child molestation charges have been dropped against a former Bloomfield police officer because of a lack of evidence, the district attorney's office said.
"The things we had to prove, we didn't think they had the evidence to move forward,'' said Deputy District Attorney Terry Walker.
Joseph Goodman, 54, had been charged with two counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor and one of criminal sexual contact of a minor.
The 11-year-old daughter of a former girlfriend had accused him of touching her inappropriately while the mother was out of town on a family emergency last year, according to court documents.
Goodman resigned from the Bloomfield force in February 2004.
The district attorney's office began its investigation after Goodman's arrest earlier this year, but Walker said the office could not find enough to substantiate the allegations.
"Sometimes there's not sufficient evidence to support (a case),'' she said.
The charges were dropped last month.