In March, Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz announced his impending retirement after eight years of overseeing the city's law enforcement agency. The announcement came about five months after the United States Department of Justice reportedly launched an investigation into a number of civil rights violations allegedly committed by members of the police force. On the same day Schultz announced that he will retire later this year, an Albuquerque jury awarded the family members of an Iraq War veteran who reportedly suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder more than $10 million in connection with his 2010 shooting death during a stand-off with local police.
Since 2010, Albuquerque police were allegedly involved in 18 deadly shootings and the force has been plagued by accusations of police brutality. Excessive force claims purportedly caused community members to engage in protests, file a number of lawsuits against the police department, and demand large-scale changes. In recent years, a number of Albuquerque police officers were also supposedly reprimanded for controversial social media posts and manhandling suspects on video.
Schultz was first appointed Police Chief by the Albuquerque Mayor in 2006 and later re-appointed in 2009. Although some city officials and the police officers' union stated crime rates have dropped and a number of new public safety programs were instituted during Schultz's tenure, others said it was time for him to move on. Albuquerque City Council President Dan Lewis stated a leadership change is necessary as the police department's image was badly tarnished in recent years. Civil rights advocates reportedly said they were hopeful regarding the future of the department.
Although law enforcement officers are expected to use force in certain circumstances, they can go too far. Police are granted qualified immunity so long as they are acting in good faith and engaged in their official duties. If a plaintiff can demonstrate an officer's conduct was out of bounds, however, the presumption of qualified immunity may be overcome. A federal civil rights law, 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, allows United States citizens to file a lawsuit against police officers who violate the Fourth Amendment's protection against the use of excessive force. If you or a loved one was brutalized by an officer of the law, you should contact a skilled personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the incident.