The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office is reportedly investigating excessive force allegations in connection with a minor traffic collision that occurred on July 12th. According to Sheriff Robert Garcia, an in-dash camera showed deputies forcing a 57-year-old woman in the midst of a diabetic episode out of her vehicle. Despite that the unresponsive woman did not resist arrest, she was allegedly handcuffed and left lying face down on hot asphalt. When the deputies returned a few minutes later, the woman was apparently placed in the back of a police vehicle.
The 57-year-old diabetic woman was reportedly feeling confused and disoriented when she purportedly rear-ended a pick-up truck on New Mexico 599 near Paseo Rael. When she failed to respond to an officer's request that she exit her vehicle, he apparently broke her window and forcibly removed her. Initially, the four deputies who responded to the traffic wreck apparently failed to sit the woman up or attempt to shield her from the hot road surface. Garcia stated although the deputies suspected that the woman was driving under the influence, their behavior was entirely "unacceptable."
Once the woman was inside of the patrol car, a deputy reportedly discovered her insulin pump and summoned emergency medical personnel. The 57-year-old woman later stated her blood sugar was so low at the time of the accident she risked entering into a diabetic coma. Despite his purported concern over their conduct, Garcia did not place any of the Sheriff's Office deputies on administrative leave.
Law enforcement officers are expected to use force in certain circumstances, but sometimes they go too far. Police in New Mexico and across the country enjoy qualified immunity so long as they are engaged in their official duties and acting in good faith. If someone who was injured by a law enforcement officer can demonstrate that the officer's conduct was out of bounds, however, the presumption of qualified immunity may be overcome. 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 allows United States citizens to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against police officers who violate the Fourth Amendment's protection against the use of excessive force. If you or someone you love was victimized by an officer of the law, you should contact a quality personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the incident.