Justice Dept faults Albuquerque police on excessive force

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico Thu Apr 10, 2014 3:34pm EDT

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ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department cited the Albuquerque police department on Thursday for engaging in what federal civil rights investigators call a pattern of excessive force, some of it deadly, against residents of New Mexico's largest city.

A 46-page report capped an 18-month inquiry by the Justice Department following public complaints over a string of police-involved shootings in recent years, many of them fatal, and what critics have called heavy-handed use of stun guns by officers in Albuquerque.

The investigation of Albuquerque's police by the Justice Department's civil rights division marked the latest of more than a dozen such probes of local law enforcement agencies across the country.

"We have reasonable cause to believe that officers of the Albuquerque Police Department engage in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including unreasonably deadly force," the Justice Department said in a statement, adding that such force was a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The problem stems from a combination of "insufficient oversight, inadequate training and ineffective policies," the report said.

The Justice Department found that police often resorted to deadly force or the use of stun guns against individuals who posed little threat, including people suffering from mental illness. The report also said officers frequently became overly aggressive against suspects who put up little resistance, escalating encounters to the point where deadly force was more likely to be used.

(Reporting by Joseph Kolb; Writing Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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