(2) Albuquerque police officers also often use less lethal force
in an unconstitutional manner. We reviewed a random sample of the department’s use of force reports completed by officers and supervisors between 2009 and early 2013. Our sample consisted of over 200 force reports. We find that officers frequently misused electronic control weapons (commonly referred to by the brand name “Tasers”),
resorting to use of the weapon on people who are passively resisting, observably nonthreatening but unable to comply with orders due to their mental state, or posed only a minimal threat to the officers. Officers also often used Tasers in dangerous situations. For example, officers fired Tasers numerous times at a man who had poured gasoline on himself. The Taser discharges set the man on fire, requiring another officer to extinguish the flames. This endangered all present. Additionally, Albuquerque police officers often use unreasonable physical force without regard for the subject’s safety or the level of threat encountered. Officers frequently use takedown procedures in ways that unnecessarily increase the harm to the person. Finally, officers escalate situations in which force could have been avoided had they instead used de-escalation measures. (3) A significant amount of the force we reviewed was used against persons with mental illness and in crisis. APD’s policies, training, and supervision are insufficient to ensure that officers encountering people with mental illness or in distress do so in a manner that respects their rights and is safe for all involved. (4) The use of excessive force by APD officers is not isolated or sporadic. The pattern or practice of excessive force stems from systemic deficiencies in oversight, training, and policy. Chief among these deficiencies is the department’s failure to implement an objective and rigorous internal accountability system. Force incidents are not properly investigated, documented, or addressed with corrective measures. unconstitutional. Albuquerque police officers often use deadly force in circumstances where there is no imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm to officers or others. Instead, officers used deadly force against people who posed a minimal threat, including individuals who posed a threat only to themselves or who were unarmed. Officers also used deadly force in situations where the conduct of the officers heightened the danger and contributed to the need to use force.
For purposes of this letter, “less lethal force” means a force application not intended or expected to cause death or serious injury and which is commonly understood to have less potential for causing death or serious injury than conventional, more lethal police tactics. Nonetheless, use of less lethal force can result in death or serious injury.
The Department uses the Taser brand electronic control weapons. Throughout this report, we will refer to these weapons as Tasers. 3