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Friday, July 17, 2015

The Week That Was: We End It Where It Started; With That $5 Million ABQ Settlement In The Boyd Case; WSJ Says ABQ APD Payouts Highest Per Officer Among Major USA Cities 

We had much discussion this week about the soaring cost of settling the APD shooting cases with the $5 million settlement over the killing of homeless camper James Boyd sparking the conversation. It's not just an ABQ issue, either. Wall Street Journal reporter Dan Frosch, a onetime NM journalist, writes from Denver:

Joe, Thought you’d be interested in this front page story we did on the soaring cost of paying for police misconduct, in which Albuquerque is prominently mentioned. I know it’s an issue you’ve been following. Here’s the in-depth story.

Frosch and reporter Zuscha Elinson write:

The 10 cities with the largest police departments spent $248.7 million last year on settlements and court judgments in police-misconduct cases, up 48% from 2010, according to data gathered by the Journal through public-records requests. They collectively paid out more than $1 billion over the five years for such cases, which include alleged beatings, shootings and wrongful imprisonment.

And what did the WSJ reporters find about ABQ?:

According to Ms. Schwartz’s study, which tabulated civil-rights payouts in 44 large police and sheriff departments from 2006 through 2011, Albuquerque paid out the most per officer—more than $2,000 a year. . . The city of about 550,000 has had a high number of fatal police shootings and has spent more than $25 million on civil-rights and police-misconduct settlements over the past five years, with annual payouts nearly quadrupling over that period. . . Albuquerque officials say the city has been bracing for more settlements and has had to allocate funding it could have spent on raises for employees, parks and other municipal projects. . . .“Any time you are putting more money into a risk-management fund, you are taking away money from somewhere else,” said city councilor Ken Sanchez. “Having to put more money into that fund to pay for the lawsuits has really been challenging.”

The highest payout per officer among the largest departments in the USA is in ABQ? Well, we finally made it to the top of a list.

The media here this week asked the city for a figure on the total payouts for the police shootings since 2010 and was told it was about $28 million. The city said that was not a definitive number. Also, it did not include the $5 million Boyd settlement which when paid would take the number to $33 million.

We said this week we didn't think that the $28 million included lawsuit losses involving non-shooting cases, but the WSJ says it does. What threw us a bit was a TV news story putting the total at $44 million but that was for all lawsuits--not just for APD.

BEHIND THE BOYD SETTLEMENT

Meantime, while the city swallows hard over these historic payouts (and while some of the lawyers involved pop the champagne corks) our Legal Beagles piece together the motive for the city throwing in a $5 million towel in the Boyd case. One of them offers this unvarnished opinion:

The $5 million to settle the Boyd case was not just about money and reducing what may have been awarded by a jury. It was also about the Berry Administration saving face, avoiding being questioned and held accountable for incompetence and mismanagement of APD before a judge and jury, and avoiding further damage to Chief Gordon Eden’s and Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry’s reputations. This is the same shooting that Chief Eden characterized as “justified” with the backing of CAO Rob Perry while Berry was out of town. Berry waited a few weeks before he said the killing was a “game changer.” One month after the killing the Dept. of Justice issued its scathing report, with the Boyd shooting nothing more than a footnote in the report. There is little doubt that Chief Eden, Rob Perry and perhaps even Berry, would have been called to testify under oath, in open court, in the Boyd lawsuit to explain their remarks and their actions and explain APD’s handling of the shooting.


Yeah, kids. That's the real stuff you only get here.

Meanwhile, Eden, Perry and Berry cannot settle the case against the two officers criminally charged in the Boyd slaying. They could still be called to testify in a trial and asked to explain their actions.

FORGET SOMETHING?

Did Fox News Latino--which did a report on the issuance of driver's licenses to undocumented workers and attributed fewer of them in NM to a crackdown by the Martinez administration--forget something? The report does not mention the state's stagnant economy and how immigration--both legal and illegal--has slowed to a trickle. Well, we reported it. You decide.

This is the home of New Mexico politics.

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