Who’s The Boss, Albuquerque Edition

Albuquerque is a pretty cool name for a city, provided your name isn’t James Boyd.  The APD has been under the spotlight for rampant violence, which has been attributed not to a culture of evil, but piss-poor training.  It didn’t help that Jack Jones was in total control of training, given his view that:

“Evil has come to the state of New Mexico, evil has come to the Southwest, evil has come to the United States,”

But the culture that allows, that encourages violence and police abuse can be cured, if only the right people are put in positions of leadership, so they may serve as shining beacons of propriety and integrity for all cops to follow.  So the Albuquerque Police Department chose to promote Commander Timothy Gonterman to Major Timothy Gonterman.

Perhaps Gonterman is part of the solution now, but 12 years ago, he was part of the problem. As the AP points out, Gonterman and two other officers were found by a federal jury to have used excessive force when arresting a homeless man. A stun gun wielded by Gonterman gave the man second and third-degree burns, which led to him losing part of his ear. The man was awarded $300,000, and Albuquerque changed its Taser policy.

You see, the APD has issues. That’s not a criminal defense lawyer saying so, but the United States Department of Justice.

According to the DOJ’s report, the Albuquerque PD “has engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force, including deadly force.” That includes Tasers — the DOJ found several instances of unconstitutional use of Tasers since 2009 (that’s after the Taser use policy change inspired by Gonterman), including one when officers Tasered a man who doused himself in gasoline, setting him on fire.

While it may be that Commander Timothy Gonterman recognized the error of his violent and abusive ways, and is now that paragon of virtue the APD desperately needs, the evidence fails to suggest that the APD has shown any improvement, no less inclination to improve, of late.  As a commander, it would seem that Gonterman would be in a position to stem the tide of violence if that was his goal.  Yet the violence, abuse and violation of constitutional rights appears to have continued unabated.  After all, Gonterman was a commander in the Foothills area, which is where James Boyd’s life was taken from him.  It does not reflect well on Gonterman.

But then there’s the message.

Promoting a guy accused of police brutality seems like the worst way to prove to the community (and the DOJ) that you take police brutality seriously. Albuquerque PD’s reforms, suffice to say, are not off to a great start.

It would be unfair to say that Gonterman’s promotion was a reward for his brutality, but it would similarly be unfair to say that it precluded his climbing the ladder of success.  It’s not that second chances or forgiveness for past wrongs is out of the question, but when the APD is facing a crisis of brutality and violence, couldn’t they find someone to promote who didn’t have their own brutality in their past?

We are constantly asking what becomes of police officers who engage in abuse, the same sort of violence that would place any non-police officer in prison for a healthy period of time to remind them that society frowns upon their conduct.  Does society not frown upon what Gonterman did?

Obviously, Gonterman wasn’t fired for tasing off the ear of some guy.  He wasn’t prosecuted.  Maybe he lost an hour of vacation time, but clearly his punishment wasn’t as harsh as what he inflicted on his victim.  But that was a long time ago, right?

In a statement, Gonterman called his actions during the 2002 arrest a mistake and said it took place 12 years ago when the stun gun technology was new and before officers had the training they have now. “It was a mistake, and I have learned from that mistake. I have taken responsibility for it,” Gonterman said. “Since that time, I have become a use of force instructor and a less lethal technology instructor to train officers to use the minimal amount of force necessary to make an arrest. I am also trained in crisis intervention.”

Really?  As in the “minimal amount of force” used on James Boyd?  Or is it an acceptable excuse to profess ignorance in the use of a new weapon that just happens to cost a guy an ear.  Sure, he’s sorry now.  Yes, it was most definitely a mistake.  But whether Gonterman has taken responsibility for it can’t be discerned from anything that’s happened since.

Nor is it easy to buy the claim that because he’s now a “less lethal technology instructor,” it means that he’s not still part of the entrenched culture of violence that permeates the APD.  What does that mean, “less lethal” and “minimal use of force”?  Don’t beat them, tase them, shoot them unless they really, really piss you off?  Or do nothing to deserve to die, like James Boyd?

Just in case you’ve forgotten what an execution on video looks like, here’s the short version of Boyd’s killing in the Foothills.

Less lethal may mean something different in Albuquerque.

10 thoughts on “Who’s The Boss, Albuquerque Edition

  1. John Barleycorn

    Did you know that if you google image search Timothy Gonterman the “click here if this post hurt your feelings” banner comes up.

    Timothy’s mustache hurts my feelings.

    I can only hope that if he trains hard enough one day it may be.

  2. ExCop-LawStudent

    Wow. If this is their idea of cleaning up the department…

    The only thing that will fix the department, if they have this mindset, is for DOJ to start putting officers in jail for 18 USC 241, 242 violations.

    I don’t even know what to say. Every department I am acquainted with would have avoided this promotion like the plague, merely because of the way it looks to the public. They may have found a way to promote him, but it would be delayed until the DOJ furor died down, would not have been announced to the press, and would be in a remote area of the department (at least initially). This is simply looking at both the public and DOJ and extending their middle finger.

    1. SHG Post author

      The best you could say is it’s totally tone deaf. The worst is far, far worse, which can’t happen in a city that has suffered too much police violence.

      1. John Barleycorn

        I wasn’t joking about the google image search results. Tip of the hat to your reach esteemed one.

        Now if you just started paying a bit more attention to all the township news in between the “city” news I might send you a state trooper bobble head doll.

        Buy your grandchildren a Big Wheel when the times comes around. Keep on navigating your own as well.

        The follow ups add much more flavor to the back pages of your efforts.

        Your grandchildren will hopefully be reading your archives as well one day and you wouldn’t want to leave all your “reporting”with dangling bits. Your theory will have them pondering enough strings to be tied.

        1. SHG Post author

          I was never a Big Wheel parent. I just put my kids in the Deere Gator 6X4, showed them the gas and brake, and told them not to crash or run anyone over. They did good.

          1. John Barleycorn

            Do make to keep them close and visiting as much as your children’s time allowance allows.

            Do take extra advantage to introduce them to the wonders and powers of the hydralic machinery and flip side of the shovel when you have them under your sole diabolical powers. (Your children are aware it seems)

            I will be really bummed out if any of them go to law school.

            Keep them on the straight and narrow.

            Shepard in the trans-generational knowledge. It is important.

  3. Rick

    The Boyd shooting is very odd to me. It seems pretty obvious that they didn’t need to flashbang him and that doing so disoriented him. When he immediately pulled the knives and was extremely close to an officer, I could have understood shooting him then. Though the coppers caused it by escalating, I’d say shooting someone who pulled a knife on an another person when the first is nearly within arm’s reach is a reasonable use of deadly force. They didn’t. Instead, they hesitated, waited till he turned away, and shot him in the back (which you can’t see in this particular video). Incomprehensible.

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