The Albuquerque Police Department did the right thing in firing two officers after surveillance video became public that showed one officer kicking a suspect at least 10 times as the other held him down.
But testimony in a hearing for one of the officers trying to get his job back reveals structural flaws in the department that need to be addressed.
At least this time the flaws weren't fatal — neither suspect nor police officers died.
Testimony about the February 2011 kicking incident shows APD may need to hold refresher courses about when a threat is really a threat. Or whether it is OK — or not — for an officer to stomp on a suspect's head.
Luis Robles, a former city attorney and instructor for the APD Academy's civil rights and lethal force training, told the city Personnel Board that even though officers have information that a suspect might be dangerous, they must defer the use of deadly force until they face imminent threat.
Robles said Officer John Doyle should have waited until the alleged "monster" he was arresting did something "monstrous" — at least before the officer could justify kicking Nicholas Blume.
Robles said Doyle's action was not just excessive but premature.
Before the day of the beating, Doyle and Officer Robert Woolever had been told Blume was suspected of killing a Colorado police officer and was likely "to shoot it out with you."
That information from the city's gang unit turned out to be incorrect. Murray Conrad, then-APD Southeast Area commander, admitted he did not verify the information he disseminated before putting a warning memo in each of his officers' mailboxes.
But circulating such misinformation is a terrible mistake that is dangerous both for officers and the public they encounter. Officers operating under such bad intel enter the streets in fear for their lives, and the public is subject to dealing with an armed authority figure working under unneeded stress.
For the record, Blume did not kill an officer and was unarmed when he was beaten and arrested in the Barcelona Hotel parking garage after a foot chase. But Blume isn't squeaky clean, either. He has a long criminal history, and police did later report that a truck Blume had been driving had been reported stolen, as had a gun that was found inside the vehicle.
Another bit of troubling testimony in the hearing is that Conrad took the original surveillance video disc home to review on his television set before booking it into evidence.
APD needs to rid its operations of these kinds of slipshod practices. Officers already have difficult and dangerous jobs, and bad intel only makes it worse. And evidence must be handled properly.
A bullet may have been dodged this time, but without change someone may not be so lucky next time.
— Albuquerque Journal