ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The Albuquerque Police Department has gotten a lot of scrutiny for its problems, but now it's paying the price, literally. The city has paid out nearly $7 million to settle lawsuits in the last two years.
Last year, the city paid $3,273,765 to settle cases because of officers' mistakes, everything from wrongful arrests, excessive force and malicious prosecution.
This year, APD paid out $3,721,119.30. A fraction of that, $1,367,992.30, went to the families of two men shot and killed by APD officers.
- $950,000 went to the family of Roderick Jones, the unarmed suspected burglar who was shot by former Officer Brandon Carr in November 2009. Carr was fired and could still face criminal charges for the shooting.
- $417,000 went to the family of Andrew Lopez, the unarmed 19-year-old who was shot by Officer Justin Montgomery following a foot chase in February 2009. Montgomery walked up to him and shot him in the heart a few seconds later when he was already on the ground. Montgomery is still on the force.
APD also paid $950,000 this year to one of two traveling salesman charged with the murder of an elderly couple. It turned out they were actually murdered by a serial killer. Another $230,000 was also paid to the family of Tera Chavez to settle the wrongful death lawsuit against her former cop husband Levi, who was fired by APD after he was charged with her murder. His trial is set for next year.
"Lawsuits are a fact of life and it's something we do watch and monitor very, very closely," said Chief Ray Schultz.
Schultz said it's also something the department plans for. APD keeps about $10 million taxpayer dollars set aside in its budget for lawsuits, according to APD's legal advisor Kathy Levy.
There are seven lawsuits from police shootings still in the pipeline, but only four of them are from the wave of police shootings over the past couple years. APD officers have shot 20 men since January 2010; 14 of them have been fatal. Pending lawsuits include the Kenneth Ellis case. The Iraq war vet was suffering from PTSD and threatening suicide when he was shot outside a 7-Eleven. Christopher Torres was the mentally ill man who was killed in his parents' yard.
"There's almost like a budget we put aside because you know lawsuits are going to happen," said Schultz. "Our goal is to not have the same ones recur."
To do that, the department is putting its officers through more training and changing its hiring practices. But Schultz said lawsuits against police are inevitable.
"Unfortunately all major metropolitan law enforcement departments in this country, and many small ones as well, do find themselves in litigation," said Schultz.
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