ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The City of Albuquerque has agreed to pay more than $100,000 to a former Albuquerque Police Department commander. The lawsuit filed against the department claimed APD punished him for telling the truth. 

When Donald Trump came to Albuquerque in 2016 for a campaign visit, chaos broke out. Rioters broke the windows of downtown businesses and tossed metal barricades at mounted Albuquerque police. 

Following the protest, former commander Steve Altman wrote a report on the department’s problems handling the 2016 Trump protest. That report, his attorney says, got Altman demoted. 

In 2019 Altman sued APD, alleging retaliation by the department. Blair Dunn, who represented Steve Altman in the lawsuit, said, “he did his job. He did a very good job reviewing that. He wasn’t responsible for what happened at the rally. He was just responsible for reviewing it. And there’s no deficiencies that have ever been outlined to him with that report.”

Before the demotion, Altman was the commander overseeing the airport. When he asked about why he was demoted, he said he was told he was not capable of handling major incidents. Dunn shared, “that’s really possibly what this is too, is that there’s some sensitivity from other officers or other higher-ups in the department that are saying hey, you were critical of us, you didn’t have our backs and you didn’t just whitewash this for us.”

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The 29-page “after-action report” on the riot was sent to the city’s former administration, but when Mayor Tim Keller took office, Altman was demoted to lieutenant in December 2017. “They basically said he was over-promoted, which is basically a made-up reason from what we can see and they demoted him in order so that they could put one of their political buddies, it seems, into that position,” Dunn said. 

The city recently settled the lawsuit, agreeing to pay Altman $116,000. An end to what started as an ugly night in downtown Albuquerque. Altman’s attorney confirmed he has since retired from APD.

APD spokesperson Gilbert Gallegos said in a statement, “This settlement is one of many that the City has paid out as a result of allegations of mismanagement and retaliation by the former Chief of Police. However, APD has made major strides in changing its culture and meeting the reform requirements under the DOJ settlement agreement. Mayor Keller also created the Superintendent of Police Reform position to ensure a more professional and accountable discipline process.”