ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico State Police officer who’s being sued for allegedly roughing up a handcuffed suspect has faced similar allegations in two other federal lawsuit settlements tied to alleged on the job behavior.
Officer Peter Romero is the subject of a recently filed use of force lawsuit in Santa Fe District Court. Romero is accused of assaulting 28-year old Ryan Cordova in Santa Fe in May 2019, following Cordova’s arrest on suspicion of DWI.
Surveillance video shows Cordova and Officer Romero struggled for nearly 30 minutes as Romero asked Cordova to comply with commands associated with exchanging or moving handcuffs. During the struggle between the officer and suspect, Romero can be seen pushing Cordova into the wall multiple times and using his knee to push Cordova’s hand to the ground.
U.S. Federal Court records show Romero’s faced similar allegations of police misconduct in his past at Albuquerque Police. During his 20-year stint with APD between 1995 and 2015, Romero was the subject of two federal lawsuits.
Both of the lawsuits filed against Romero ended with settlements paid out by the city of Albuquerque. One case ended with a $38,750 payout. Another case ended with a $44,000 payout.
The first lawsuit against Romero stemmed from an incident at the downtown Albuquerque Prisoner Transport Center. In July 2013, Romero was accused of choking a DWI suspect as he was handcuffed to a bench. According to the lawsuit, the incident was caught on a security camera.
The second lawsuit stems from a May 2015 incident. Romero was accused of roughing up a DWI suspect who was taken into custody at a sobriety checkpoint. According to the lawsuit, after the suspect spat on paperwork, Romero allegedly thrust the paperwork into the suspect’s face, causing the suspect to hit his head on the wall.
According to the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy, Romero retired from APD in December 2015. Despite his prior lawsuits and settlements, New Mexico State Police hired him as an officer in September 2017.
According to NMSP, Romero is still employed with the department. KRQE News 13 did not receive an answer from State Police on Monday as to if the department knew about Romero’s prior lawsuits before he was hired.
An Albuquerque Police spokesman told KRQE News 13 Monday that he “wasn’t aware of any rational” for Romero leaving the department other than retirement, noting that Romero retired during the previous administration of Mayor Richard J. Berry.
Romero also worked for APS Police between his prior stint with APD and current job with New Mexico State Police. KRQE News 13 asked APS Police if it was aware of allegations against Romero when it hired him in 2016, however, the department did not provide a response to the question Monday.