The New York Time by Matt Flegenheimer - March 24, 2012
The mayor of Albuquerque called Friday for an end to a police union practice of paying officers involved in fatal shootings as much as $500 — a program that critics have compared to a bounty system that promotes and legitimizes brutality. “The administration has nothing to do with how the union conducts their business, but I was shocked yesterday when made aware of this practice,” Mayor Richard J. Berry said, addressing a report in The Albuquerque Journal. “It needs to end now.” In a statement released to The Journal, the Albuquerque Police Officers’ Association said “a deadly force encounter leaves a police officer with a particular kind of stress” and that, as a result, “this association has often assisted its members when they have been involved in critical incidents.” The group denied that the payments were awarded “for the officer merely ‘shooting someone,’ ” but to cover costs for officers “when they decide to get away from the area for a few days” after a shooting. The payments did not exceed $500, the association said. Messages left on Friday evening for the association’s president and vice president were not answered. Mr. Berry called on the city’s police chief, Ray Schultz, to “work with the union to ensure this practice no longer continues.” Chief Schultz told The Journal he was unaware of the practice and said through a spokesman that he did not receive money from the association after he was involved in a shooting after an armed robbery in 1986. Mike Gomez, whose son was fatally shot by an Albuquerque officer last year, told The Journal that the program “just sounds like a reward system, a bounty.” “If it’s in these cops’ minds that they’re going to get rewarded if they shoot someone, even if they don’t kill them, that’s just not good," he said. According to The Associated Press, Albuquerque police officers have shot 23 people — 18 fatally — since 2010. Historically, the city average for police-involved shootings was about five or six a year, The A.P. said. The department came under additional scrutiny last year after an officer who had been involved in a fatal shooting described his occupation as “human waste disposal” on Facebook. Another officer wrote on Myspace that “some people are alive only because killing them is illegal,” The A.P. said.