An Albuquerque police officer, who was accused of using excessive force, was promoted to major and given a raise. In 2002, Commander Timothy Gonterman used a stun gun to subdue a suspect. As a result, the homeless man received second and third-degree burns and lost part of his ear.
In 2006, a federal jury ruled that Gonterman and two other police officers used excessive force during the homeless man’s arrest. The victim was ultimately awarded $300,000 in damages.
Although the jury determined he used excessive force, Gonterman maintained his position with the Albuquerque Police Department. Twelve years later, the commander was promoted to a new position. He will earn nearly $100,000 per year.
The 2002 incident prompted the police department to review their policies, including the use of stun guns. Gonterman acknowledges that he made a mistake. However, he said he has changed his ways:
“It was a mistake, and I have learned from that mistake. I have taken responsibility for it… Since that time, I have become a use of force instructor and a less lethal technology instructor to train officers to use the minimal amount of force necessary to make an arrest. I am also trained in crisis intervention.”
Despite the changes in policy, the police department was recently cited in a US Justice Department review. In their report, the department suggested the Albuquerque Police Department “has engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force, including deadly force.”
In response to the citation, Police Chief Gorden Eden created the position of “major” and promoted two former commanders. As reported by The Wire, Anthony Montaño and Timothy Gonterman were both promoted to the newly-created rank.
Chief Eden said Montaño and Gonterman have “demonstrated the strong leadership skills necessary… to move ahead with DOJ reform requirements.” Eden expects the increased supervision will deter the police officers’ use of excessive force.
Despite Eden’s faith in the former commander, critics are disturbed that an officer accused of using excessive force was promoted and given a raise.
American Studies professor David Correia said Timothy Gonterman’s promotion is “troubling”:
“I think the promotion of Gonterman and his troubled history is the real evidence of what Albuquerque police is about.”
As reported by Huffington Post, Correia said the promotion underlines the need for a complete overhaul of the police division.
Although the move was controversial, Chief Edan is confident that Montaño and Gonterman are the best candidates to supervise other police officers and reduce excessive force within the department.
[Images via Shutterstock and CABQ]