Albuquerque, N.M. - Albuquerque police officers involved in a rash of fatal shootings over the past two years were paid up to $1,000 under a union program that some have likened to a bounty system in a department with a culture that critics have long contended promotes brutality.
Mayor Richard Berry called Friday for an immediate halt to the practice, which was first reported in the Albuquerque Journal during a week in which Albuquerque police shot and killed two men. Since 2010, Albuquerque police have shot 23 people, 18 fatally.
"The administration has nothing to do with how the union conducts their business," Berry said in a statement, "but I was shocked yesterday when made aware of this practice. I cannot stand aside and condone this practice. It needs to end now."
A defiant police union President Joey Sigala said late Friday that the union will continue to financially support officers who have been involved in shootings, despite calls earlier in the day from the mayor and police chief for the practice to stop.
Mayor Richard Berry said in a statement that he was “shocked” to learn of the practice and said it “needs to end now,” while Police Chief Ray Schultz called the payments “troubling.”
A Journal story published Friday revealed that the union had paid more than $10,000 to officers involved in shootings, dating to the start of 2010.
Internal union financial documents obtained by the Journal show that 20 of the officers received union payments. Of those, 16 received $500, two were paid $300, one received $800 and a payment of $1,000 went to one officer.
Although the union said the payments were intended to help the officers decompress from a stressful situation, one victim's father and a criminologist said it sounded more like a reward program.
"I think it might not be a bounty that they want it for," said Mike Gomez, the father of an unarmed man killed by police last year, "but in these police guys' minds, they know they are going to get that money. So when they get in a situation, it's who's going to get him first? Who's going to shoot him first?"
Police union statement regarding shooting payments: