Misconduct cases could cost over $12 million

April 7, 2013 • State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The potential taxpayer tab for misconduct cases involving Albuquerque police officers in 2013 is above $12 [auth] million.

That figure includes a $10.3 million jury award last month in a lawsuit filed by the family of Iraq War veteran Kenneth Ellis III.

The Albuquerque Journal reports ( that the taxpayer tab for 2013 would eclipse the three previous years combined for money paid out on police misconduct cases, depending on how the Ellis verdict and a handful of other pending lawsuits play out.

Albuquerque police cases cost the city $1.9 million last year, the lowest total since 2007.

Counting judgments, settlements and legal costs, the city paid out about $6 million to cover police lawsuits in 2010. The figure fell to $5.4 million in 2011.

This year’s potential total has surpassed the $9.7 million the city had set aside for police cases.

But city officials say they’re not concerned about the solvency of Albuquerque’s risk management fund, which is the pool of money used to pay out judgments and settle cases against all divisions of city government.

“Our finances are sound,” city Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry told the Journal last week, declining to say how much money overall is in the fund.

Perry said it’s typical for the amount paid out in police cases to fluctuate.

“Claims, and what they produce in settlements, judgments and dismissals, kind of go up and down,” Perry said, adding that yearly totals often reflect the number of claims filed against the police department two, three or even five years prior.

It’s unclear how last month’s award to the Ellis family, one of the biggest in city history, will play out. In that case, Officer Brett Lampiris-Tremba fatally shot Ellis in the neck during a nine-minute encounter with police in which Ellis held a gun to his own head.

No check has been written yet, Perry said, as post-trial motions work their way through the court system. The city may appeal the case.

The city suffered a major setback in the case when state District Judge Shannon Bacon ruled the shooting was unlawful, leaving the jury to decide how much the city should pay.

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