The Albuquerque Police Department in the US state of New Mexico has promoted an officer accused of “excessive force” for burning off part of a homeless man’s ear with a stun gun, officials said.
Police Chief Gorden Eden said in a statement on Thursday he was promoting Foothills Area Commander Timothy Gonterman to the newly created rank of major in response to a harsh US Justice Department report that was critical of Albuquerque police’s use of excessive force.
Gonterman and criminal investigations commander Anthony Montano will now oversee the East and West Side field services divisions respectively, Eden said.
The chief said the promotions address deficiencies cited in the Department of Justice’s recent critical review of the Albuquerque Police Department related to proper supervision of officers.
“With this change we are now intensifying supervision and increasing accountability by splitting the Field Services Division into two sections,” Eden said in a statement. “We have chosen Commanders Gonterman and Montano because they have demonstrated the strong leadership skills necessary for us to move ahead with DOJ reform requirements.”
In 2006, a federal jury awarded a former homeless man $300,000 and found that Gonterman and two other officers used “excessive force” in the man’s 2002 arrest. The homeless man suffered second- and third-degree burns and lost part of his ear from burns with the stun gun, the lawsuit said.
Police in Albuquerque have been under fire in recent months over 39 police shootings since 2010 and using fatal force against citizens who posed no threats. The Justice Department says most of the shootings were unnecessary.
In April, the Albuquerque police was ordered by the Justice Department to reduce the use of deadly force and reform a culture of abuse and aggression against citizens.
In March, Albuquerque police shot and killed James Boyd, a 38-year-old homeless man who was camping at the foothills of the city. His shooting was caught on video and sparked a violent protest in the city and prompted the FBI to launch its own investigation into the case.