Taxpayers will be picking up a $925,000 tab for Metropolitan Detention Center Sgt. Torry Chambers, settling a civil lawsuit that claims he and a guard turned prisoner/accomplice raped three female inmates.
And taxpayers should note he is a jail sergeant, not an ex-jail sergeant. He still works at MDC, receiving a county paycheck for guarding inmates.
Not female inmates. After the allegations came to light, MDC put Chambers on unpaid leave. When his union fought the decision, the county decided to bring him back and have him earn his check, and assigned him to male inmates.
The sanctity of Chambers’ employment rights are likely cold comfort to anyone housed in the $90 million lockup. Or anyone who has to work in it. Or anyone who has to visit it.
Because while Chambers is innocent until proven guilty on charges of raping female inmates and helping a male inmate rape female inmates, he was found liable enough by the county’s insurance carrier to warrant a $925,000 check to settle the lawsuit filed by three of his alleged victims.
Those women tell a story of authority gone sickly wrong, of a man in power forcing himself and his pal on vulnerable individuals again and again and again.
Predatory behavior isn’t a new story at the jail. In 2008 a U.S. Department of Justice report said MDC had the third-highest rate of staff-on-inmate sexual victimization in the nation.
It is up to the courts to decide if Chambers is guilty and, if so, what price he should pay. Two years after Chambers was first charged, the dithering between state and federal prosecutors on who will proceed with what case is justice delayed at best, justice denied at worst.
Meanwhile, taxpayers have already paid too much to employ Chambers. It is past time for county and jail officials to take a stand against the predatory culture at MDC. Chambers should be an ex-jail sergeant.
And county elected leaders should be asking some hard questions of the county manager and deputy manager for public safety. And letting the taxpayers of Bernalillo County know what they find out.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.