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Fired Albuquerque Officer Fights To Get His Old Job Back

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Orlando Camacho says his childhood dream was to be an Albuquerque police officer.

For more than three years, until February 2007, he lived that dream. Now, state District Judge Nan Nash will decide whether he gets to live it again.

On Wednesday, Nash heard arguments from Camacho’s attorney, George Bach, and Deputy City Attorney Kathy Levy during a hearing aimed at determining whether Camacho should be reinstated as an Albuquerque Police Department officer.

In late December, a District Court jury found that the city and Police Chief Ray Schultz violated Camacho’s due process rights when he was fired seven months before being criminally charged with the death of his stepfather. The jury also awarded modest damages of $6,000.

At the center of the case was whether Camacho was treated unfairly by APD. Camacho, who had a difficult relationship with his controlling and sometimes violent stepfather, Kirk Carroll, scuffled with Carroll at the home they shared on July 4, 2006. Carroll kicked Camacho in the groin, knocking him to the ground, and went for Camacho’s service weapon, Camacho testified.

The gun went off during the fight, killing Carroll with a fatal wound to the chest at close range.

A jury cleared Camacho of second-degree murder at trial, but Schultz had terminated Camacho seven months before he was indicted.

During the December trial, Bach told the jury that APD officials were unhappy with Camacho because his adoptive father, an African-American, had filed Internal Affairs complaints against the department, one involving allegations of racial profiling. Camacho had become a witness in those investigations, angering APD brass, he said.

Levy countered that Camacho was fired for conduct unbecoming an officer and other charges that are not related to the IA probes launched by Carroll’s complaints.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Bach argued that Nash has three options: to reinstate Camacho — the “presumptive remedy” under the law for someone whose civil rights have been violated; to grant him future wages; or to do nothing.

“Reinstatement would accomplish making (Camacho) whole, but there is a second reason it is the presumptive remedy,” he said, “and that is to deter future unconstitutional conduct,” in this case by APD.

Levy argued that had Camacho wanted his job back, he should have pursued a hearing before the personnel board after he was fired.

She said asking the judge to reinstate Camacho after the jury did not award him future pay amounted to “parallel litigation.”

Nash said she expected to make a decision on reinstatement in the next week.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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