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Tasering Fallout Growing at APD

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Albuquerque police commander is under scrutiny by Internal Affairs for the way he handled an investigation into two officers’ use of their Tasers in late May, officials said.

Commander Mike Geier launched his own investigation into incidents involving officers Connor Rice and Shad Solis on May 30 and May 31 after receiving reports from two sergeants, officials said.

APD brass, including Chief Ray Schultz, say they were unaware of the tasering and other use of force until a KRQE reporter requested the lapel cam videos from both incidents, which has led to criminal charges against Rice.

Solis and officer Ronald Surran have been administratively reassigned. Rice is on administrative leave.

The department last week released videos of the incident, in which one man was tasered repeatedly and another punched by Rice during the course of a marijuana investigation.

Internal Affairs is investigating whether the use of force violated department policy. It is also focusing on whether other APD personnel — including Geier — violated department policies either by failing to intervene when the officers were using force or by investigating reports about the force incorrectly.

On May 31, Sgt. Dennis Tafoya wrote a memo describing officers Rice and Solis using their Tasers on a man they believed to be harboring a suspect who had fled from a marijuana investigation earlier that day.

“Both officers used the minimum amount of force to efficiently and reasonably control the aggressive behavior displayed by” the suspect, Tafoya wrote.

Rice has been charged with misdemeanor counts of aggravated battery for the May 31 tasering and battery for his punching of another suspect that day.

On June 1, Sgt. Cassandra Kukowski wrote a memo describing a May 30 incident in which Rice had used his Taser on a suspect from a domestic violence incident. Kukowski’s memo asked Internal Affairs to investigate Rice’s “possible use of excessive force” and “insubordination for not following a direct order.”

Geier was copied on the memos from both sergeants.

Deputy Chief Allen Banks said Geier “proactively” decided in early June to investigate the incidents himself, which Banks said is allowed under APD policy.

The commander “talked to officers, reviewed reports and reviewed the videos,” Banks said.

Geier had moved Rice out of Kukowski’s chain of command, Banks said, because he believed there was a personality conflict between the two. Geier also had placed Rice on a “60-day work plan” that limited his ability to use a Taser and put him under Geier’s supervision.

Geier also was looking into Rice’s history to see whether any use-of-force issues had come up during Rice’s six years with APD, Banks said.

But on July 10, Banks said, Geier’s investigation was cut short when KRQE News 13 reporter Kim Holland submitted a request under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act for video of the May incidents taken from officers’ lapel-mounted cameras.

According to Banks, that’s when APD brass above Geier became aware of the video and decided to shelve the administrative investigation in favor of a criminal probe handled by detectives from the department’s Special Investigations Division.

The criminal investigation is ongoing, and Police Chief Schultz has not ruled out additional charges against other officers.

Geier and Kukowski declined to comment Monday. Tafoya could not be reached.

Police union leaders have said the charges filed against Rice may have been premature and politically motivated. They point to the fact that some eyewitnesses to the May 31 incident, including officer Surran, have yet to be interviewed. Surran is on military duty.

— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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