ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Albuquerque police officer has been suspended for allegedly exchanging inappropriate text messages with an underage girl whom the officer had given a traffic citation, the Journal has learned.
Police Chief Ray Schultz confirmed late Friday that APD launched an Internal Affairs investigation, which concluded earlier this month with recommendations from investigators and a deputy chief to fire officer Frank Tillman.
But the chief decided instead to suspend Tillman without pay for 160 hours and reassign him from the APD traffic unit to the Field Services Bureau, where Tillman will respond to calls for service.
Tillman “participated in a disciplinary hearing and after hearing all info and facts I determined that the suspension was (most) appropriate,” Schultz wrote in an email response to Journal questions.
Schultz confirmed that the text messages were sexual in nature and said they came to APD’s attention via a complaint from a “third party” earlier this year. The contact began after Tillman, 30, had given the girl a traffic citation, which was dismissed.
Schultz said Tillman’s suspension “was just issued and not yet imposed.”
Tillman, who has been with APD since 2005, could not be reached for comment.
His attorney, John D’Amato, declined to comment on the specifics of the internal investigation but confirmed that his client had been suspended.
Tillman was on duty and in his police car Thursday morning when he was injured in a traffic accident on Central Avenue.
Around 11 a.m. Thursday, Tillman was heading east on Central near Chama Street alongside a large tow truck when an SUV pulled out of the Cinnamon Tree Apartments and tried to get into a westbound lane, police said.
The 55-year-old woman driving the SUV told police she didn’t see Tillman’s car behind the tow truck as she tried to dart across all three lanes of traffic. She struck Tillman’s vehicle on the passenger-side door.
Police said Tillman’s head struck the driver side window, and he was sent to University of New Mexico Hospital with head and neck injuries.
Hospital staff said Tillman was no longer there on Friday.
The SUV driver was cited for making an improper left turn.
Tillman has been recognized three times for outstanding service: in August 2006 as officer of the month, in May 2007 for waking up residents of an apartment complex during a fire at 3 a.m., and in July 2010 for being one of the first APD responders to the deadly workplace shooting at Emcore.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal