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Editorial: Officers’ time on the town sends the wrong message

A visit to Hooters and a Chinese massage.

Your tax dollars at work – at least for former Albuquerque Police Department Officer Jeremy Dear and a fellow officer just two days after Dear shot and killed a 19-year-old suspected car thief.

Dear, who claims Mary Hawkes had pointed a gun at him, and Molina were on paid administrative leave after the April 21, 2014, shooting, when Molina took Dear out on the town to take his mind off the fatal shooting, according to Molina’s deposition in a lawsuit Hawkes’ family has filed against the city. Molina was present the night of the shooting and sat with Dear in a police vehicle afterwards. He also helped investigate Hawkes’ death.

Keep in mind the “paid” part of paid leave is courtesy of Albuquerque taxpayers.

Dear eventually was fired by Chief Gorden Eden for repeated failure to use his lapel camera as required, including during Hawkes’ shooting. Dear appealed and won reinstatement, but the city appealed that in District Court. Until the issue is settled, Dear is off the APD force. If he wins, he will get a hefty back pay payday.

The Albuquerque police officers union offers those who have been involved in critical incidents, including shootings, up to $500 to use for a vacation or other ways to decompress. The Albuquerque Police Officers Association has been criticized for doing so, but union officials say that practice will continue.

Eden in a deposition said, “It’s hard for us to regulate off-duty conduct, but that’s not the conduct that I would expect from any employee. … Personally it bothers me.”

Though the officers’ activities are legal, the optics are terrible for a department that has been criticized for a culture of aggression. And that is a poor and disrespectful image to present after someone has been killed. The union is sending the wrong message by providing cash to play on the town after an officer has taken a person’s life, whether justified or not.

The payout is intended to help the officers involved. In reality, it hurts every man and woman in uniform.

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.