ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Albuquerque police officers involved in a rash of fatal shootings over the past two years were paid up to $500 under a union program that some have likened to a bounty system in a department with a culture that critics have long contended promotes brutality.
Mayor Richard Berry called Friday for an immediate halt to the practice, which was first reported in the Albuquerque Journal during a week in which Albuquerque police shot and killed two men. Since 2010, Albuquerque police have shot 23 people, 18 fatally.
“The administration has nothing to do with how the union conducts their business,” Berry said in a statement, “but I was shocked yesterday when made aware of this practice. I cannot stand aside and condone this practice – it needs to end now.”
Although the union said the payments were intended to help the officers decompress from a stressful situation, a criminologist said it sounded more like a reward program.
Maria Haberfeld, chair of the Department of Law & Police Science at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said she found the program disturbing.
“I’m not a psychologist. I’m a criminologist. But if you give somebody a monetary incentive to do their job, usually people are tempted by the monetary incentive,” she said. “To me, this is a violation of professional ethics.”
Other law enforcement officials called speculation of a bounty system ridiculous, but acknowledged the payments could be poorly perceived.