ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The head of Albuquerque’s embattled police department says he’s retiring after an eight-year tenure marred by a spike in fatal police shootings and excessive force cases that critics blamed on a departmental culture that fostered brutality.
Chief Ray Schultz‘s announcement on Friday comes five months after the U.S. Department of Justice launched a civil rights investigation that was spurred by protests, lawsuits and demands for a wide-scale change.
It came the same day jurors awarded more than $10 million to the family of an Iraq War veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who was killed by an Albuquerque police officer during a 2010 standoff at a convenience store.
The city has seen a string of officer-involved shootings — 18 of them fatal — since 2010. The department also has been plagued by a number of high-profile cases alleging excessive force, including some cases caught on video. And several officers have been reprimanded for controversial social media postings, including one by an officer involved in a fatal shooting who described his occupation as “human waste disposal.”
This week, City Council President Dan Lewis joined the call for change, saying the department’s reputation had been tarnished. On Friday, Lewis said Schultz made a courageous decision and this marks a critical time in the department’s history.
“Despite all that the department and city have been through, I believe he is turning to the next chief a better department,” Lewis said.
Jewel Hall, president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center Board and a vocal critic of the department, was pleased to hear of Schultz’s impending retirement. She and other advocates had pushed for the federal inquiry into the department’s practices and have long called for his resignation as necessary to effect a change in department culture.
“That goes to show you, when people continue to ask for justice and for answers, things will change,” Hall said.
Michael Gomez, whose son Alan was shot by police in 2011 while carrying a plastic spoon, said in an email that the “victims’ families are overjoyed with the news. … The pressure from ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ has been felt.”
In a letter sent to the city’s chief administrative officer Wednesday, Schultz said he plans to retire sometime during the summer or fall. The letter was released Friday by the mayor’s office and the Police Department.
The chief indicated that he had first proposed his retirement to city officials in January. He said he is now ready to go forward with the next chapter of his life and make more time for his family.