Cop of the year


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F4GIB
January 3, 2008, 07:04 PM
This story illustrates two things. The LE system (at all levels) does stink whether you a nobody or a well-known public figure. But there are isolated incidents of LE officers who don't passively endorse the abuse they see every day.

Officer Sam Costales is a hero.

Cop of the Year, 2007

Meet Sam Costales, part of the Albuquerque, New Mexico Police Department.

In 2006, Costales was present at a roadblock set up by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department SWAT team, after a carjacking investigation turned into a gunfire-laden, high-speed chase.

The roadblock also happened to be set up in the neighborhood of race car driving legend Al Unser, Sr. Here’s the initial news report of what happened as Unser approached the roadblock:

While the incident was still unfolding, Bernalillo County sheriff’s investigators allege Al Unser started going through a roadblock in an attempt to get to his property. Despite six or seven warnings to leave the area, he still refused to leave, saying it was his property–he owned it.
When the deputy told him he would be arrested, Unser allegedly said, “You can’t take me to jail,” and began cussing at the officer.

Officers report he then jerked away and said, “Don’t you know who I am? I’m Al Unser.”

A short time after he was arrested, Bobby Unser showed up. Deputies said he, too, refused to leave and resisted arrest.

Both were transported to holding cells at the Valley substation before being taken to jail.

“They simply told them numerous times to leave the area, and they simply refused to do so,” Erin Kinnard of the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department said. “Were not talking about a situation where we’re trying to catch a shoplifter.

“This was a serious and dangerous situation.”

KRQE News 13 was told Al Unser threatened the arresting officer, telling him he would get back at him some day.

Unser of course said that’s not the way it happened. He says the officers were rude to him, refused to tell him why he couldn’t drive home, then pulled him out of his car and tossed him into a thorn bush before arresting him for resisting arrest.

Costales is a cop with the Albuquerque Police Department, not the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department, and [even though he reported the incident to his superiors] he wasn’t interviewed as part of the investigation. But he was later contacted by a private investigator for the Unser family. That’s when he explained what he saw. His version of events were a lot more like the Unsers’ than the sheriff’s deputies.

Costales said he heard “yelling and screaming” after deputies stopped Unser’s vehicle.

“They were running and screaming at the driver, ‘Get the hell out of here,”‘ Costales said. “It bothered me. People have a right to know what’s going on. An explanation would clear them out quickly.”

Three or four deputies were involved in the confrontation, he said.

At one point, Costales said, Unser turned his vehicle around as if to leave as deputies continued yelling at him. Unser stopped and stepped out of his vehicle with his hands outstretched, he said.

Costales said it appeared that one deputy then made a shoving motion toward Unser.

“I thought, ‘This is getting out of hand,”‘ he said.

Costales testified that Unser got back in his truck and started to leave, and that he heard a deputy say, “That’s it, you’re under arrest.”

“They swung open his door, they grabbed him and threw him face down on the ground into a sticker patch,” Costales said.

The Albuquerque officer said he heard Unser tell officers as he was lying on the ground that he had an injured shoulder.

Asked by defense attorney Charlie Daniels if Unser was resisting, Costales replied, “No, sir, there were three of them on top of him.”

Costales added, “There was a right way of doing things and a rude and hateful way of doing things. I think they chose the latter.”

After Costales’ testimony, Unser was acquitted on all charges.

But the story doesn’t end there. The officers at the roadblock were never even investigated, let alone disciplined. In fact, the only action the Benalillo County sheriff took was to call the APD chief to complain about Costales’ testimony. Costales soon found himself the subject of an internal affairs investigation, one instigated by his own police chief at the behest of the sheriff. The charge? Improperly wearing his uniform while testifying in court. A police spokesperson explained to the local paper that officers are only permitted to wear their uniforms when testifying for the prosecution. When they testify for the defense, they’re to wear street clothes. Make of that what you will.

After the trial, the head of the police union in Albuquerque sent a letter to the Bernalillo County Sheriff apologizing for Costales’ testimony. It read:

As Secretary of the APOA i feel it is my duty and responsibility to apologize to you and your officers. Ofc. Sam Costales does not represent APD/APOA. The majority of our officers look at the BCSO as our brother and sisters in blue. We are embarrassed and ashamed of Ofc. Costales’s testimony in the Unser trial. If there is anything we can do to rebuild the damage caused by Sam please let me know.

Remarkable. Costales wasn’t exactly jumping up and down to sell out his fellow cops. According to a report by one New Mexico non-profit, Costales had retired from the police force three years prior after witnessing to much brutality, and feeling powerless to do anything about it. When APD asked him back as part of an effort to step up street patrols, he agreed, but only after first promising himself and his wife that he’d speak up about any abuses he saw. Even still, Costales spoke up about the Unser incident only after contacted by Unser’s defense team, then testified to what he saw when asked to do so while under oath. Seems to me he’s a pretty credible witness. He had little to gain from selling out his fellow officers (I doubt he was gunning for my “Cop of the Year” award), and quite a bit to lose.

And so much for police unions sticking up for their members, eh? Tell the truth under oath about police abuse in order to prevent a wrongful arrest and conviction, and they’ll drop you like you’ve just been tasered.

The sheriff responded to the union rep:

“Like you, I was shocked and dismayed when I learned that Sam was on the stand sucker-punching our deputies. Make no mistake, while his testimony was a work of fiction, it was pretty much game over after he finished…Sam Costales is incapable of breaking the brotherhood that bonds these great agencies.”

The internal affairs investigation of Costales ended without any formal complaint against him. But it sent a pretty clear message. And the retribution has apparently continued. Last August, Costales filed a federal lawsuit against his department, the sheriff’s department, and the police union:

Officer Sam Costales, in a federal lawsuit filed last week, alleged there’s an unwritten “blue code of silence” in which officers are expected to lie or keep silent to avoid contradicting fellow officers or situations that would make another law enforcement agency look bad.

And he said officers who break that code are punished by “derogatory comments and smear campaigns,” ostracism within the department and retaliation and by other officers refusing to back them up on calls in the field.

[…]

The lawsuit said that despite requests for transfer, Costales remains on patrol in a dangerous neighborhood, under a cloud of hostility, and wonders every time he gets a call whether other officers will back him up.

Costales said criticism by White and Schultz created a hostile and potentially life-threatening work environment and that stress has forced him to seek mental health treatment and take medication for anxiety and sleeplessness.

Seems like the lesson in all of this is clear. There may indeed be only a “few bad apples” in the police force. But if you, as one of the good ones, report their abuses, it’s you who will be punished, not them. This is also why I’m skeptical of police accounts of botched raids, shootings, and other incidents. There’s way too much incentive to lie, way too much protection for liars, and, in those cases where the police actually are at fault, too little protection for cops who do dare to tell the truth.

In my book, Sam Costales is a hero. He’s your Agitator.com “Cop of the Year” for 2007.

http://www.theagitator.com/2008/01/03/cop-of-the-year-2007/

ACTIVISM NOTE: Pass this item on to those of you friends who think all LEO's are like the Sargeant in St. George, MO. Let them know of one hero in blue.

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skidmark
January 4, 2008, 06:19 AM
Sorry, but the cop is no hero. A hero would have stepped up at the time of the incident and intervened. A hero would have filed a written complaint immediately after the fact. A hero would have submitted a written repoort to the DA, requesting a criminal investigation.

This guy waited until he was contacted by the plaintiff's lawyer. Yet your story says he returned to LE on the personal condition that he would speak out about abuses he witnessed. Sounds like he let himself down on this one.

It plain sucks to be a whistle-blower. BTDT. Nobody likes you. Everybody hates you. You come to believe that all three ends of the stick are covered in brown stuff. Even if you don't become paranoid you know everybody is out to get you, and that your rear end is hanging out there all by its lonesome. If you are lucky you will just not get backup - if you are unlucky you will find out that those who are supposed to provide backup are either literally or figuratively shooting at you along with the BGs.

But when it is all over, the question is still, can you look back at the person in the mirror without feeling ashamed? IMNSHO this guy can not. YMMV.

stay safe.

skidmark

El Tejon
January 4, 2008, 09:02 AM
It's a sad day in America when the standard for "hero cop" is telling the truth under oath.:uhoh:

Disclaimer: I know the Unsers from when I used to work at IMS. Even at their present age, I think the police were fools to take on the Unser brothers.:D

wheelgunslinger
January 4, 2008, 09:13 AM
Very True, El Tejon.

But, getting an officer to buck the fraternity and cross the line to stand on the side of someone who is only a citizen is a pretty big deal these days.
Things are just so polarized.

It couldn't have hurt that Big Al is loaded, though.

buzz_knox
January 4, 2008, 09:36 AM
But, getting an officer to buck the fraternity and cross the line to stand on the side of someone who is only a citizen is a pretty big deal these days.

Getting them to buck the fraternity period can be hazardous to their health. During the Tennessee Highway Patrol scandal a couple years back, one trooper cooperated with the investigation into people buying their jobs and other cases of corruption. He ended up having to be reassigned out of concerns for his safety.

F4GIB
January 4, 2008, 10:06 AM
Follow up story on the internal investigation into Costales:

http://www.abqpoa.org/index.php?file=article&name=News&sid=109

[Quote]
Lawyers for famous racing brothers Bobby and Al Unser Sr. fired a two-pronged salvo this week in their legal battle with police and prosecutors.

An attorney for Al Unser Sr. asked the Attorney General's Office to investigate possible witness intimidation in Unser's recent misdemeanor trial on charges of refusing to obey an officer and resisting arrest.

He was acquitted last week after Albuquerque police officer Sam Costales testified he saw deputies pull Unser from his vehicle and throw him to the ground.

Bobby Unser is still awaiting charges stemming from a separate confrontation near a West Side SWAT standoff.

His attorney filed a motion seeking to dismiss the charges, claiming "outrageous police misconduct" on the part of Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz, Sheriff Darren White and police union official James Badway.

His motion also centers on response to the testimony by Costales.

White has said Costales' testimony "sucker-punched" his deputies, and he told Schultz about the testimony in a telephone call.

Schultz said he would initiate an internal investigation into whether Costales had reported his version to superiors, and into why he wore his APD uniform when testifying as a defense witness.

On Friday, APD said it had cleared Costales of any wrongdoing in giving his testimony.

Earlier this week, Costales said he notified his superior and police spokesman John Walsh the day after the incident about what he saw at the roadblock.

The District Attorney's Office was notified that an officer would testify for the defense, and his name appeared on the witness list. He was not interviewed by the prosecution team.

Attorney Robert McNeill, who represented Al Unser Sr. and has stepped in to protect his witness, said in a letter to the Attorney General's Office dated Wednesday that "it was evident that an orchestrated effort to persecute and discredit an honest officer is under way."

McNeill wrote that he is requesting the investigation because during the trial Schultz told the Journal he intended to launch an investigation.
Walsh has said Costales already had been dismissed as a witness when he made his comments.

'Blue wall of silence'

McNeill in his letter also cited an e-mail exchange between White and Badway, secretary of the Albuquerque Police Officers' Association.

In the e-mail, Badway wrote: "As secretary of the APOA ... we are embarrassed and ashamed of Ofc. Costales' testimony."

White responded that "I was shocked and dismayed when I learned that Sam was on the stand sucker-punching our deputies." He also called his testimony "a work of fiction" and said it was "incapable of breaking the brotherhood that bonds these great agencies."

McNeill said the e-mail that was sent anonymously to the Journal "essentially accuses officer Sam Costales of perjury and makes it clear he violated what is termed the 'blue wall of silence' by testifying truthfully in court last week."

Sam Thompson, spokeswoman for Attorney General Patricia Madrid, said the office received the request but will leave it for the next administration to decide.

Just before court closed on Friday, Bobby Unser's attorney, Robert Gorence, filed a motion in Bernalillo County Metro Court seeking to dismiss charges against his client.

He claimed outrageous police misconduct.

Gorence's motion says the e-mail exchange, along with its subsequent media release, "indicates a deliberate attempt to discredit" Costales, a potential witness for Bobby Unser. He said the publicity "significantly influences the potential jury pool."

District Attorney Kari Brandenberg said late Friday that she was out of the office and would like to read the motion by Gorence before commenting.

Costales cleared

APD spokeswoman Trish Hoffman said Friday that the investigation into Costales is over and that no wrongdoing was found.

She said the investigation focused on why Costales testified in his APD uniform.
"It confuses the jury," Hoffman said.

She said it is "common knowledge," not written policy, that to avoid confusing the jury, officers should not wear their uniforms when testifying against other law enforcement agencies.

"Costales has stated he had approval by his chain of command to wear his uniform to court," she said.

In other developments:

Albuquerque Police Officers Union President Ron Olivas said Friday that the e-mail from Badway did not represent the union. He said the union did not authorize Badway to send it.

"I am obligated to protect the interest of each and every officer," Olivas said.
He said he supports Costales and the union is there to see he gets the support he needs.

Costales said earlier that he did nothing wrong in testifying truthfully and that the actions by White, his chief and comments in the e-mail have "cast me in a bad light ... that could bring retaliation."

F4GIB
January 4, 2008, 10:26 AM
Skidmark posted A hero would have stepped up at the time of the incident and intervened.

Here's what came out at the trial.
Pena asked Costales, a supervisor at the roadblock, whether he tried to intervene. Costales said no.

"At no point did you tell them they were doing anything wrong?" Pena asked.

"I was reluctant to get involved," Costales said. "There were two [sheriff's] sergeants who should have taken care of the situation."

http://sports.espn.go.com/rpm/news/story?seriesId=1&id=2697728

Blackfork
January 4, 2008, 11:19 AM
They burned it themselves. It's hard to read about outrages like this and the stories unfolding about prosecutors and DAs and not be very concerned for the country and civil government.

skidmark
January 4, 2008, 02:30 PM
My apologies to Officer Costales for my previous comments, based on Earlier this week, Costales said he notified his superior and police spokesman John Walsh the day after the incident about what he saw at the roadblock. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

I'm still not sure about the "hero" thing, as I lack information about the exact protocol within his agency for reporting misconduct by members of another agency. If the ROE he was operating under mandate that he work only within his chain of command, then he had done all that he was required to do. But doing what you are required to do is still not being a "hero."

There is a legal concept, and prescedent, regarding the greater public good that allows public servants to speak out on an issue that otherwise would be off-limits within their official capacity. Wish my CRS were not so active today so I could recall the specific name of the concept.

IF the facts were as alleged, there was an egregious violation of civil rights which may have permitted Officer Costales to either go directly to the agency of the offending officers or directly to the press. Presuming that to be the case, he did neither.

I'm pleased to see that in the end the original matter will be addressed by the courts. It seems that Officer Costales is going to have to deal with the emnity of his "fellow" officers for some time. I wonderif he can spell hostile work environment?

stay safe.

skidmark

Ragnar Danneskjold
January 4, 2008, 07:17 PM
I'm sorry but truth of this story and other stories completely aside, posting stories like this on THR is just like something the drive by media would do. Reporting 100% of the bad with none of the good. No wonder so many of you have such negative opinions of police: the only thing you ever look at is negative. The hundreds of thousands of police who do the right thing every day and every night just fly right by you, unnoticed.

And BTW, this isn't gun related. IBTL

F4GIB
January 4, 2008, 08:33 PM
taurusowner posted Reporting 100% of the bad with none of the good.

100%. Does that mean you consider Officer Sam Costales and his conduct to be "bad"?

Matt304
January 4, 2008, 08:44 PM
Taurusowner:

Reporting 100% of the bad with none of the good.

Why don't you help fill us in on the "good" which wasn't reported. Tell us about the mighty side of the job those officers performed that day, about how great the side we didn't hear truly was. :rolleyes:

jaholder1971
January 4, 2008, 09:54 PM
Coming from an LEO family as well as being a Union worker all I can say is this:

Costales will be able to retire comfortably in a couple years between the lawsuit against the City and the Police Union.

If I were him, I'd seek the treatment of a Psychiatrist/Psychologist as well as his personal physician who will advise him that he is too stressed to continue working and go out on medical leave, likely paid by the city.

Then it's a matter of hiring the meanest, nastiest blood-thirsty lawyer in town to take his case. Many lawyers, when it comes to cops being wronged take those cases pro bono.

Any Union who throws an brother under the bus, even if the claim against the member is a slam-dunk against him, will end up paying his wages and bennies for the rest of the life of his career.

k_dawg
January 5, 2008, 05:56 PM
This just proves a point: it is not just the individual "bad apple" officer that is the problem. It is each and every single other officer, administration, etc that refuses to expel that bad apple, who is equally evil.

Misconduct by govn't officials is one of the most vile affronts upon the liberty of the citizens. And make no mistake about it, it affects every single last one of the 250+ million citizen's rights.

Ragnar Danneskjold
January 5, 2008, 06:49 PM
Why don't you help fill us in on the "good" which wasn't reported. Tell us about the mighty side of the job those officers performed that day, about how great the side we didn't hear truly was

Go talk to your local PD. See how many of them are criminals. And then see how many stories have been written about them for not being criminals. And then post a THE topic about them not being criminals.

The 99.9% of cops that are good guys are boring, and thus ignored by nearly everyone, THR people included. You only pay attention to the fraction of a fraction of police that are corrupt, and let that image rule your entire judgement about cops in general.

jaholder1971
January 8, 2008, 07:57 PM
The 99.9% of cops that are good guys are boring, and thus ignored by nearly everyone, THR people included. You only pay attention to the fraction of a fraction of police that are corrupt, and let that image rule your entire judgement about cops in general.

Because that fits the mindset of many of the closet anarchists on here posing as Libertarians. Yes, there is real legitimate trouble involving our rights in this country but the only ones talking about it are the Moonbats with no credibility.

F4GIB
January 9, 2008, 12:52 AM
My experience as a lawyer for almost 40 years is that the percentage is way, way below 99.5.

How do you justify all those cops who daily observe brutality and illegality happening and look the other way? The incidents aren't isolated, they're habitual for the officers who act illegally and/or with brutality. But all* (except those real heros like Officer Costales) just look the other way, wink, and often participate in the coverup.

No one made up the "blue wall of silence." The cops create it all by themselves, each day.


*except also, of course, those who post on this Board.

ilbob
January 9, 2008, 04:03 PM
How do you justify all those cops who daily observe brutality and illegality happening and look the other way? The incidents aren't isolated, they're habitual for the officers who act illegally and/or with brutality. But all* (except those real heros like Officer Costales) just look the other way, wink, and often participate in the coverup.

It has occurred to me that maybe it is expecting a little too much for cops to police themselves. Human beings are what they are. It is very easy to let your buddy off the hook for what you might see as a minor infraction, especially if you might have to rely on him to cover your backside some day.

We elect officials to public office every few years. one of their sacred duties is to protect us from government excesses. why is that we let them off the hook when it comes to LE misconduct? why aren't we out for blood from them?

RoadkingLarry
January 9, 2008, 05:11 PM
So it would be OK with you then if Officer Jerkface slapped you wife around a bit and his partner, who is really a good cop, kind of looks the other way because he may have to rely on Officer Jerkface to cover his six some day.

I've said it before, any public official be it cop or congress critter that looks the other way when a colleague commits a breach of public trust whether it’s a brutal cop on the take or a corrupt Senator, is just as dirty as the one who did the deed.

Big Boomer
January 9, 2008, 05:29 PM
sniff-sniff I smell LEO bashing and a thread lock. Any LEO bashing is VERBODEN. :uhoh:

Deacon Blues
January 9, 2008, 06:28 PM
LE is like any other profession in that there is always pressure to "look the other way." I have a reputation as a straight shooter at work; my boss has even tried to recruit me for his personal Gestapo a few times, "because I know you're doing your job right." The fact is, I still watch people break protocol (sometimes my boss :scrutiny:) and end up letting it slide for one reason or another. The difference between my situation and that of the police force is that the things I observe involve stepping around some incommodious corporate policy, whereas a cop may observe serious breeches of the law and human rights. I'm not arguing morality here; dishonestly is wrong in either case, but LEOs have to realize that the blue code of silence can result in serious harm to innocent people. An atmosphere of no accountability results in abuse, no matter how spotless the supposed character of those involved.

No LEO bashing here. I appreciate what they do for society, but I also appreciate that they're prone to the same temptations as the rest of us.

ilbob
January 9, 2008, 06:31 PM
So it would be OK with you then if Officer Jerkface slapped you wife around a bit and his partner, who is really a good cop, kind of looks the other way because he may have to rely on Officer Jerkface to cover his six some day.
I did not say it was OK. I do understand why it is so hard for cops to think much past the idea that the other guy in blue might be the one who saves his butt next week.

I've said it before, any public official be it cop or congress critter that looks the other way when a colleague commits a breach of public trust whether it’s a brutal cop on the take or a corrupt Senator, is just as dirty as the one who did the deed.I agree. So why is it that we allow our elected officials at all levels a complete pass on this problem?

jaholder1971
January 9, 2008, 11:30 PM
How do you justify all those cops who daily observe brutality and illegality happening and look the other way? The incidents aren't isolated, they're habitual for the officers who act illegally and/or with brutality. But all* (except those real heros like Officer Costales) just look the other way, wink, and often participate in the coverup.

I know of one incident where several brother cops went to their chief about one of their own being a little too eager to use force on folks. The chief called the guy in, told him to be a little more discrete in the future.

The vast majority of cops are decent and honest. They have to deal with the scum of the earth 50 percent of the time, police management interested in their own career path and city politics 30 percent of the time and the rest of their time trying to deal with a good public who really doesn't have a clue about how the police work.

Why don't they drop the dime on their own? Their own leadership may not do anything and this same guy may be the one backing you with a shotgun on the next call. Do your 40 hours a week, try not to screw up and get out (retire) as early as you can.

SouthpawShootr
January 9, 2008, 11:40 PM
The chief called the guy in, told him to be a little more discrete in the future.

That seems like more of a "make sure you don't have any witness" directive rather than a verbal reprimand.

The vast majority of cops are decent and honest. They have to deal with the scum of the earth 50 percent of the time, police management interested in their own career path and city politics 30 percent of the time and the rest of their time trying to deal with a good public who really doesn't have a clue about how the police work.

Absolutely agree with this. My best friend is a LEO. Best guy I know. More loyal than my dog. Probaby has a wet nose too.:D I'd probably (certainly would be a better word) be right out there with him, but I was disqualified due to my hearing. Chief and highest upper management are there to limit the city's liability and kiss the mayor's/city manager's backside.

Justin
January 12, 2008, 12:27 PM
Sorry, but this isn't RKBA activism.

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