Suit: Hobbs made po­lice of­fi­cers tar­get mi­nori­ties

Lawyer says men faced racial slurs, re­tal­i­a­tion at agency

Santa Fe New Mexican - - LOCAL & REGION -

HOBBS — A po­lice de­part­ment forced of­fi­cers to tar­get peo­ple of color in mi­nor­ity neigh­bor­hoods to make quo­tas, re­tal­i­ated against those who com­plained and sub­jected black of­fi­cers to hu­mil­i­at­ing episodes of dis­crim­i­na­tion, ac­cord­ing to a law­suit by three for­mer po­lice of­fi­cers.

Lawyers for the one white and two black plain­tiffs re­cently filed the law­suit in U.S. Dis­trict Court al­leg­ing racial dis­crim­i­na­tion and re­tal­i­a­tion within the Hobbs Po­lice De­part­ment.

The law­suit says for­mer Of­fi­cer Bran­don El­lis, who is black, was or­dered to make at least 80 traf­fic stops a month and en­cour­aged to get stops on the east side of Hobbs, a mostly black and Latino area.

The law­suit claimed El­lis was told he would be writ­ten up and could be placed on an im­prove­ment pro­gram or fired if he didn’t get more stops.

Court doc­u­ments also said El­lis heard another of­fi­cer use a racial slur, and said for­mer Of­fi­cer Vasshawn Robin­son, who is black, was ex­cluded dur­ing his train­ing from eat­ing lunch with white trainees.

Jeremy Ar­tis, who is white, joined El­lis and Robin­son in the law­suit.

“Each plain­tiff en­dured sub­se­quent re­tal­ia­tory ac­tions for re­port­ing racial dis­crim­i­na­tion and for as­so­ci­at­ing with one another,” the law­suit said.

The sit­u­a­tion led the of­fi­cers to seek em­ploy­ment else­where, the law­suit claims.

In a state­ment, the city of Hobbs said it had not been no­ti­fied of the law­suit.

“Once the par­ties have been served, the spe­cific al­le­ga­tions will be ap­pro­pri­ately re­viewed and a re­sponse will oc­cur,” the city said.

The city also said al­le­ga­tions of pol­icy vi­o­la­tions are taken se­ri­ously.

“The Hobbs Po­lice De­part­ment has worked hard through nu­mer­ous com­mu­nity part­ner­ships and pro­grams to grow re­la­tion­ships in our com­mu­nity be­tween the de­part­ment and our ci­ti­zens,” the state­ment said. “It is un­for­tu­nate that the in­di­vid­u­als, along with this law firm, have cho­sen this path to paint the Hobbs Po­lice De­part­ment in such a neg­a­tive light.”

Al­bu­querque civil rights at­tor­ney Shan­non Kennedy, who is rep­re­sent­ing the for­mer of­fi­cers, told the Hobbs News-Sun that they now work for the Lea County Sher­iff’s Of­fice.

“The pur­pose of this law­suit is more than just rec­og­niz­ing that these three men were tar­geted — it’s say­ing ‘hey, how do we move for­ward as a com­mu­nity and a coun­try’ so that po­lice de­part­ments can ac­tu­ally do ef­fec­tive, con­sti­tu­tional, com­mu­nity polic­ing,” Kennedy told the news­pa­per.

“It is un­for­tu­nate that the in­di­vid­u­als, along with this law firm, have cho­sen this path to paint the Hobbs Po­lice De­part­ment in such a neg­a­tive light.” City of Hobbs state­ment

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