Monday, December 05, 2016

County settles suit over traffic stop by cross-commissioned officer

Santa Fe County has agreed to pay $75,000 to a man who claims a Pojoaque Pueblo police officer assaulted him after a traffic stop seven years ago. Tribal Officer Glen Gutierrez was acting under authority of the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office when he pulled over Jose Luis Loya of El Paso on a claim that the motorist was driving recklessly. The settlement, reached last month, is the final installment in a yearslong dispute over which government agency is legally responsible when officers from other jurisdictions who are cross-commissioned by the sheriff are sued. Santa Fe County since then has discontinued the practice of cross-commissioning officers unless the partner agency agrees to accept liability for its own officers...But in May 2015, the state Supreme Court ruled that the previous judges had gotten it wrong and that Santa Fe County was responsible for defending Gutierrez. “Officer Gutierrez was acting in an official capacity as a duly-sworn sheriff’s deputy; he could not have legally arrested Loya, a non-Indian, any other way,” Justice Richard Bosson wrote in the opinion. “When Officer Gutierrez made the arrest he was acting on behalf of the county, not the pueblo.” Bosson also wrote that the sheriff’s office had the power to set requirements for cross-commissioned officers but hadn’t done so. Following the Supreme Court’s decision, the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office revoked commission agreements it had with more than a dozen agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, the EspaƱola Police Department and the Rio Arriba County Sheriff’s Office...more

You can read the opinion by going here.

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