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Good Intention Policing Gone Very Wrong
Police work can be sloppy and reckless and break people's lives into pieces
Scene: Someone — a teenager — is arrested for murder, has their name communicated in a negative, surreal light in the media and public — and is jailed. They and their family have to strategize how to create a winning defense and suffer the process and anxiety.
Yet, this person didn’t commit the crime and the police didn’t want to hear otherwise.
Four long years later: The city of Albuquerque pays out a $700,000 settlement for their error. The Albuquerque Journal story by Matthew Reisen reported on it.
City spokeswoman Ava Montoya said “it was in the interest of all parties (cough, cough) to resolve the case.”
The city will also assist in the expungement of Estrada’s record. That’s nice.
The helpers win: The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico represented Gisell Estrada alongside law firm Ives & Flores and announced the settlement.
Can you believe this…police detective Jessie Carter and Albuquerque Public Schools employees, Reisen reported, misidentified Estrada as the suspect in a 2019 homicide.
Estrada, then 17-years old, was jailed for six days until an accomplice charged in the case told Carter he had the wrong girl. Oops.
Traumatizing, to say the least and Estrada admits as much. She says, “she still has nightmares from the ordeal and any time she is driving and sees an officer nearby, Estrada is paralyzed with fear,” Reisen writes.
How could she not?
“It affected me, my life, my feelings, my education,” she says. “Everything, it just affected everything.”
As for the players in the case, “Carter, a former homicide detective with the Albuquerque Police Department, was suspended for 32 hours without pay for the mistaken identity. Rick Ingram, a former homicide sergeant and Carter’s supervisor at the time, was given a letter of reprimand.
“Both Carter and Ingram have since left the homicide unit but stayed in law enforcement.”
Something critical to remember here for the courts and public:
“Despite the settlement and expungement, the case can follow Estrada for life with a simple Google search,” says ACLU-NM Deputy Director Leon Howard.
“I think people have a natural tendency to think, ‘OK, she was arrested, maybe wrongfully, but she was running with the wrong crowd or there’s some sort of reason that this happened to her,’” Howard says of reality. “And this is truly a case that she was picked out of thin air. So having this public, that she had absolutely nothing to do with it, will hopefully help her anxiety around people searching her name and finding the connection that she was arrested for murder.”
I would imagine however if one were to go back in time and listen to what people were saying publicly and online, not everyone was patient to learn the facts, evidence and truth. There is always a rush to judgment. Jumping to conclusions is what we do as humans.
“…calling the APD’s work sloppy and negligent is an understatement,” Howard says.
A wrecking ball was used on Estrada’s life, her emotions and psychology, harmed her loved ones as well and the impact and wounds will stay with Estrada to some degree — small, significant or overwhelming — the rest of her life.
Does she fully have her name back? Is $700 k sufficient if we forget who is paying it?
Michael Toebe writes “Reputation Notes” and is the founder and specialist at Reputation Quality, a practice that serves and assists successful people and organizations in further building reputation as an asset and responsibly, ethically protecting, restoring or reconstructing it.
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