February 19, 2001, Monday Copyright 2001 Albuquerque Journal Albuquerque Journal February 19, 2001, Monday Editorials
(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) -- It was not a "routine traffic stop" certainly not from the perspective of the driver; nor should it be from the viewpoint of the Albuquerque Police Department brass.
The driver, Roger Brooks, sued the city, which now owes him $30,000 after an arbitrator decided in his favor.
That figure alone moves the incident beyond the realm of routine. So do Brooks' allegations. According to his lawsuit, Brooks was experiencing fatigue as a result of diabetes; he needed insulin to control his blood sugar level.
Brooks left work for home to get insulin. Hurrying, he failed to make a complete stop at an intersection within a 10-second drive from his house, according to the suit. He was pulled over for that infraction.
Brooks immediately told the officer he had "a medical emergency and needed to get home and take medication"; the officer ignored Brooks plea and returned to his squad car to process the citation, according to the suit.
When Brooks approached the squad car to show the officer a diabetes medical alert card, according to the suit, the officer reacted by handcuffing Brooks and forcing him to the ground. Brooks blacked out, according to the suit, and came to in a hospital intensive care unit.
Assistant City Attorney Kathryn Levy says the city disputes Brooks' account. No doubt. Lawsuit allegations are a more reliable source of overstatement than objective truth. Two points, however, indicate some basis to Brooks' suit: there is no record the officer filed a citation, and the arbitrator, former District Judge Woody Smith, found against APD.
Levy says the officer acted appropriately under the circumstances, a position from which one hopes most officers and commanders dissent, at least in private.
Under such circumstances, officers should consult with supervisors if they can't exercise discretion to accommodate what may be a medical emergency. If a citizen cannot be allowed to proceed to a destination 10 seconds away for medication and be cited afterward, the officer should call for emergency medical personnel.
A five-day stop in a hospital ICU is cruel, unusual and totally inappropriate punishment for rolling through a stop sign; APD should ensure such circumstances don't recur.