POSTED: Friday, November 12, 2010 - 2:44pm
UPDATED: Sunday, November 21, 2010 - 5:12pm
An El Paso police officer who's been sued at least twice for excessive force is now on permanent desk duty.
Officer Steven Smith is working in an intelligence center and not on the street after being accused of using excessive force. We're told the decision to put Smith on the desk came this week, but we weren't told an exact day. This comes three years after one incident resulted in a $15,000 lawsuit against the city, and a few days after another lawsuit was filed, and the same week we began running stories on officer Smith.
"It sounds to me like sweeping dirt under a rug, I mean, the dirt's still there," says a man who claims an El Paso Police officer beat him during what should have been a routine traffic stop three years ago. He fears retaliation and doesn't want us to disclose his identity, so we're calling him Miguel. The officer involved, Steven Smith, was taken off the street and put on permanent desk duty this week.
"It's a start," Miguel said. "It's definitely baby steps but steps nonetheless." He says he was surprised with the news of the lateral transfer, especially after he found out from a source in the department that smith was up for promotion.
"I've sat here for three years and absolutely nothing has been done, and I come to you guys and it seemed like almost immediately he's been transferred," Miguel said.
David Almonte, the deputy city manager for public safety as of October 1, says that he believes the 20-hour paid suspension for Smith was appropriate, and that the excessive force claims cannot be substantiated because you cannot see the incident in the video, you can only hear it. He also says that the planning for a new regional training facility for police and fire is underway but the design won't get approved for another couple of years. The training would include the proper tactics for vehicle pursuits and for high-speed chases, training that Almonte says is desperately needed in El Paso.
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