ALBUQUERQUE — An Albuquerque police officer has sued his boss and the Bernalillo County sheriff, alleging he has been defamed and retaliated against since testifying against Bernalillo County deputies in a resisting arrest trial.
Officer Sam Costales, in a federal lawsuit filed last week, alleged there's an unwritten "blue code of silence" in which officers are expected to lie or keep silent to avoid contradicting fellow officers or situations that would make another law enforcement agency look bad.
And he said officers who break that code are punished by "derogatory comments and smear campaigns," ostracism within the department and retaliation and by other officers refusing to back them up on calls in the field.
Costales is seeking unspecified damages.
His lawsuit, which alleges violations of civil rights, was filed against Police Chief Ray Schultz, Sheriff Darren White, Albuquerque Police Officer Association secretary James Badway, the police department, the sheriff's office and five officers identified as John Does.
A spokeswoman for White said Tuesday he had not received the complaint and could not comment. The deputy city attorney who handles such complaints is out of the country
and unavailable for comment, her office said Tuesday.
Four-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Sr. was arrested in August 2006 on charges of disobeying police orders to leave a roadblock at a crime scene near his property. Unser was acquitted last December.
Costales, 52, was subpoenaed by the defense and testified on Unser's behalf, telling jurors he saw deputies pull Unser from his vehicle and throw him to the ground. His testimony, in which he described deputies' actions as "rude" and unprofessional, contradicted sheriff's deputies.
Schultz later announced an internal investigation into whether Costales had reported his version to superiors and into why he wore his police uniform when testifying; the department subsequently cleared Costales of any wrongdoing.
The lawsuit said Costales witnessed the deputies' "rough treatment and improper arrest of Mr. Unser and it made him sick to his stomach."
He said he reported the alleged misconduct to his superior, but neither the police or sheriff's departments investigated. He also alleged that instead of investigating deputies' actions, White called Schultz to complain about Costales' testimony.
The lawsuit said that despite requests for transfer, Costales remains on patrol in a dangerous neighborhood, under a cloud of hostility, and wonders every time he gets a call whether other officers will back him up.
Costales said criticism by White and Schultz created a hostile and potentially life-threatening work environment and that stress has forced him to seek mental health treatment and take medication for anxiety and sleeplessness.