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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

[NM] BEFORE IT WAS COOL (1997), Wife of a Sheriff's Sgt. filed a lawsuit against the "You don't do blue" policy that denied her protection from her husband

In 1997 Katherine Teupell filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Albuquerque and some law enforcement personnel that claimed a widespread but unwritten APD policy of extending professional courtesy to fellow officers - a "We don't do blue" policy that denied her police protection when she was battered and threatened by her husband, Bernalillo County Sheriff's Deputy Scott Finley.

Excerpts from early articles:

[Mar 2, 1995] Bernalillo County Sheriff's Sgt. Scott Finley, dressed in civilian clothes, stood before Metropolitan Court Judge Frank Gentry and pleaded guilty to three counts of violating a restraining order...  

[Apr 5, 1995] In exchange for the guilty pleas, domestic violence charges of assault, battery and cruelty to children were dropped... Metro Judge Frank Gentry sentenced Finley to three years in jail, minus three days, but deferred two years of that sentence and suspended 354 days of one of the years, leaving 10 days in jail... Finley would not have to spend time in jail but could instead serve time at home...  

[May 24, 1995] Sgt. Finley, originally sentenced to jail time after pleading guilty to violating his estranged wife's restraining orders won't spend any time in jail...  

[Sep 28, 1995] Scott Finley resigned last week...  

[May 22, 1997] In a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Albuquerque and four police officers, Katherine Teupell claims a widespread but unwritten APD policy of extending professional courtesy to fellow officers meant she was denied police protection when she was battered and threatened by her husband... APD officer Cassandra Estrada told a jury in U.S. District Court in Santa Fe that she feared she was committing "career suicide" by telling the truth in the case... [Officer] Estrada said that based on her training that called for protection of domestic violence victims, she disarmed Finley and locked his gun in her police car. Other officers later got the key from her and apparently returned the gun to Finley. Finley called Estrada a "(expletive) rookie"...  

[May 23, 1997] Reports alleging acts of domestic violence by a deputy sheriff against his wife stacked up at the Albuquerque Police Department in 1993 and 1994...  

[May 29, 1997] Jurors deadlocked Wednesday in a case alleging Albuquerque police officers didn't arrest a sheriff's deputy accused of beating his wife simply because he was a fellow officer... Teupell's attorney, Mary Han, said she would amend the lawsuit to add supervisors, including the chief of police, as defendants. "You live to fight another day," she said. "I'm ready to try this case again tomorrow."

Ex-Wife Says Other Officers Let Deputy Husband Off Easy

Albuquerque Journal
Scott Sandlin
June 26, 1998

Police agencies denied having a "We don't do blue" policy in dealing with an officer accused of beating his wife.

But taxpayers footed the bill for $235,000 to settle legal claims against the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department and the Albuquerque Police Department by Katherine Teupell, who alleged police extended "professional courtesy" to her cop husband, Scott Finley, when she reported domestic abuse.

Although APD responded to her calls in 1993 and 1994, Finley, then with the sheriff's department, was not arrested. Instead, domestic violence reports were routed to the District Attorney's Office -- in some cases, months later -- and got lost in the shuffle.

Eventually Finley, 40, who resigned from the department and no longer lives in New Mexico, pleaded guilty in 1995 to three counts of violating a court order barring domestic violence.

Five years after her first call to police, Teupell, 34, is still emotional when she speaks about her experience.

"He took so much away from me," she said of her ex-husband, a one- time member of former Sheriff Ray Gallagher's elite Crime Suppression Unit in the sheriff's department.

Teupell testified she fled from her home with her children, then ages 6 and 2, still in pajamas, on the night of Oct. 18, 1993, after Finley beat her. She also called police.

Although APD officer Cassandra Estrada, who responded to the call, took Finley's police revolver from him, it was returned by other officers who later took over at the scene, according to her testimony.

Teupell never went back to the house except to pick up clothes -- and those, she testified, had been ripped, stuffed into a bag, urinated on and left in the front yard.

Besides losing her home and possessions, Teupell said of Finley, "He took my dignity, my pride, my self-esteem."

And she said the law enforcement response robbed her of hope.

Teupell said she called police a total of seven times after that first night for various encounters with Finley.

Teupell was to have gone back to trial this week in federal court in Santa Fe on her claims against APD when the case settled for a reported $125,000.

The settlement resolves two lawsuits: Teupell's original claim against both agencies and a later complaint that included APD supervisors. The second lawsuit was filed after a jury deadlocked on APD's liability in a May 1997 trial.

State Risk Management, which insured the sheriff's office at the time, settled with Teupell before the 1997 trial for $110,000, according to General Services spokesman Mark Moores.

Santa Fe attorney Karen Kilgore, who defended APD, said Thursday the cases had been settled for "nuisance value," with the city admitting no liability, and that final papers have not been signed.

"Our position is that the city and the individual officers acted appropriately," she said. "There is no 'professional courtesy' policy -- to the contrary, there is a policy against that."

Teupell's attorney, Mary Han, said, "I hope Katherine's case reminds law enforcement that this kind of conduct won't be swept under the rug. I hope they understand how destructive it is ... when they don't do anything when a victim cries out. We give police officers badges and guns because we trust them to protect us."

Teupell said she wants to set up a support group for other women in the same predicament -- and she has no doubt they exist.

Teupell and Han said they got anonymous phone calls from women during the trial, and Teupell has had friends and co-workers tell her of women they know with similar experiences.

Sgt. Louis Armijo, APD's head of the Domestic Abuse Response Team, testified at trial that calls involving Finley had been improperly handled and Finley could have been arrested after the first call in October 1993. He was never arrested.

Armijo declined comment on the settlement. But he confirmed APD is seeking a federal grant for nearly $500,000, one component of which would place a victim advocate at APD devoted solely to domestic violence situations involving police.

Teupell testified during the May 1997 trial that among Finley's control mechanisms were putting quarters on the tires of her car to make sure she hadn't gone anywhere while he was gone.

He controlled the family finances, and toward the end, she was forced to perform sexual favors to get money from Finley to attend to her own personal hygiene needs, she testified.

Teupell said she was on a roller coaster with Finley, whose violent outbursts would typically be followed by presents or trips, a period of calm and promises that it would never happen again.

When Teupell threatened to call police, Finley's response was "Go ahead and call. How can you break the law when you are the law?" she testified.


  1. "Go ahead, call the police. I am the law."

  2. Cloud Writer, thank you a million times for posting this, I have so much faith in me and because of you and so many others, I will continue forward.

    God bless you!

    Much love and respect,

    Rosa Torres-Sadler

  3. Keep that faith. It's not just about the money - but agencies and municipalities held LIABLE are more inclined to pay attention next time - not because they care (because they don't but) because it costs them money. The sad truth.

    I can't imagine what this brave woman did back then. Now there are so many hands to hold or encouragers behind the scenes - even when justice itself is elusive.

    She's one of our SHEroes. :)


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