Former Hobbs Police Officers Sue Department for Racial Discrimination

HOBBS, NM (KRQE) - Three former Hobbs Police officers claiming their bosses encouraged them to target minorities on the job are taking their racial discrimination case to federal court.

According to the lawsuit filed on Oct. 5, two African American officers Brandon Ellis and Vasshawn Robinson and a Caucasian officer Jeremy Artis, are expressing concerns for their safety and constitutional rights of people of color living in Hobbs.

“These officers were told they had to make a certain number of arrests a month and that they should go to the east side to do so,” the plaintiffs’ attorney, Shannon Kennedy said. “And the east of Hobbs is predominantly an African American community and people of color.”

The lawsuit states “officers were directed to make their quota by stopping citizens of color,” and if Ellis didn’t get more stops, he would be written up and could later be placed on a Performance Improvement Program or terminated.

In another incident outlined in the lawsuit, Ellis reported a sergeant failing to stop an officer from frequently using the “N” word.

Then there was a time Ellis was written up because his pocket recorder was not recording at a use-of-force call, though the non-African American officer with him was not written up for not recording the incident, the lawsuit states.

Further allegations claim the discriminatory behavior began in the officers’ training days. The suit says Vasshawn was the only trainee of color and was not allowed to sit at the lunch table. Instead, he had to “stand in a corner.”

The alleged discrimination didn’t end when they left HPD.

“They also have been blackballed within the law enforcement community,” Kennedy said.

They did find jobs within the Lea County Sheriff’s Department making $6 an hour less, but it took them a while. According to the lawsuit, Artis applied to Sandoval County and Sante Fe County Sheriff’s Offices, but lost communication with the hiring powers after speaking with HPD officials.

In addition to damages, they’re wanting to send a message.

“To represent voices, to make change in places like Hobbs,” Kennedy said.

HPD has not been served the lawsuit so it did not offer a statement Monday.

Two of the officers reached out to the Hobbs chapter of the NAACP for help while still working for the department. Kennedy said the NAACP contacted Hobbs Police and former city manager J.J. Murphy, but said nothing changed.

 

(Information from KRQE.com)


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