LA County Sheriffs Dept. Fined $3.8m for Excessive Force. And?


“On Tuesday afternoon at the federal courthouse in downtown, Fitzgerald awarded $3.8 million to Angel Mendez [above, right], and $222,000 to his wife, Jennifer, for damages resulting from Fourth Amendment violations by two L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies who shot the Mendezes in their makeshift home,” reports. And killed their German shepherd. While it’s gratifying to see Mr. and Mrs. Mendez get their day in court and a chance at a better life, what exactly does this accomplish in terms of stopping the police from trampling all over American’s Constitutional rights? The LA Sheriff Office’s 2013 budget (currently the subject of a forensic audit) is $2.69 billion.The $4m payout is a relative pittance. Besides, who cares? The taxpayer’s paying the bill. Just like they did in another recent case in Washington State . . .

Lawyers say Bellingham has agreed to pay $15,000 to a man who was threatened by a police officer for wearing a holstered gun in a city park.

John Laigaie III is a 64-year-old, retired U.S. Army master sergeant and Second Amendment advocate. He says he was walking his dog in the park on Dec. 19, 2011, and openly carrying his 9 mm handgun on his hip when an officer approached him, demanded identification and told him it was illegal to have a gun in the park.

Laigaie says that when he told the officer it wasn’t illegal and offered to show him a copy of the state law, the officer drew his gun and pointed it at Laigaie’s chest from three feet away.

The report [via] reveals that the City also agreed to train police and 911 operators to avoid a repeat performance. One can only imagine the cops’ eyes glazing over during said instruction.

And so on. Remembering that these are just two of hundreds if not thousands of cases where the courts “punish” police for over-zealousness by “rewarding” victims. Not to mention all the cases where victims got bupkis. Or cases that were never brought.

Again, what’s changed? Our man Ralph, an ex-lawyer who made a good living kicking bad cops’ asses, reckons there’s nothing for it—save putting people who respect the Constitution into positions of power. Others believe that there’s a more immediate and powerful answer: remove the immunity protecting cops from the consequences of their actions.

While the chances of that happening in the unionized police state in which we live are slim, the question remains: is that a good idea? Or would personal po-po liability open the door to shysters who’d work the system to line their pockets while hamstringing law enforcement?  Here’s a quote from one of the lawyers who extracted the four mil for Mr. and Mrs. Mendez illustrating the dilemma:

Gerald Ryckman, a partner on the case with David Drexler, thought the damage amount awarded by the judge should have been higher to signal that police brutality is not acceptable.

Describing the $3.8 million as a “tap on the [Sheriff’s Department’s] wrist” to the Weekly, Ryckman asked rhetorically, “What is it worth for a person to be without his leg for the rest of his life?”

Your thoughts? [h/t Peter G]