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,” blogs.laweekly.com 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 komononews.com] 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]

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

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

  1. avatarJeremy says:

    Headline should be edited to “LA County sheriff” and not “LA Police.” those two entities are wholly separate. They have different budgets, leadership and answer to different authorities.

  2. avatarFrank Masotti says:

    Yeah well what else is new for LAPD?

  3. avatar5spot says:

    When did Vince McMahon of the World Wide Wrestling Fed. become an attorney?

  4. avatarRalph says:

    what exactly does this accomplish in terms of stopping the police from trampling all over American’s Constitutional rights?

    Aside from making money for the lawyers (like me), it does nothing. The only thing that will change the status quo is when home invaders in uniform are sent home in body bags and citizens do not get sent to prison for defending themselves.

    • avatarLolinski says:

      Main problem is the divide between Police and non-police. Here in Norway two officers left a loaded and ready MP5 in their front
      seat while they got some coffee and stuff. They got a slap on the wrist (suspended for 3 weeks or was it 2 months). But if I dont have a tested and approved gun safe/locker If I have more than 2-3 manual-action guns or 1 semi auto. Then I will most likely lose my gun rights.

    • avatarAnonymous says:

      That’s basically what happened at Waco. Look what happened to them. There is no justice for those slaughtered by the state. Meanwhile the statists and those of the left believe the totally fake stories spewed from the mouth of mainstream media and support the states illegal actions and the rest of us turn our heads and do nothing.

  5. avatarPascal says:

    “The LA Sheriff Office’s 2013 budget (currently the subject of a forensic audit) is $2.69 billion.”

    That is probably more than the defense budget of some countries. This seems totally insane. More insane, that the linked article has a video saying that department does not believe it is enough and wants more!

    As per topic, removing complete immunity does not make sense because honest mistakes can be made, but if they are found to have violated civil rights, then yes, they should be held accountable and should be forced to defend themselves on their own dime. I am talking about the many 1st and 4th amendment violations.

    It would help if the top brass is also held accountable

    • avatarRuss Bixby says:

      Were I to have through bungling lost an employer nearly $4 million, I should expect to be fired and no longer employable in the same field.

      Unless, of course, I should be an LEO. Or a politician. Or a banker..

  6. avatarWA_2A says:

    I believe that these fines should be paid by the officer(s) responsible, as well as their future pay if necessary. I also think they should be punished with prison time rather than paid administrative leave.

    But, hey, I’m not holding my breath. The status quo continues.

    • avatarAPBTFan says:

      I bet if f*ck-ups like that started coming out of their overall pension fund things would change right away.

      • avatarWA_2A says:

        Apparently when cameras were put on police officers the number of times force was used decreased by more than half, and complaints decreased 88%. It protects citizens from police brutality, and police from false accusations of police brutality.

        Sources, for anyone interested:

        http://www.pressherald.com/news/police-officers-in-maine-wear-cameras-like-badge_2013-08-18.html?pagenum=full

        http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/cameras-proposed-stop-frisk-judge-ca-police-article-1.1426025

      • avatarrosignol says:

        Make the Police Union pay the premiums for the insurance policy that covers the judgements on these cases, not the taxpayers.

        Once the good cops realize that when the a-holes use excessive force they’re really hitting the other cops in the wallet, they’ll be drummed out of the force.

        Every cop knows who the jerks on the force are. But they don’t want to speak up because you never know who’s going to be responding when they’re the one calling for backup, and ‘because he’s a dick’ generally isn’t enough to get someone fired.

        • avatarStinkeye says:

          I like the idea of making the police unions pony up the insurance premiums. It does provide incentive for the good cops to clean house and get rid of the bad apples. But it also provides more incentive for police to cover up their wrongdoing, too. Right now, there’s really not much reason for cops to cover up any but the most ridiculously egregious cases of excessive force and the like, since most of the time, the individual officers only end up with a couple days of “administrative leave” and no further punishment.

          How it would shake out in reality would probably depend on the ratio of good vs. bad guys in any given police department.

    • avatarJeremyR says:

      It needs to be a multipronged approach.
      1. Not one penny of tax dollars should be used to pay a judgement.
      2. The officer responsible should fork over every last cent he has, and leave the court in an outfit fashioned from news paper and duct tape. The spouse woud be allowed to keep one outfit, but no house, no car, no boat no savings. Any attempt to hide or shelter assets would merit a death sentence.
      3. The supervisor should accompany him in like fashion, but with out testicles. Public castration, and not by a doctor.
      4. The highest elected official to whom the responsible officer reports should also be stripped of all assets, and castrated. That would either be the mayor, Sheriff, or Governor, or in the case of the Ferral Bullshit Instigators, the pResident.
      5. The budget for what ever department should be reduced by 25% for a minimum of five years.
      6. The retirement budget for the department, or the police union should be required to fork over the balance up to 150% of assets. Every officer member of that union would bear responsibility for that debt.
      7. require officers to maintain individual insurance policies just like owners of dangerous dogs do.
      OK, I know I’m a bit harsh, but police are paid to take a risk, not shoot first and hide evidence later.

  7. avatarNCG says:

    Under NY’s Stop and Frisk, unarmed black teens regulary get guns pointed at them by cops. If they each got $15K for their trouble, it would really add up, and probably provide an economic stimulus. But they’re not elderly white veterans with lawyers, so no dice.

    I’m really interested in how the out of control Police State is becoming an issue for the far -ish Left and Right, while the Middle just kind of keeps chewing its cud. R.F. and Al Sharpton could probably have an amiable conversation if the subject was strictly limited to excessive use of force by police.

  8. avatarIndigo88 says:

    The police do get a bit too generous of a pass on things, but it’d be chaos to do away with their immunity completely. Maybe in egregious cases they lose the immunity, in whole or in part & get treated like any other citizen.

    I am quite sick & tired of hearing all the things cops/politicians/etc. get away with that would normally give any of us “regular folk” a one way trip to experience “Big Bubba’s” bedside manner…

    I dunno. Something needs to be done though or things well never change for the better. Why would they bother abiding by the laws in place & respecting the rights of everyone if they aren’t forced to through punishment of some significance?

  9. avatarjwm says:

    Nation wide constitutional carry would be a small step in the right direction. After all, an armed society is a polite society.

    Nationwide community oversight of LEO’s comes to mind also. With the authority to suspend without pay and fire if needed.

    I for one accept that in a large and mobile society such as ours we need good men and women with badges doing what’s right to secure our communities. But those men and women need to be responsive to the needs of the community and it shouldn’t require lengthy and costly court cases to force a response.

  10. avatarStinkeye says:

    That photo really says it all. The lawyer is all smiles, because he’s probably the one pocketing the bulk of that $3.8M…

    • avatarIn Memphis says:

      No kidding. Looks like he could use some (or more) plastic surgery. The man doesnt even look real, more like he was photoshopped in to the pic and airbrushed like a model. His head looks pretty small on thoes huge @ss shoulders too.

  11. avatarAharon says:

    How much could I get from the LA Sheriff if one of their boys or girls shot at me and the bullet just grazed my left arm?

  12. avatarMark says:

    Good for MR. and Mrs. Mendez. The problem is that the individual officer is usually never held accountable. IT is the agency, taxpayer, who picks up the tab.
    One of the big problems is the huge disparity between the force the police can use vs the force a citizen can use in self defense. Whatever the police do is generally explained away by the, “He was just following procedure” explanation. I my state any kind of defense against police thuggery will result in felony charges of assault on a police officer. Since there is a presumption of guilt once a person is charged and any testimony the defendant gives will be considered to be self serving and subsequently ignored, someone who is the victim of police assault usually does not have much of a chance in court. A government paid minion, the judge, sitting in judgement on the actions of a government paid minion, the officer, is a bit incestuous. Besides, who has to foot the fill for the trial? The taxpayer picks up the tab for the state prosecution/defense and the victim (defendant) has to impoverish himself to defend against unjust activity.
    I don’t believe that the police should have greater rights to self defense than we do. We should not have to stand by and submit to being a victim under threat of felony charges and financial ruin. We should not have to be “dead right” in a confrontation initiated by police. If someone does felony crime that is one thing, robbery, rape etc. is different than being grabbed and guns pointed at you because the police want to feel safe. We do too. This needs to change or there needs to be retribution by the people.

    • avatargs650g says:

      If lawsuits mean less money for tanks, guns and rodeo clown cops maybe they will wise up.
      If Mendez had a 12 gauge and popped them both for storming his house the others would have laid him out with the dog. I disagree with Ralph on his point about civilians not being charged sine you have to survive to face charges.

  13. avatarEagleScout87 says:

    Most low information voters will only rejoice saying “good, they deserve that money!” instead of being outraged that “hey, that’s 4 million we tax payers just had to shell out because of this overreach! that needs to be fixed asap!”

  14. avatarSoccerchainsaw says:

    Should police officers be held personally financially liable for their actions on the job?
    As an engineer, the company I work for indemifies me from liability for my work products. Would I want that liability? Would I be willing to risk my family’s financial future in today’s “sue-happy” society? Would anyone be willing to be a cop if they faced the same financial risks on top of the physical risks they already face?
    Seems to me the only risk they should face is unemployment if they have been trained properly and don’t follow that training. Futher, the unemployment line should be seen by the management team that allowed the bad behavior.
    Of course we can also look at the private sector model that threatens imprisonment for a company CEO when that company violates environmental laws. When that risk was introduced to the CEO’s, companies suddenly became more proactive in their inhouse environmental compliance programs.

    • avatarRuss Bixby says:

      I’m an engineer as well — an EE.

      When I was working in that field, I was indemnified against unreasonable repercussions to incidents arising from honest error.

      However, there was accountability. Were I to screw off on the job, a building might burn down and a thousand people die.

      In the event of demonstrable negligence on whatever scale, my ass would’ve been out the door quicker than someone could shout “He’s Spartacus!”

      In the event of malfeasance, of course, far worse consequences would and should ensue.

      Officers of course should not face criminal prosecution or civil liability when an oblivious driver wanders in front of a cruiser and gets T-boned into an early grave

      However, in a clear case of abuse of power, they should be tied to stakes, covered with honey and left for the ants.

      A perfect case in point was when Oscar Grant III was murdered by officer Johannesburg Mehserle.

      While it’s true that a jury believed him when he said that he thought he’d grabbed his TASER rather than his firearm, and that he might even have been telling the truth, his “opps defense” makes no substantive difference.

      At the very least, he had intended to TASE a compliant, non-resisting subject who was lying prone on the ground. That is police torture, an officer deploying a “non-lethal” weapon for the thrill of it, and is far more serious than police brutality.

      Ask Robert Dziekański if it’s a non-lethal weapon. Oh, wait — you can’t, at least not without the aid of a spirit medium.

      It’s also a felony. Oh, we as a societyaccept it, and even expect it, but in point of fact it’s still technically and highly illegal.

      Further, a death caused during the commission of a felony is automatically murder. At lease for we peones y campesinos.

      The department, courts and media held to the “wrongful death”and “tragic accident” lines, but the incident was far more.

      In the Jim Crow south, the KKK had pretty much a license to kill. That baton has now been passed along to others who sneer from behind a badge rather than hiding under a sheet.

      Bloody Mehserle suffered no real consequences.

      This thug is of course hardly representative of the LEO community as a whole – just as the Batman shooter is hardly representative of American gun owners.

      However, any position of power and immunity — be it CPS, law enforcement or until recently the Priesthood — will attract its share of predatory and vile people seeking to feed their sociopathic cravings.

      The LEO community had best address soon and with good effect this before they spawn another Pancho Villa.

    • avatarRuss Bixby says:

      I’m an engineer as well — an EE.

      When I was working in that field, I was indemnified against unreasonable repercussions to incidents arising from honest error.

      However, there was accountability. Were I to screw off on the job, a building might burn down and a thousand people die.

      In the event of demonstrable negligence on whatever scale, my ass would’ve been out the door quicker than someone could shout “He’s Spartacus!”

      In the event of malfeasance, of course, far worse consequences would and should ensue.

      Officers of course should not face criminal prosecution or civil liability when an oblivious driver wanders in front of a cruiser and gets T-boned into an early grave

      However, in a clear case of abuse of power, they should be tied to stakes, covered with honey and left for the ants.

      A perfect case in point was when Oscar Grant III was murdered by officer Johannesburg Mehserle.

      While it’s true that a jury believed him when he said that he thought he’d grabbed his TASER rather than his firearm, and that he might even have been telling the truth, his “opps defense” makes no substantive difference.

      At the very least, he had intended to TASE a compliant, non-resisting subject who was lying prone on the ground. That is police torture, an officer deploying a “non-lethal” weapon for the thrill of it, and is far more serious than police brutality.

      Ask Robert Dziekański if it’s a non-lethal weapon. Oh, wait — you can’t, at least not without the aid of a spirit medium.

      It’s also a felony. Oh, we as a societyaccept it, and even expect it, but in point of fact it’s still technically and highly illegal.

      Further, a death caused during the commission of a felony is automatically murder. At least for we peones y campesinos.

      The department, courts and media held to the “wrongful death”and “tragic accident” lines, but the incident was far more.

      In the Jim Crow south, the KKK had pretty much a license to kill. That baton has now been passed along to others who sneer from behind a badge rather than hiding under a sheet.

      Bloody Mehserle suffered no real consequences.

      This thug is of course hardly representative of the LEO community as a whole – just as the Batman shooter is hardly representative of American gun owners.

      However, any position of power and immunity — be it CPS, law enforcement or until recently the Priesthood — will attract its share of predatory and vile people seeking to feed their sociopathic cravings.

      The LEO community had best address this soon and with good effect before they spawn another Pancho Villa.

      • avatarNCG says:

        Very well said. I understand that LEOs get the benefit of the doubt, but that’s a lot different than absolutely immunity from the consequences of willful misconduct.

        While all the cops of I’ve known (not many), and dealt with (a few) have been perfectly reasonable, even when I was a young scruffy long haired college kid (from Houston, where I was taught at an early age the art of obsequiousness in the presence of cops – “yes, Sir, no, Sir”), I think a certain herd mentality tends to take over, and it tends to be the sociopathic alpha-male types who set the tone. Here in Portland, a few cops seem to cause most of the law suits. I can’t find his name, but the city settled several suits totalling well into the six figures because of one bad egg, until he finally got fired (I think maybe even the union told him it was time to go) and then hired by some rural Sheriff’s dept. This guy was liable to go off at any moment. He broke a terrified middle-aged mom’s arm because she wasn’t responding to his shouted orders fast enough during a simple traffic stop, among other heroic deeds.

        We need higher standards and more rigorous psych testing for these “public servants.” One cop I know said quality went way down when PDX cops were no longer required to have at least a bachelors degree, a move which caused a lot of cops to migrate from LA. Also, I think they should wear cameras with sound (I mean, they now carry like 50lbs of gear and body armor anyway), and every thing they do should be public record. I’m not saying instantly available on the Internet, but definitely available to anyone who is involved in an incident, or is willing to fill out a form to get the video. I’m sure you’ve seen the dashcam videos where the cop walks the suspect off camera, and next time we see the suspect, he’s had the shit beat out of him.

    • avatarRuss Bixby says:

      Hey MODERATOR! This thing duplicated my comment. Might you delete the first instance…?

      Thanks

  15. avatarAccur81 says:

    In a better world, a crime is a crime regardless of the name, rank, and occupation of the criminal. Clearly that is not the case in our society. CA and NY are becoming full-fledged police states, and others are underway. While I do believe that police should have limited immunity for “honest mistakes,” some of the actions by police go well past unacceptable. As always, shootings should be judged by the totality of the circumstances based upon the perspective of the shooter.

    Our department has filed criminal charges up to and including murder charges for criminal police misconduct. That is part of the reason I joined – because I believe that excellence cannot be achieved without accountability. My department is definitely not perfect, but does have high standards.

    A breakdown is occurring in our nation’s system of checks and balances. City, State, and Federal government entities are regularly engaged in activities that would send the “average citizen” to prison. These negligent police shootings are a clear example. To the thinking man, they are clear examples of police abuse. If you want evidence against police being the sole authorized users of firearms, these dirty shoots top the list.

  16. avatarArdent says:

    Immunity from prosecution for unlawfully attempting to murder someone due to status as a police officer sounds suspiciously like violating someone’s civil rights ‘under color of law’. The real problem I’m seeing is that they filed a civil suit for damages instead of a federal suit for civil rights violations. If the victim only want’s the cash the appropriate mechanisms are never activated. I’m not sure a new law is what’s needed, (in fact, I think new laws are at best a mine field) instead how about a fund to take all these bad cops to federal court for civil rights violations, and their departments if it’s found they new or should have known about these rogues.

    The larger problem is that we the people aren’t systematically attempting to hold them accountable with the tools we have. Calling for a radical new law to ‘fix’ what is really our individual responsibility to deal with sounds like lefty thinking.

  17. avatarAnonymous says:

    The solution is pretty simple: make any victim payouts come out of the police pension fund. The problem will resolve itself pretty quickly. :)

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