JERRY L. STEERING; EXCESSIVE FORCE ATTORNEY
We Watch The Watchmen
Jerry L. Steering, Esq., is a Police Misconduct Attorney, who sues police officers for, among other things, the use of excessive force upon civilians. His law practice involves serving, among other places, San Bernardino County, and the San Bernardino County cities shown below. Mr. Steering also represents persons in both civil and criminal case in Los Angeles County, San Diego County, Riverside County and Orange County. He is an expert in brutality / excessive force and false arrest cases; both civil and criminal. Mr. Steering has successfully sued San Bernardino County police agencies successfully, for many years now. Here are a few examples:
Morgan v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. Dist. Court, Cent. Dist. of Cal. (Riverside), (1996), $714,000.00 jury verdict (included compromised attorney’s fees) for excessive force and false arrest during search warrant execution in Apple Valley, California;
Austin v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, $500,000.00 jury verdict for false arrest and excessive force;
Lopez v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. Dist. Court Cent. Dist. of Cal. (Riverside) (2002), $50,000.00 settlement for racially motivated battery;
Miller v. City of San Bernardino, et al, U.S. Dist. Court Cent. Dist. of Cal. (Riverside) (2003), $35,000.00 settlement for unlawful detention;
Calderon v. County of San Bernardino, U.S. Dist. Court, Central Dist. of Cal. (Riverside)(2003), $115,000.00 settlement for false arrest and illegal search;
Arroyo v. City of San Bernardino, U.S. Dist. Court, Central Dist. of Cal. (Riverside)(2004), $125,000.00 settlement for unreasonable seizure of person;
Ford v. County of San Bernardino, (2007), $80,000.00 settlement for excessive force;
In re Jane Doe v. County of San Bernardino, et al., (2008), $290,000.00 settlement (prior to filing lawsuit) for sexually motivated mistreatment of arrestee; and
Aubry v. County of San Bernardino, et al, U.S. Dist. Court (LA) 2012, $325,000.00 settlement for the use of unreasonable force and for false arrest.
EXCESSIVE FORCE, FALSE ARREST AND MALICIOUS PROSECUTION CASES
Mr. Steering has been suing police officers, and defending bogus criminal cases of crimes against police officers, for over 28 years. The majority of our firm’s law practice, is suing police officers and other government officials, for claims such as false arrest, police brutality / excessive force, malicious prosecution, and other “Constitutional Torts“, and defending bogus criminal cases against the victims of such abuse by the police.
The United States Supreme Court has defined “Excessive Force” as follows:
“Where, as here, the excessive force claim arises in the context of an arrest or investigatory stop of a free citizen, it is most properly characterized as one invoking the protections of the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees citizens the right “to be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable . . . seizures” of the person . . . . . . . Determining whether the force used to effect a particular seizure is “reasonable” under the Fourth Amendment requires a careful balancing of ” ‘the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment interests’ ” against the countervailing governmental interests at stake. Id., at 8, 105 S.Ct., at 1699, quoting United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 703, 103 S.Ct. 2637, 2642, 77 L.Ed.2d 110 (1983). Our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has long recognized that the right to make an arrest or investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat thereof to effect it. See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S., at 22-27, 88 S.Ct., at 1880-1883. Because “the test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is not capable of precise definition or mecha ical application,” Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559, 99 S.Ct. 1861, 1884, 60 L.Ed.2d 447 (1979), however, its proper application requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. See Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S., at 8-9, 105 S.Ct., at 1699-1700 (the question is “whether the totality of the circumstances justifies a particular sort of . . . seizure”).” (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989.)
“The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. See Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S., at 20-22, 88 S.Ct., at 1879-1881. The Fourth Amendment is not violated by an arrest based on probable cause, even though the wrong person is arrested, Hill v. California, 401 U.S. 797, 91 S.Ct. 1106, 28 L.Ed.2d 484 (1971), nor by the mistaken execution of a valid search warrant on the wrong premises, Maryland v. Garrison, 480 U.S. 79, 107 S.Ct. 1013, 94 L.Ed.2d 72 (1987). With respect to a claim of excessive force, the same standard of reasonableness at the moment applies: “Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge’s chambers,” Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d, at 1033, violates the Fourth Amendment. The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.
As in other Fourth Amendment contexts, however, the “reasonableness” inquiry in an excessive force case is an objective one: the question is whether the officers’ actions are “objectively reasonable” in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. See Scott v. United States, 436 U.S. 128, 137-139, 98 S.Ct. 1717, 1723-1724, 56 L.Ed.2d 168 (1978); see also Terry v. Ohio, supra, 392 U.S., at 21, 88 S.Ct., at 1879 (in analyzing the reasonableness of a particular search or seizure, “it is imperative that the facts be judged against an objective standard”). An officer’s evil intentions will not make a Fourth Amendment violation out of an objectively reasonable use of force; nor will an officer’s good intentions make an objectively unreasonable use of force constitutional. See, Scott v. United States, supra, 436 U.S., at 138, 98 S.Ct., at 1723, citing United States v. Robinson, 414 U.S. 218, 94 S.Ct. 467, 38 L.Ed.2d 427 (1973).”
In Graham, we held that claims of excessive force in the context of arrests or investigatory stops should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendments objective reasonableness standard, not under substantive due process principles. 490 U.S., at 388, 394. Because police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation, id., at 397, the reasonableness of the officers belief as to the appropriate level of force should be judged from that on-scene perspective. Id., at 396. We set out a test that cautioned against the 20/20 vision of hindsight in favor of deference to the judgment of reasonable officers on the scene. Id., at 393, 396. Graham sets forth a list of factors relevant to the merits of the constitutional excessive force claim, requir[ing] careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case, including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. Id., at 396. If an officer reasonably, but mistakenly, believed that a suspect was likely to fight back, for instance, the officer would be justified in using more force than in fact was needed. (See, Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001); Kenney, J.)
THE PROBLEM WITH GRAHAM’S “REASONABLE OFFICER STANDARD” IN THE REAL WORLD – THE WATCHMAN GETS TO MAKE HIS OWN RULES THAT REGULATE HIS OWN CONDUCT
The problem with the description of how “excessive force” is defined, is not the Supreme Court’s strong emphasis on the officer’s conduct being based on an “objective” standard; they hypothetical reasonable officer in the abstract. The problem is, that the standards in the police profession for what is “reasonable” or otherwise proper police conduct in a given situation, are generally neither the creature of legislation (i.e. state law requiring the audio recording of custodial police interrogations) nor the product of any judicially created mandate, duty, or prohibition (i.e. Constitutional limits on conduct and judicially created “exclusionary rule“.) The conduct of “the objectively reasonable officer”; that standard that the Supreme Court attempted to describe in Graham v. O’Connor and Saucier v. Katz, is created by the very persons whose conduct the Fourth Amendment is supposed to impose limits on. Thus, in a very real sense, the Supreme Court has set the standard (“objectively reasonable officer”) that the Fourth Amendment requires, but has delegated the details of what’s reasonable or not, to the police.
It’s letting the regulated enact their own regulations. It’s like letting the local power company, set the rate of profit that they should make; set the formula for how the amount of profit is determined; set how much they can spend on public relations (since they’re a monopoly), and how, when, by whom and in what manner, they should be inspected, what they can and can’t do in their industry, and every other aspect of the business. If they want to all use tasers on civilians, then that’s reasonable. If they all want to pepper-spray persons because their hands in their pockets, then that’s reasonable. If they want to prone-out everyone at gun point that they detain, then that’s reasonable. At the end of the day, in the real world police world, if the technique, method, procedure, policy or practice reduces the danger level to the officer, you can bet that, eventually, they will find a way to justify such technique, method, procedure, policy or practice , and make such otherwise unreasonable behavior, “reasonable”, for no other reason than the police would prefer to act that way; Constitutional or not. You see the problem. The police have an old slogan: “It’s better to be judged by 12, then carried by 6.” It’s another way of saying, I’ll act in a way that is in my self interest; not yours, and if I happen to trample your Constitutional rights, so be it.
THE PROBLEM OF QUALIFIED IMMUNITY, COMPOUNDS THE PROBLEM CREATED BY GRAHAM
In a nutshell, the Qualified Immunity is an immunity from a lawsuit for violation of a civilian’s Constitutional rights, when those rights were actually violated, but a reasonably well trained police officer could have believed that his conduct did not constitute such Constitutional violation. So, even if the police officer actually violated your Constitutional Rights, he may be immune from suit, because the law was not clearly established enough at the time of the violation, to hold a police officer liable for his conduct. This is a doctrine “contrived” by the conservative members of the Supreme Court (since 1981), to ensure that you can’t do anything about (or at least do a whole lot less about) your Constitutional Rights being trampled by the government.
So, for example, if the police come-up with a whole new technique to restrain people, such as a with a taser, or pepper-spray, or pepper-balls, or water-balls, or hobbling (police hog tying), or a shock-belting, or stun-gunning, the officer may very well be entitled to qualified immunity from being sued for the misuse of any of the above-mentioned devices; not because its “reasonable”, but because the police just use those devices in such manners; thereby giving the Courts an excused to relieve the police officer from liability for the damage caused by his violation of the Constitutional Rights of civilians:
“Qualified immunity is an entitlement not to stand trial or face the other burdens of litigation. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 200 (2001) (quoting Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985)) . . . Accordingly, we must resolve immunity questions at the earliest possible stage in litigation. Pearson, 129, S.Ct. at 815.
An officer will be denied qualified immunity in a 1983 action only if (1) the facts alleged, taken in the light most favorable to the party asserting injury, show that the officers conduct violated a constitutional right, and (2) the right at issue was clearly established at the time of the incident such that a reasonable officer would have understood her conduct to be unlawful in that situation. Saucier, 533 at 201-02; Liberal v. Estrada, 632 F.3d 1064, 1076 (9th Cir. 2011.) To assist the development of constitutional precedent, we exercise our sound discretion to follow Saucier’s conventional two-step procedure and address first whether the Torres Family has alleged the violation of a constitutional right. See, Pearson, 129 S.Ct. at 818.
The qualified immunity analysis involves two separate steps. First, the court determines whether the facts show the officers conduct violated a constitutional right. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201 (2001.) If the alleged violate a constitutional right, then the defendants are entitled to immunity and the claim must be dismissed. However, if the alleged conduct did violate such a right, then the court must determine whether the right was clearly established at the time of the alleged unlawful action. Id.
A right is clearly established if a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right. Id., at 202. If the right is not clearly established, then the officer is entitled to qualified immunity. While the order in which these questions are addressed is left to the courts sound discretion, it is often beneficial to perform the analysis in the sequence outlined above. Pearson v. Callahan, 129 S.Ct. 808, 818 (2009.) Of course, where a claim of qualified immunity is to be denied, both questions must be answered.
When determining whether there are any genuine issues of material fact at the summary judgment stage, the court must take all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. In the context of qualified immunity, determinations that turn on questions of law, such as whether the officers had probable cause or reasonable suspicion to support their actions, are appropriately decided by the court. Act Up!/Portland v. Bagley, 988 F.2d 868, 873 (9th Cir. 1993.)
However, a trial court should not grant summary judgment when there is a genuine dispute as to the facts and circumstances within an officers knowledge or what the officer and claimant did or failed to do. Id.” (Saucier v. Katz, supra.)
WHY THE POLICE CRIMINALLY PROSECUTE THEIR VICTIMS
Unfortunately, because of institutional pressures (i.e. “ratting out fellow officer not a good career move), and the obvious political and practical consequences of not backing-up the their fellow officers, the norm in today’s police profession, is for peace officers to falsely arrest their “victims”, and to author false police reports to procure the bogus criminal prosecutions (i.e. to literally “frame” others) of those civilians whose Constitutional rights and basic human dignity have been violated; to justify what they did, and to act in conformity with that justification. The excessive force victims get criminally prosecuted, for crimes that they didn’t commit; usually for crimes such as “Resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer in the lawful performance of their duties (Cal. Penal § Code 148(a)(1)), assault on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 240 / 241), “battery on a peace officer (Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b)) (which is almost always, in reality, battery by a peace officer; otherwise known as “Excessive Force” or “Unreasonable Force”), and resisting officer with actual or threat of violence (Cal. Penal Code § 69.) Section 69 is a “wobbler” under California law; a crime that the government can charge as either a misdemeanor or a felony. This charge is usually reserved for cases in which the police use substantial force on the innocent arrestee (the real “victim”), and need to falsely claim more violent / serious conduct by the “victim” to justify their outrages.
So, for example, the crime of “battery on a peace officer” (Cal. Penal Code § 242 / 243(b)), is almost always, in reality, “battery by a peace officer”; otherwise known as “Excessive Force”; an “unreasonable seizure” of a person under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution (See, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).)
If you have been the victim of Excessive Force by a police officer, please check our Section, above, entitled: “What To Do If You Have Been Beaten-Up Or False Arrested By The Police“. Also, please click on “Home“, above, or the other pages shown, for the information or assistance that we can provide for you. If you need to speak with a lawyer about your particular legal situation, please call the Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering for a free telephone consultation.
Thank you, and best of luck, whatever your needs.
Law Offices of Jerry L. Steering
Jerry L. Steering, Esq.
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