SAN DIEGO COUNTY POLICE BRUTALITY & EXCESSIVE FORCE ATTORNEY
Jerry L. Steering specializes in the area of police misconduct litigation; both criminal and civil. “Criminal” because most of the time when the police beat-you-up or falsely arrest you or otherwise violate your constitutional rights, they usually at least attempt to procure your malicious criminal prosecution, to protect themselves and their pals and employing agency from civil liability. “Civil” because Mr. Steering sues the police for beating-you-up or falsely arresting you or otherwise violating your constitutional rights.
Mr. Steering has litigated police misconduct cases in federal court in San Diego (the United States District Court for the Southern District of California) for many years now. He has been suing police officers for violating the constitutional rights of others for over thirty years. Mr. Steering has had some recent high profile police misconduct cases in San Diego County.
POLICE BRUTALITY IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY IS RAMPANT.
Police Brutality in San Diego County is rampant and growing by the day.
Politicians (including judges) and the public, sitting as jurors, are very sympathetic to the police; especially in San Diego County. Most people think that police officers are honest people, and that police agencies are basically trustworthy, with a few bad apples.
Notwithstanding how honest and noble that a San Diego County police officer may be, no one rats on their fellow officers / deputies. No one. If you do, you are toast with that agency.
Police are not rewarded for telling the truth, when the truth would implicate their fellow officer. They are, however,
They will set the officer up of some sort of termination from the agency.
MR. STEERING IS AN EXPERT IN LITIGATING CASES INVOLVING POLICE COVER-UPS AND FRAME-UPS FOR RESISTANCE OFFENSES.
San Diego County is a difficult venue if you are falsely accused of some resistance offense against a police officer or are trying to sue one. If you are charged with a “resistance offense”, the courts and the public is against you.
THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS NOT ABDICATED ITS ROLE IN POLICING STATE AND LOCAL POLICE.
In Jovan Jimenez v. County of San Diego, Mr. Steering recovered $500,000.00 for a man from Riverside County who was beaten by San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Sheriffs for verbal protest of his misdemeanor simple battery arrest. Although San Diego County Deputy Sheriff’s beating of a handcuffed and helpless Jovan Jimenez, no crminal proceedings were ever brought against the deputy.
The FBI and the United States Attorney’s Office in San Diego was hot-to-tort to Indict the officer in the Jimenez case for the criminal violation of Jovan Jimenez’ Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable seizure of his person; in this case an arrest accompanied by unreasonable force. This a clear violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 242; violation of Constitutional Rights United Color of Authority.
However, in early 2018, the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice told Mr. Steering: “We don’t prosecute these type of cases anymore”. In other words, no more with the US.DOJ “policing the police”.
This is an actual abdication of the United States Department of Justice, of it’s duty to prosecute state and local law enforcement officers for committing Constitutional Violations against civilians. Imagine if the San Diego District Attorney’s Office announced that it would not longer prosecute elected or other public officials for taking illegal bribes. Think anyone would be taking any bribes?
Same with the police. There is no longer any oversight of violations of your Constitutional rights by state and local law enforcement officers.
ROBERT PITT v. COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO.
Mr. Steering also represents a retired CHP Officer in U.S. District Court in San Diego who was falsely arrested by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department for carrying a concealed firearm on a High School campus. He was allowed to do so because he is an Honorably Retired peace officer with a Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) permit from the CHP.
In Robert Pitt v. County of San Diego, et al.; United States District Court for the Southern District of California, the plaintiff obtained an award of $220,000.00.
Mr. Steering also represents other men in their another case against the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department for beating and falsely arresting a totally innocent man who happened to exit a 7-11 store in Encinitas and look at a Deputy Sheriff in the wrong way who harassing others there.
If you believe that police agencies are honest and that police don’t do bad things to good people you are still drinking the Kool-Aid. That is not our world anymore; at least not in this Country.
POLICE BRUTALITY IS TOLERATED AND ENCOURAGED BY SAN DIEGO COUNTY PUBLIC PROSECUTORS, BY PROSECUTING INNOCENTS FOR RESISTANCE OFFENSES, TO PROTECT THE POLICE.
Ask any cop what percentage of Section 148(a)(1) cases (resisting / obstructing / delaying peace officer), Section 69 cases (prevent to deter public officer from performing duty of office via use or threat of violence) Section 243(b) and (c) cases (battery on peace officer) are legitimate, and off the record, they will tell you almost none; maybe one or two percent.
Section 69 is a “wobbler”; a charge that can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. So, when the police beat you badly, or even shoot you, they will often charge you with felony violation of Section 69, for several reasons: 1) it (falsely) makes your conduct look more threatening to the police, the judge and the prosecutor, so as to justify their use of severe violence upon you; 2) since Section 69 can be charged as a felony, the police can require that you post bail before going to court; something that helps drain you financially, and something that often results in the person who was beaten-up by the police, pleading guilty to a crime against the officer, just to get out of jail; a guilty plea that precludes them from suing the officers later-on; 3) if the Section 69 charge is filed by the District Attorney’s Office as a felony, they often are able to get complete innocents to plead guilty to the misdemeanor offense of violation of Section 148(a)(1), which also will more often than not, legally preclude the victim of police violence from being able to successfully sue the police for the beating that they gave their victims.
THE POLICE PROCURE YOUR BOGUS MALICIOUS CRIMINAL PROSECUTION FOR THOSE RESISTANCE CRIMES.
The police procure your bogus malicious criminal prosecution for those resistance crimes as well as the other favorites; violations of Cal. Penal Code §§ 242 / 243(b) (battery on a peace officer [i.e the suspect struck my fist with his chin], and Cal. Penal Code §§ 240 / 241(c) (i.e. the suspect took an aggressive stance and clinched his fists, so I punched in the face three times and knocked him out), to beat you down; psychologically, emotionally, and especially, financially. After all, if you hire a private lawyer to represent you in court, and the lawyer actually knows how to defend such bogus criminal actions (i.e. “resistance offenses”), you are going to have to shell-out thousands of dollars; to defend your honor, and to prevent the police from using a bogus conviction for a resistance offense to preclude you from being able to successfully sue them in court. So, because you had the audacity to ask the police officer what’s going on, and why he wants you to prone yourself out on the ground, you not only get “gooned” by the police, but you get criminally prosecute for “resisting / delaying / obstructing a peace officer, battery on a peace officer, or some other “resistance offense.”
Now, that you’re charged with a crime against a police officer, when you were the victim of his bad day disposition, you get it; 99.9% of allegations of battery ON a peace officer, are, in reality, battery BY a peace officer. This is not joke, and no exaggeration. The police routinely procure, or a attempt to procure, the filing of at least a misdemeanor Count of violation of Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1); resisting / obstructing / delaying a peace officer engaged in the lawful performance of his/her duties. Section 148(a)(1) is otherwise known in police circles as “Contempt Of Cop“; (i.e. maybe not getting on the ground fast enough, or failing to walk-over to the officer fast enough; some type of failing the attitude test), is in itself, vague, ambiguous and unintelligible. It is used every day to oppress those who voice their dissatisfaction with the police; more often than not, because of abusive and disrespectful conduct by the police.
THE COPS ARE OUT OF CONTROL; ESPECIALLY IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY.
Bogus arrests of victims for “resistance crimes” or “obstruction crimes”, has become a national phenomenon. In a nutshell, the police procurement of bogus criminal charges against the victims, in most cases in the real world, with real people who don’t have unlimited monies to muster a real criminal defense, works. It works if the cops can lie well enough in their reports, to shift the blame to you; the victim of a bully with a badge. It works if the cops can get the District Attorney’s Officer (or City Attorney’s Office or, the Attorney General’s Office), to file a criminal “obstruction offense” against you. It beats you down financially. It causes truly innocent people to plead guilty to crimes against police officers, when they were the victims; often because they can’t make bail, and they would have to spend many months locked-up in jail before their trials.
If you’re convicted of any crime against a peace officer that requires that the officer be lawfully engaged in the performance of his duties; you are often legally precluded from suing to vindicate the violation of your constitutional rights, such as the right to be free from the use of excessive force on your person. These “obstruction crimes” usually almost always include a base allegation of violation of Cal. Penal Code §148(a)(1) (resisting / obstructing / delaying peace officer), since almost any conduct or contact between a civilian and a peace officer can be creatively twisted into some sort of legally peverse claim for violation of that statute. Other “obstruction crime” favorites are battery on a peace officer, Cal. Penal Code §§ 242 / 243(b) (i.e the suspect struck my fist with his chin), Cal. Penal Code §§ 240 / 241 (i.e. the suspect took an aggressive stance and clinched his fists, so I punched in the face three times and knocked him out), Cal. Penal Code §§ 242 / 243(b), and the felony favorite if the cops really don’t like you and want you to have to spend thousands of dollars on bail; Cal. Penal Code § 69 (threat or use of force or violence to deter / prevent public officer from performing duty of office].) The legal theory of your preclusion is two-fold; 1) the doctrine of collateral estoppel, and 2) the policy decision of the Supreme Court to stick-it to you and me; the Heck v. Humphrey preclusion doctrine.
IT REALLY HAS BECOME THAT BAD; CASE EXAMPLE, THE DESERT HOT SPRINGS POLICE DEPARTMENT.
Case In Point; Desert Hot Springs PD:
In the mid-2000’s Desert Hot Springs (California) Police Department Lieutenant David Henderson used to bring two cans of pepper-spray with him during his duty shift, because one can of pepper-spray usually wasn’t enough. In order to get off of a new officer’s probationary period with Lt. Henderson and be a regular DHSPD police officer, one had to “engage”; to beat up someone; innocent or not, when no force was called for at all. They were usually handcuffed. Lt. Henderson eventually was convicted of torturing an arrestee with pepper-spray. He put red WD-40 straws on his pepper-spray cans and stuck the straw up the nose of his victim and then pull the trigger.
Lt. Henderson’s cohort, DHSPD Sgt. Anthony Sclafani was also convicted of torturing prisoners; a woman and a gangster. He stomped, pepper-sprayed and tased his victim and he ended up in federal prison. This was normal at DHSPD in the 2000’s.
DHSPD was so bad that in the Michael Sanchez in-custody death incident (a pursuit case by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department), after the sheriff’s deputies were done beating Mr. Sanchez they watched Lt. Henderson kick a beating and handcuffed Mr. Sanchez in his testicles (“Like kicking a field goal through the uprights”), and watched Mr. Sanchez die from that kick within a minute. They did nothing about that and neither did the FBI or the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, who both know the gory details of Mr. Sanchez’ murder in the desert by the police. This again is no joke. This really happened.
DHSPD was so bad that the department was divided into two camps; the “Meat Eaters” (used force for fun and glory) and the “Lettuce Eaters” (those who didn’t create excuses to beat and torture civilians). Two thirds of the agency were under FBI investigation.
DHSPD was once of the worst departments in the country, but the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department still to this day to not have either patrol car video recording systems, body cams, or even any policy requiring the deputies to audio record their detentions or arrests of civilians.
Other police agencies are not far behind, if at all, DHSPD.
Take the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The certainly have DHSPD beat in sheer number of total police outrages committed.
There is a “Blue Code of Silence“between and among peace officers throughout the nation, and everyone knows this. This is no startling revelation. The County of Los Angeles has itself released a report Commissioned by the Board of Supervisors, acknowledging the existence of, and actually condemning, the Sheriff’s Department’s own rogue gangs of sadistic jailers at the Los Angeles County Central Men’s
Jail. See, The Citizens Commission on Jail Violence September 28, 2012. A retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Captain reported to the Los Angeles Times, that the L.A. County Men’s Central Jail was, essentially, a torture chamber, run by these jailer gangs (tattoos of their gang symbols on their ankles and all) of sadistic sociopaths. Discipline for beatings was not existent, and torturing inmates was actually required for jailer gang initiation. See, “L.A. County sheriff’s official tells of jail brutality”, LA Times, July 7, 2012. See also, “L.A. County jail violence sheriff’s fault, panel says“, LA Times, September 28, 2012. Rival Sheriff’s Department jailer gangs even got into a rumble between the “3000 Boys” (the third floor jailers) and the “2000 Boys” (the second floor jailers)at a Sheriff’s Department Christmas party.
The Los Angeles Police Departments (LAPD’s) motto is “We’re the badest gang in town”.
A recent study of the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department (LASD) that was commissioned by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors (“Report of the Citizens Commission on Jail Violence“) actually found that there is a culture within the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department of various “gangs of officers”, who routinely beat, torture, maim and kill members of the jails, and of the community, for fun; for the honor of the gang. Everybody is a scumbag, and have no rights.
One of those gangs was “the Vikings”, whose “colors” was the Minnesota Vikings Football Team log
tattooed on their lower legs. The Former Undersheriff, Paul Tanaka, was a Viking gang member when he was a Captain at the Lynwood Sheriff’s Station. The Vikings were found by United States District Judge Jesse Curits to be a Neo-Nazi / White Supremacist gang within the ranks of the Los Angles County Sheriff’s Department; See, Thomas v. County of Los Angeles, et al; 978 F.2d 504 (1992).
Some of the LASD gangs of these gangster deputies are: The 3000 Club (the deputies who worked the third floor of the L.A. County Men’s Central Jail), The Grim Reapers, The Little Devils, The Regulators, The Vikings and The Jump Off Boys.
Out Boys. After the FBI had announced that it had infiltrated the Los Angeles County jail and can now prove that the LASD Men’s Jail was essentially a torture chamber, with gangs of sick and sadistic guards, Paul Tanaka still showed his grit, as an LASD “gansta”, by addressing the command staff of the sheriff’s department, about the LASD internal affairs bureau. He mentioned that their were 45 LASD Internal Affairs Bureau investigators, and that was 44 too many (you’re got to have at least one to have a bureau.)
In 2014, six LASD Deputy Sheriffs were convicted of obstructing the FBI’s investigation of the torturing of prisoners at the Los Angeles County Jails. That’s not the end of it. Former LASD Deputy Sheriff Noel Womack pleaded guilty in June of 2015 to federal charges of lying to the FBI about systemic LASD torturing and framing of inmates at the Los Angeles County Jails.
On May 13, 2015 former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, along with a retired LASD Captain, were indicted on May 13, 2015 by a federal Grand Jury for Obstructing and Conspiring to Obstruct a federal Grand Jury investigation of the rampant torturing of inmates at the Los Angeles County Jail (See, Paul Tanaka Indictment of May 13, 2015.) Those Indictments also resulted in the resignation of Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, as Tanaka implicated Baca as having approved the LASD scheme to thwart the FBI investigation of tortures, beatings and murders of inmates by deputies at the L.A. County Jails.
On February 10, 2016, former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca pleaded guilty to violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2); lying to FBI agents and federal prosecutors investigating the beatings of inmates and visitors at the Los Angeles County Jails. As part of a surprise plea deal with the U.S. attorney’s office, Sheriff Baca admitted that he took an active role in trying to stymie the federal probe into his deputies routinely beating and torturing inmates at the Los Angeles County Jails and in having his deputies hide an FBI informant – jail inmate from his FBI handlers. He admitted even approving a team of his deputy sheriff’s attempting to interfere with the government’s investigation by threatening an FBI agent at her home with arrest.
Thereafter, on April 6, 2016, former LASD Undersheriff was convicted by a jury of violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (conspiring to obstruct justice) and 18 U.S.C. § 1503(a) (obstructing justice), for not only obstructing an FBI investigation into years of beatings and torturing of inmates at the L.A. County Jail, but also Tanaka and other high ranking Sheriff’s Department officials threatening one of the FBI agents involved in that investigation, with arrest for continuing that investigation. In his trial, Tanaka admitted that he still had the Minnesota Vikings Logo tattoo on his leg; a tattoo that he described as a member in a club; the “Vikings”; a tatoo that the federal courts have held is the gang taoo for a “neo-Nazi white supremacists gang within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. See, Thomas v. County of Los Angeles, 978 F.2d 504 (1992).
Thereafter, on July 18, 2016, United States District Judge Percy Anderson threw out a plea agreement that would have given former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca a maximum of six months in prison, saying the sentence was too lenient considering Baca’s role in obstructing an FBI investigation into the county jails. Addressing a downtown courtroom packed with Baca’s supporters, U.S. District Court Judge Percy Anderson said the deal “would trivialize the seriousness of the offenses … the need for a just punishment [and] the need to deter others.”
On December 19, 2016 a mistrial was declared in that federal criminal corruption case against Sheriff Lee Baca. During the two-week trial, prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office tried to convince jurors that Baca had played a central role in a scheme carried out by a group of subordinates to thwart an FBI investigation into abuses and corruption by sheriff’s deputies working as jailers. Baca’s lawyers countered he had been unaware of the ploy unfolding beneath him. The panel deliberated for days, with all but one of the 12 jurors ultimately voting to acquit Baca. After the panel announced it was deadlocked, Anderson declared the mistrial.
On January 10, 2017, federal prosecutors announced that they would retry Sheriff Baca. Judge Percy Anderson also granted a request by the U.S. attorney’s office to allow prosecutors to include the charge of making false statements to federal authorities in the retrial. U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson previously split that charge from the obstruction and conspiracy charges Baca faced at his first trial.
On March 16, 2017 Sheriff Lee Baca was convicted for his role in a scheme to block an FBI investigation into mistreatment of inmates in his jails.
One might think, why are these cops acting like Nazis; literally, not metaphorically? Why is this allowed to persist? Things have gotten so bad at the LASD that now the United States Department of Justice Indicted 18 LASD Deputy Sheriffs and their Supervisors on charges ranging from Obstruction of Justice and torturing prisoners.
Nonetheless, the body politic tolerates the existence, and the perpetuation of an ongoing unwritten agreement among and between peace officers, to falsely report, and, if necessary, to thereafter conspire with officers who they may not yet even know, to falsely testify, about event(s), if the potential or apparent criminal, administrative and civil liability of a fellow officer is at stake. After all, in the primary category of cases that truly are “false arrests” in the most malevolent sense of the word, “Contempt of Cop cases”, the only reason that there’s an arrest of a civilian at all, is because the Constable has violated another (i.e. beaten-up / torture); usually to self-medicate rather frail and easily bruise-able egos.
POLICE BRUTALITY, FALSE ARRESTS AND MALICIOUS CRIMINAL PROSECUTIONS.
Wrongful police beatings, accompanied by their sister “false arrests”, are a common and every day occurrence. These beating / arrests are no longer limited to persons of color. Soccer Moms, airline pilots and school teachers, beware: because of the great (and ever expanding) powers being given to police officers by the Supreme Court, described below, in a very real way, you no longer have the right to question, protest or challenge police actions, since to do so usually results in your being physically abused and falsely arrested on trumped of charges of essentially, “Contempt Of Cop”; (i.e. maybe not getting on the ground fast enough, or failing to walk-over to the officer fast enough; some type of failing the attitude test.) These beatings of innocent by police officers is rampant and condoned and defended by the command structure of most, if not all, modern police agencies. See, Orange County Sheriff’s Department police torture videos, and other police beating videos throughout the Country. There is a “Blue Code of Silence” between and among peace officers throughout the nation, and everyone knows this. This is no startling revelation. The County of Los Angeles has itself released a public document, acknowledging the existence of, and actually condemning, the Sheriff’s Department’s own rogue gangs of sadistic jailers at the Los Angeles County Central Men’s Jail. See, The Citizens Commission on Jail Violence September 28, 2012.
IN CALIFORNIA, A POLICE OFFICER CAN BEAT-UP OR MURDER ANYONE THAT THEY WANT TO, ANY TIME THAT THEY WANT TO, WHILE ON-DUTY.
The use of unreasonable and unlawful force in America is so rampant, that in these modern times, at least in California, a police officer can murder anyone that they want to, any time that they want to. Juries are very reluctant to convict police officers for any sort of duty related actions, such as shooting civilians. In 2010, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Shot 15 Unarmed People To Death – “Perception Shootings”. See p. 56 of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department 30th Semi-Annual Report to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
All that the police officers need to say is the they were afraid for their lives because their shooting victim had his hands in his pockets, or that his hands were under his body and wouldn’t show them to the officer, or that he was reaching for his waistband area. The modern police line is that if an officer either can’t see your hands or if you reach for you waist or pockets, that it’s okay to shoot the person. This is no joke. None of the shootings of the fifteen unarmed people who were shot to death by the LA Sheriff’s Department in 2010 were found by the department to have violated department policy. Moreover, none of those deputies were criminally prosecuted for those shootings; even when witnesses have come forward and disputed the deputies’ claims as to what happened.
These homicides by police officer aren’t just limited to shootings. For example, on January 13, 2014, an Orange County, California, Superior Court jury acquitted two Fullerton Police Department officers of murdering / using unreasonable force on the mentally-ill son of a former Orange County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Sheriff; Kelly Thomas. The beating death was audio and video recorded, and no reasonable human being could have believed that the beating death was justified. The video recording shows two sadistic police officers, beat Kelly Thomas to death. However, the defense was able to show the jury two prior incidents that made the jury simply not care that Kelly Thomas was wrongfully beat to death; the testimony about his having previous struck his grandfather, and testimony about his mother obtaining a restraining order against him. Remember, this was a mentally ill young man, who had his moments. They were able to do this, because California Evidence Code Section 1103 permits a criminal defendants to show the character of the alleged victim of their crime, to prove that the victim has a certain character, and that the victim acted in conformity with that character during the incident complained of; the one that the criminal defendant is being prosecuted for.
The Los Angeles Police Departments (LAPD’s) motto is: Were the badest gang in town. One might think, why are these cops acting like Nazis? Why is this allowed to persist?
Nonetheless, the body politic tolerates the existence, and the perpetuation of an ongoing unwritten agreement among and between peace officers, to falsely report, and, if necessary, to thereafter conspire with officers who they may not yet even know, to falsely testify, about event(s), if the potential or apparent criminal, administrative and civil liability of a fellow officer is at stake. After all, in the primary category of cases that truly are “false arrests” in the most malevolent sense of the word, “Contempt of Cop cases“, the only reason that there’s an arrest of a civilian at all, is because the police officer has beaten-up / tortured another; usually to self-medicate rather their frail and easily bruise-able egos. If you’re reading this article, the odds are, that either you or a loved one or friend has been beaten-up by the police and are being criminally prosecuted for allegedly battering the officer or somehow “resisting” the officer.
Orange County, California had a Sheriff’s Department that was run by creepy Sheriff Mike Carona, who is presently in federal prison for witness tampering (instructing witness to lie to Grand Jury.) Until Sheriff Carona went to prison, Orange County was a fantasy assignment for those truly sadistic peace officers, who “get-off” on beating inmates and arrestees.
Modern police agencies are afraid of losing their “power” in, and over, a community. That “power” base (i.e. ability to influence the politicians and the public), is based in large part, on the public “supporting the police”. That popular support is based upon a belief by the body politic, that: 1) police officers are well trained and know and respect your Constitutional rights, 2) they’re basically honest, 3) that only a small percentage of them would commit perjury, 4) that the force that the police use on people is almost always justified (if not legally, then morally), and 5) that the police are capable of policing themselves. Although none of these beliefs are accurate, one cannot ignore the belief system of the majority of the white / affluent American populace, in understanding why police officers routinely, and without a second thought, falsely arrest civilians, and commit other outrages against innocents.
LEGALLY, WHAT IS EXCESSIVE / UNREASONABLE FORCE?
Prior to 1989, the federal courts looked to the substantive due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution to “pigeon hole” claims of excessive force by a peace officer against civilians. See, Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028 (2nd Cir. 1973.) That standard was that the conduct of the police officer had to be “shocking to the conscience”; the standard still used for those uses of force by a police officer that don’t involve efforts by police to use force against civilians to seize them, such as arresting or detaining civilians. Johnson v. Glick involved the use of force by prison guards against a convict; not either a free civilian that an officer is trying to “seize” (detain or arrest), or a “pre-trial detainee“; someone who has already been “seized” (i.e. arrested, and in the County Jail; awaiting arraignment, other pre-trial proceedings, or trial.)
However, when it comes to a police officer using force to arrest or detain another, the standard for the use of force is decreed by the Supreme Court, to emanate out of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Thus, the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures is, since 1989, the legal standard by which to judge whether a police officer used excessive force when seizing a civilian.
What Is Excessive / Unreasonable Force?
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 Amendment‘s 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, Saucierv. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001), Kennedy, J.)
The federal courts have reduced all of this legal gobbledygook to jury instructions, that, supposedly, a person of regular intelligence can understand. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Jury Instruction for excessive force instructs the jury:
“Ninth Circuit Model Civil Jury Instructions
9.22 PARTICULAR RIGHTS—FOURTH AMENDMENT—UNREASONABLE SEIZURE OF PERSON—EXCESSIVE (DEADLY AND NONDEADLY) FORCE
In general, a seizure of a person is unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment if a police officer uses excessive force [in making a lawful arrest] [and] [or] [in defending [himself] [herself] [others]. Thus, in order to prove an unreasonable seizure in this case, the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the officer[s] used excessive force when [insert factual basis of claim].
Under the Fourth Amendment, a police officer may only use such force as is “objectively reasonable” under all of the circumstances. In other words, you must judge the reasonableness of a particular use of force from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene and not with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.
In determining whether the officer[s] used excessive force in this case, consider all of the circumstances known to the officer[s] on the scene, including;
1) The severity of the crime or other circumstances to which the officer[s] [was] [were] responding;
2) Whether the plaintiff posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officer[s] or to other;
3) Whether the plaintiff was actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight;
4) The amount of time and any changing circumstances during which the officer had to determine the type and amount of force that appeared to be necessary;
5) The type and amount of force used;
6) The availability of alternative methods [to take the plaintiff into custody] [to subdue the plaintiff;]
7) Other factors particular to the case.]“
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.
When asked about a 1974 Papal Encyclical by Pope Paul VI, condemning the use of contraception, former Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz stated: “He don’t play-a-da game; he don’t make-a-da rules.” In the police profession, they do play that “game”, and now they get to “make-a-da rules.” 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. My insuring my safety from any potential threat trumps any annoying Constitutional rights of yours.
THE PROBLEM OF QUALIFIED IMMUNITY, COMPOUNDS THE PROBLEM CREATED BY GRAHAM
In a nutshell, the Qualified Immunity is an immunity from a lawsuit (from being sued at all) 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 a Constitutional violation. So, even if the police officer actually violated your Constitutional Rights, he/she 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.
The Perversion, Ad Nauseam, Of The Qualified Immunity Doctrine, To Protect Peace Officers From Civil Liability; “Reasonably Acting Unreasonably”
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,533U.S. 194, 200 (2001) (quoting Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526 (1985)) . . . Accordingly, we must resolve imm
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.)”
QUALIFIED IMMUNITY IS A SELF-FULFILLING POLICY; THE COURT’S DON’T PROVIDE EITHER REASONABLY DISCERNIBLE GUIDELINES, OR CLEAR BORDER TYPE RULINGS.
The problem with the description of how “excessive force” is defined, is not the Supreme Courts strong emphasis on the officers conduct being based on an objective standard; the 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 police conduct, such as the judicially created exclusionary rule.) The conduct of the objectively reasonable officer; that standard that the Supreme Court attempted to describe in Graham v. 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.
This is quite problematic, as the Bill of Rights was created for the Courts to protect us from the police / government, so when the police define “what’s reasonable force”, in a very real way, the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, one of those rights in the Bill of Rights, is defined by the police, rather than the Courts. There are cases where the Courts will step-in and ban a particular police practice, but those cases are far and few between, and when the Courts do so, they often create more of legal mess than existed before such judicial intervention. See, for example, the trilogy of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals taser cases.
In the Ninth Circuit’s first taser case, Bryan v. McPherson(9th Cir. 09), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that using a taser on a man in his underwear who was 20 feet away and merely verbally going-off on the police officers, was so obviously unlawful, that no reasonably well trained police officer could have believed that it was constitutional to tase the man.
Two weeks later, in Mattos v. Argarano (9th Cir. 1/12/10), another three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the police tasing of a domestic violence victim did not constitute unreasonable force, since the police were trying to grab the her husband, and she happened to just be between the man and the police. The Mattos court held that their decision didn’t conflict with the Bryan v. McPherson (9th Circuit 12/28/09), because the use of the taser in that case was so obviously unreasonable, that the defendant police officers would not be entitled to qualified immunity from suit.
Thereafter, two and one-half months later in Brooks v. City of Seattle (9th Cir. March 26, 2010), the Ninth Circuit held that it didn’t constitute the use of unreasonable force for a police officer to tase a pregnant woman three times in her neck to get her out of her car. Having now painted themselves into a corner, the Ninth Circuit decided to grant “en banc review” of all three 2010 taser cases; one en banc panel of judges decided the rehearings of the Mattos v. Argarano and Brooks v. City of Seattle cases, and one en banc panel reheard the Bryan case. The results were almost as confounding, as were the original wrongly decided decisions. In the Mattos and Brooks cases, the Ninth Circuit held that although the defendant police officers did violate the plaintiffs’ Constitutional right to be free from the use of unreasonable force upon their persons (i.e. the tasers), that the officers were nonetheless entitled to qualified immunity from suit, because the law on the use of tasers was not clearly established at the time of the Constitutional violations:
“We now hold that, although Plaintiffs in both cases have alleged constitutional violations, the officer Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiffs 1983 claims because the law was not clearly established at the time of the incidents.”
In the rehearing on the Bryan v. McPherson case, the Ninth Circuit reversed themselves, and awarded qualified immunity to the defendant officers; also because the law regarding the use of tasers was not clearly established at the time of the Constitutional violations:
“Officer MacPherson appeals the denial of his motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. We affirm the district court in part because, viewing the circumstances in the light most favorable to Bryan, Officer MacPhersons use of the taser was unconstitutionally excessive. However, we reverse in part because the violation of Bryans constitutional rights was not clearly established at the time that Officer MacPherson fired his taser at Bryan on July 24, 2005.”
WHY THE POLICE CRIMINALLY PROSECUTE THEIR VICTIMS; THE ROOT OF MOST FALSE ARRESTS.
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 todays 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.
Jerry L. Steering, Esq.