Articles Tagged with police brutality

This week a San Francisco free-speech group, the First Amendment Coalition, sued the California Attorney General and Justice Department over their refusal to disclose police misconduct records under the state’s new transparency laws. Last year the Senate passed a bill providing the public with greater access to police personnel files as well as greater access to video or audio from police shootings or deadly use of force encounters. Details surrounding both laws are described below.

Greater Access to Police Personnel Files

The California Penal Code was amended with Senate Bill §1421 to permit more access to police and prison personnel records. In the past, police and prison personnel records were not disclosed for confidentiality reasons even for litigation and public-records requests.

While police and prison personnel records are still confidential, they may be released in situations in which one or more of the following conditions apply.

  • When a gun is fired by police or prison personnel that results in death or great bodily injury;
  • A sustained finding that police or prison personnel sexually assaulted someone; or
  • A sustained finding that police or prison personnel were dishonest in a criminal case or in the investigation of another police or prison officer.

A sustained finding is a decision by investigational authorities in cases of police or prison personnel misconduct that finds fault in the conduct of the police or prison officer.

Greater Access to Video and Audio From Police Shootings

Assembly Bill §748 also amended the California Government Code and provides the public with greater access to video or audio from police shootings or deadly use of force incidents that result in death or great bodily injury.

The right to receive access to video and audio is not absolute. A police department or prison may deny disclosure or release of the video and audio recordings if the incident is under investigation and if would violate someone’s privacy rights. Assembly Bill §748 goes into effect on July 1, 2019.

Charged With a Misdemeanor or Felony Crime in California?

Most people in the criminal justice system are first-time offenders. For many accused people it may be the first and only criminal case they have in their lifetime. Understanding your rights and the steps involved to resolve a criminal case brings peace of mind during a turbulent and scary time for you and your loved ones.

Contact an experienced and knowledgeable San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney who can help mitigate penalties and explain your legal rights and responsibilities. Available 24/7, the Boertje Law Firm represents clients at any stage of the criminal case and for any crime charged. Continue reading

The San Diego Union Tribune reports that there has been a sharp spike in the use of police dogs in San Diego, and this has raised questions about how and when officers call on the dogs to quell dangerous situations. Police officials say canine units help de-escalate situations and prevent the elevated use of force, but some recent high-profile biting incidents have prompted complaints from community members, lawsuits for excessive force, and a large city settlement.

Specifically the number of suspects bitten per year has risen sharply from 15 in 2013 to 86 in 2016. The number of times officers deployed a canine increased from 1,778 to 3,222 over that time. This increase in usage of canines has occured despite an overall decrease in crime and drop in emergency responses by the Police Department. The police department claims that there has been a continued rise in the number of dog bite incidents involving suspects with mental illness and suspects who have been using drugs or alcohol.

Additionally, the number of canine units slowly increased from the initial 14 in 1984 up to 20 in 1990, and then has more than doubled to 44 units in 1991.

Last July, a YouTube video went viral of a man being bitten while handcuffed. It is predicted that a lawsuit will be likely. Last December, the city of San Diego paid out $385,000 after a dog bite left one man’s leg badly damaged.

Last year, Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman ordered a review of canine policies and training to include more role-playing activities and emotional intelligence components. However, there are currently no plans to shift away from having police physically remove dogs from suspects during a biting incident.

When are Police Dogs Considered Excessive Force?

There are still limits to the injuries police dogs may inflict in the course of their duties.  California has fairly strict liability laws for dog owners, but there is an exception for police dogs in certain circumstances. For example, dog bite statutes might still apply when a dog bites an innocent bystander or witness to a crime.

The use of a dog in the course of police activity can be unreasonable when the nature and quality of the intrusion is not justified. When it is unreasonable, it can result in a 4th Amendment or 8th Amendment violation, which gives rise to civil damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Continue reading

Earlier this year, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s (DA) office announced that it would not press charges against the California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer, Daniel Andrew, who was recorded on a cell phone throwing down a woman and repeatedly punching her alongside the 10 Freeway. The district attorney’s office issued a 30-page report concluding that Officer Andrew was “required to use some level of force” to keep the victim, Marlene Pinnock, from running or walking out onto freeway traffic. The DA’s office further stated that Andrew was by himself and had a duty to protect both Ms. Pinnock and commuters from a potentially dangerous situation.

Back in 2014, a cell phone recording of this incident was released online and caused public outrage. The DA’s decision not to file criminal charges comes nine months after the final use-of-force report was issued on Pinnock’s original arrest on July 1, 2014. It has also been over a year since CHP gave the DA their report on their criminal investigation into Andrew’s actions.  The video shows him throwing Ms. Pinnock down to the ground, sitting on her, and punching her at least ten times. Andrew was also forced to resign as part of a $1.5-million settlement reached in September in an excessive force lawsuit filed in federal court by Pinnock against CHP. Civil rights advocates had pushed for additional criminal charges.

What is the Standard for Use of Force?

In an attempt to address the ongoing trend of police misconduct and institutional bias, California Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation last week mandating that California law enforcement agencies collect and make public data on the racial makeup of all those encountered by police.  A.B. 953, was written by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) as a response to fatal police shootings of unarmed black men and other people of color. A 2008 study of LAPD data by a Yale researcher found blacks and Latinos were subjected to stops, frisks, searches, and arrests at significantly higher rates than whites, regardless of whether they lived in high-crime neighborhoods.

What A.B. 953 Does

A.B. 953 will amend Sections 13012 and 13519.4 of the California Penal Code. Under the new law, California police must collect data on the people they stop, including perceived race and ethnicity, the reason for the encounter, and the outcome. The state attorney general’s office will determine how the reporting is done and how the data are stored. In addition, police agencies whose officers wear cameras will have to follow rules on storing and using the video so it is not mishandled. The regulations dictate how long video should be kept and how supervisors should use it in investigations.