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Court cases really breaking me down!


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  • Court cases really breaking me down!

    Hey guys and gals I just got out of court and I'm really discouraged about my carrier of 10 years. Back in December I was dealing with a disorderly individual at the mall and was not in range of my video or audio in my patrol car. Once I decided that his conduct was to much to look over I attempted to place him in cuffs. He resisted arrest and It soon turned into a all out brawl between me and him. (His father and girlfriend were both there and almost seemed to get a kick outa the incident.) Once I broke away from him I was able to use my pepper spray which soon took effect after about 30 seconds of more fighting. I was soon able to take him to the ground and get him cuffed. He was transported and immediately placed in the shower to detox. I've always been one that can easily calm down after being into a fight and acted extremely professional in my opinion. I instructed him how to detox and really went above and beyond trying to ease his discomfort. A couple weeks later he filed a complaint through internal affairs and I was soon cleared from any wrong doing in regards to the use of physical force. Mall video was available but was very poor quality, But at least it showed that I didn't simply walk up the the subject and start spraying him for no reason as he accused. Well the trial finally came to court today and it didn't go good. He brought several "witnesses" that he claimed was there. Every single person testified that I had no reason to do what I did and that he was never disorderly. They all said that he was never cussing and that he never even assaulted me and that I was simply lying. The father actually got up on the stand and start trembling and was yelling calling a police officer out of control. The father continued to slander my character and insisted that I was hot headed and shouldn't be a police officer. I simply couldn't believe the extremes that he was taking in the attempt to get his son out of these charges. The entire time I was thinking the video was about to clear me from everything but The prosecutor was unable to get the video evidence into the trial! The video was available but the defense attorney kept making issues of the videos integrity. Being that the original person that was controlling the mall video was not there to testify to it being a copy of the original it was never allowed. This blew my mind! The person was soon found not guilty. It just really bothers me that people can get on the stand and lie their asses off like they did. I just cant comprehend it and now fear a civil suit. I've been a officer for 10 years and have never been so discouraged about my job. It really is going to effect the performance of my duties. I know right now its fresh on my mind and will soon not quite bother me as much but right now it does. If there has ever been a time that I have rethought my carrier, it is now. I've got a 15 month old daughter and another on the way. I almost feel like I have let my entire family down and now have put us in jeopardy of a civil suit. Talk of a civil suit has already been a issue and now I'm sure it is eminent. I just really needed to vent a little and thought this might be a good place to do it. Thanks.
    Last edited by proteknserve; 04-15-2008, 11:30 PM.

  • #2
    First off, you did right, no matter what happened in court. Make sure to get that in your mind.

    Second, don't worry about a civil suit. The rules in civil court are VERY different than in criminal court. You've already been cleared by your department so they'll be picking up the tab for civil case. This has qualified immunity written all over it.

    Third, these things happen. I've been through court cases that really shook me for just the reason's your venting about. There was a time that I seriously considered hanging it up as a result. Eventually I reached a place where I do the best job I can and build the best cases I can. Once they get handed off to the court system, I wash my hands. I know that I've done everything possible to make it work. If doesn't, that's not my fault.

    Lastly, jerks like this guy can't help themselves. He will act this way again (and again, and again). Sooner or later, he'll be unable to lie his way out of trouble and he'll get what's coming to him. Heck, with any luck, he'll mouth off to some guy who doesn't call 911 if you get my drift....

    Hang in there man. It'll all work out eventually. Keep fighting the good fight.


    • #3
      If he files a lawsuit, file a counter suit against him.
      Road Captain
      Blue Knights TX XIX


      • #4
        First off, ya, that sucks. Second, and I don't mean this to insult you, I noticed several spelling and grammatical errors in your post. I don't know how you wirte your police reports, but if you don't already, you might want to consider using a spell check or similar device. Again, not saying it this to be a jerk, but it might be something to help you out when your case goes to trial.
        For the cops out there: You are an adult. If you want to write someone, write them. If you don't want to write someone, then don't write them.

        "Jeff, you are the best cop on this board"-Anonymous Post


        • #5
          Originally posted by Blue Knights MC View Post
          If he files a lawsuit, file a counter suit against him.
          You probably won't be able to do this as your employing agency is going to be providing the defense (counsel) for any pending civil action. Regardless, you did what was necessary to protect yourself physically and do what had to be done to protect the public.

          Remember that criminal trials have an entirely different standard of proof needed to convict someone of a criminal offense, vs the standard of proof needed to find someone civilly wrong. In all probability, the tape will be admitted into evidence, if the civil action actually makes it to court.

          Like facing the threat of deadly force or less dangerous risks, losing a criminal trial or being forced to face a civil action is one of the things we "make the big bucks" for doing. Every one of us whose faced those threats didn't look forward to the experience, but recognized that it (they) might be thrust upon us. Just don't lose sight of the fact that keeping the "fight to win" attitude applies no matter what the threat. You will win and the Adam Henry will eventually lose.

          Several years back, a very good friend arrested a well known So. CA. attorney for a minor violation. The officer didn't know the subject he arrested specialized in suing police for civil rights violations. When the subject intentionally resisted arrest during what is usually a very minor (citation issuance type) encounter, the officer's suspicions were aroused, but later he learned he'd been set up. The attorney pled his case down to an even more minor "disturbing the peace" conviction, then immediately sued the city and arresting officer.

          My friend was very upset, when the city paid this guy a "nuisance" settlement and the attorney later bragged that it had paid for a needed home improvement. Fast forward about twenty years. The attorney was convicted in federal court of income tax evasion and sentenced to prison!

          The moral of this story is that bad guys will be bad guys. Sooner or later it will catch up to them and you (the good guy) will have the last laugh. Have patience and persevere.
          "I'm not fluent in the language of violence, but I know enough to get around in places where it's spoken."


          • #6
            I have no advice to offer outside of what has already been stated. I do have some operational advice though...

            When a use of force happens like this, the first thing we do is interview possible witnesses on audio tape. We lock them down to a story. That way, when they get to court we can easily discredit them with their initial statements at the scene (I didn't see anything, I saw no wrongdoing on the officer's part, I saw no excessive force, etc). Food for thought....


            • #7
              First, I don't want to create any impression that the OP did anything wrong.

              What I want to say, are a few things, so that everyone who reads this post gets it right, when it happens to them, down the line....

              There are a few things to remember when you lay heavy hands (or other police impact tools) on a suspect:

              * If there are witnesses, and you have the ability, get their info and a statement. On tape if you can. As IMachU says, "Lock their story down!"

              * "Roll tape," after the fact. When the turd is in the backseat, ask him, "Hey man, why did you have to do that? I wouldn't have laid hands on you if you hadn't, you would be going home right now."

              * Survey the area. The action may have taken place outside of the range of your in-car video/audio system, but look for other CCTV systems on nearby businesses.

              * Take the time to write a report which reflects, in detail, everything the suspect said and did, what warning you gave, and why you had to react accordingly. There is a very simple police reporting rule which says: If you didn't write it down, then it didn't happen.

              * Photograph the turd with minimal clothing. Document the injuries and more importantly, the lack of injuries. If he says that you hit him on the arm, have him point to the exact spot.

              * Go back to the scene 24 hours later. Some witnesses may not have been visibly present, immediatly after the arrest...they saw it but had to go to get supplie in the back, make a delivery, or took a break during the time while the investigation was conducted.

              * Supervisors, especially ROAD (retired on active duty) supervisors can be lazy, or take the attitude that "Hey, we didn't do these in-depth Use-of-force investigations like this 30 years ago, it won't matter if we leave a few steps out"

              Winning a fight on the street is sweet....winning a court fight is even sweeter!
              Last edited by Kieth M.; 04-16-2008, 08:59 PM.
              "You're never fully dressed without a smile."

              Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

              Three things I know for sure: (1) No bad deed goes unrewarded, (2) No good deed goes unpunished, and (3) It is entirely possible to push the most devoted, loyal and caring person beyond the point where they no longer give a 5h!t.


              • #8
                Don't feel too bad. Sometimes good cases go down hill fast, and just keep going that way. I wound up dealing with a drunk one night who turned out to be an attorney with a penchant for boxing. We were in an area with limited space for movement, which made for poor officer safety and before I knew it, he had decked me. Even after being pepper sprayed it took six officers to get him in cuffs. I suffered a concussion, several herniated disks in my neck and eventually wound up having to take a disability retirement because of my injuries. It seemed like a pretty cut and dry case. Bad guy assaults cop. Bad guy gets arrested. Tons of witnesses.

                When the matter went to trial, it was a disaster. The officer who wrote the initial crime report delayed doing so for almost a month and then went by his memory, which was faulty. He put down that I was knocked down a flight of stairs when in fact, I was knocked over three rows of chairs in a concert venue. This made his report look like a fiction novel. When I wrote a memo correcting the report, defense counsel accused me on the stand of trying to make the incident look worse than it was in order to have the charges raised from a misdemeanor to a felony. Because of the concussion I was pretty dazed during the event, so my recollection on the stand of who did what and the order in which things occurred was in conflict with the testimony of others. One of the arresting officers got off of graveyard and had to wait until 3 PM to testify. This made him tired and pi**ed off, which showed up in his demeanor on the stand. One of the other officer's normal demeanor and tone of voice was such that her nickname was Mary the Mouth. Without saying any more, you can get an idea of how her attitude came across to the jury. A third officer looked more like a giant sized Hell's Angel than a cop, plus defense counsel some how dug up that his nick name was Big Charley, so all of that was played up to make him look like an outlaw head thumper rather than a credible witness. Of course, the defendant's witnesses lied about what transpired - that was a given.

                Later that evening I got a phone call from the deputy district attorney who was handling the case. She was almost in tears. The jury had come back hung. When she asked why some voted for acquittal, they said they felt it was self defense. She pointed out to them that the defendant testified that he never felt that his own life or safety were in danger, which would have been an essential key to any self defense claim, and asked what they thought he was defending himself against. They said they felt he was defending himself against being taken to jail, which was ok by them.

                Rather than try a nightmare case all over again, she cut a deal. The bad guy had to contribute $1,000 to a battered women's shelter (he already spent $10,000 on his defense attorney) and the DA would not refile the case against him. My ego was mildly crushed, but stuff like this just happens.
                Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere


                • #9
                  Funny, but I had almost this exact same incident in a mall parking lot with an adult female shoplifter.

                  The POS judge dismissed the larceny and resisting charges.

                  I would not sweat this too much. This POS suspect actually sued me. Should this happen to you the mall video from your incident will come right back into play. Much easier in a civil tort. My suit has basically gone nowhere. I haven't yet been informed that it's dismissed, but have pretty much been informed that it's all but done and she doesn't have a snowballs chance.

                  - V


                  • #10
                    bro, learn to look at is this way. You had probabile cause to arrest him. He spent the night in jail and he went kicking and screaming. You did your job and if the court system fails its not your fault. Just because he is found not guilty does not mean he isnt guilty. All it means is that you cant prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
                    Last edited by DeputySC; 04-17-2008, 01:31 PM.


                    • #11
                      don't worry about the civil trial either, for one thing you should be able to get the video into evidence for that one.
                      Today's Quote:

                      "The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits."
                      Albert Einstein


                      • #12
                        And please, folks, remember that when they settle with the turd to "make them go away," it's not for a whole lot of money, and the money is not yours.

                        The L.A. City Attorney's Office denied that they ever computed the costs, but I can't see how they would not (for example):

                        To "make them go away": $10, of which goes to their attorney, so now they have $6,600, and what will that get them? How long will it last?

                        To take them to trial:
                        Attorney hours: $300-$500 per
                        To hire defense expert witness(es - medical/use-of-force): $1,000 - 5,000 per...
                        Your time off the street to attend trial...unk-$-
                        The wear and tear on you, your spouse, and your kids...unk-$-

                        $10K begins to look like a good deal to make it all go away!
                        "You're never fully dressed without a smile."

                        Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

                        Three things I know for sure: (1) No bad deed goes unrewarded, (2) No good deed goes unpunished, and (3) It is entirely possible to push the most devoted, loyal and caring person beyond the point where they no longer give a 5h!t.


                        • #13
                          Sounds like you did a good job under pretty common law enforcement situations. Be proud of how you handled the situation and try not to lose too much sleep over the possible civil matter. You went home to your family and that's all that really matters.

                          Good advice from KeithM BTW.
                          Walking the line...all give some...some give all!


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by pulicords View Post
                            You probably won't be able to do this as your employing agency is going to be providing the defense (counsel) for any pending civil action.
                            Maybe on the left coast, but not here. In Texas the two main LEO union groups are the Combined Law Enforcement Association of Texas (CLEAT) and the one I am with, Texas Municipal Police Officers Association (TMPA).
                            Any civil or criminal case we are subjected to as a result of our job duties are handled by the attorneys who work for these organizations; most of whom were career police officers prior to getting their law degrees. And yes, a civil countersuit can and has been effectively filed in matters here. Like I said, everywhere is different. If I were left at the discretion of my employing agency to defend me, I would feel quite uneasy. Most officers in these situations are only represented to the point where the city or county they work for deems it to be appropriate for them politically.
                            Road Captain
                            Blue Knights TX XIX


                            • #15
                              Even though you have been cleared by your city and they will be providing your atty., here in Minnesota you can also have your own atty and the city/county must pay for it. I do not trust the city/county provided dweeb to protect me!! - he is looking out for the city first then me!!!


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