The Price of Police Misconduct

Poor judgment and unnecessary violence on the part of a police officer in Seattle will cost local taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Here's what happened:

[Romelle] Bradford was a 20-year-old volunteer at the Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club in 2006 and was chaperoning a dance when rival groups began to make trouble. Police were called, and Bradford, according to testimony and court records, was wearing a red staff T-shirt and identification when a rookie police officer, Jacob Briskey, ordered him to stop running toward the altercation.

Bradford, who testified he did not know the officer was speaking to him, continued on when the then-24-year-old officer knocked him hard to the ground and threatened to "knock him the [expletive] out" if he tried to get back up. Bradford was arrested and spent a night in jail.

A federal jury awarded Bradford $269,000. The city hired a private law firm that has billed more than $138,000 to defend the case and the court will probably order the city to pay Bradford's attorneys' fees (although likely less than the $271,000 they're requesting). If the city loses a planned appeal, thousands more will be paid to the attorneys on both sides of the case. All because a police officer roughed up and arrested a young man who was just trying to do his job.

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    A Black Man Running (5.00 / 0) (#2)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 04:19:12 PM EST
    Is a dangerous thing, for himself. I was shocked to learn that a friend of mine who grew up in DC was told by his parents never to run in the streets, under any condition. The parents logic was that their children would be shot or arrested.

    Still the case, evidentially.

    Apparently... (none / 0) (#3)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 04:22:13 PM EST
    ...the same holds true if one is brown in Denver...



    that kid had smart parents (none / 0) (#5)
    by scribe on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 04:23:47 PM EST
    You Are Right About That (none / 0) (#10)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 04:43:06 PM EST
    And some super talented and smart kids (5) as well. One of them became a very famous artist.

    The cop messed up... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 04:36:56 PM EST
    [Bradford] was named the state's Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year in 2003 for overcoming chronic truancy to excel in school and for his work with kids and computers at the club.
    The 22-year-old Bradford -- who overcame a troubled childhood to be named 2003 King County and Washington state youth of the year -- said the hurt is real.

    The law enfocement officer, of course, (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by oculus on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 04:38:48 PM EST
    did not have this information.

    No. He didn't know anything (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by dianem on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 04:47:28 PM EST
    What happened to presumption of innocence? What happened to treating people with respect, at least until they show that they don't deserve that respect? All the cop knew was that somebody was running toward a problem. It could have been anybody - even an undercover cop. But the officer simply attacked. My German Shepherd does that, reflexively. If somebody runs, he assumes they are up to no good and I have to stop him from chasing. I joke that he has a "cop mentality" - if it runs, it's up to something, you must chase it - but it's not really funny. We see case after case where a police officer arrests and/or injures an innocent person who was no threat to them, simply because they assume that a threat exists even with no evidence whatsoever. I know that they have to protect themselves from danger. I know that they have dealt with bad people a lot, and tend to be cynical. But there has to be a balance somewhere. Cops have developed a reputation as thugs, and it's not doing anybody any good - including them.

    hindsight is 20/20 (none / 0) (#24)
    by RJBOSTON on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 08:29:19 PM EST
    What if the man had a gun or knife and someone was killed? Wouldn't everyone jump on the cop for not acting quick enough. The cop didn't just attack. He told him to stop at a situation that the cop was called to by someone looking for help.

    I don't think stopping him was a mistake (none / 0) (#25)
    by dianem on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 08:45:00 PM EST
    If the officer thought he was one of the troublemakers, he had a responsibility to detain him. But he didn't need to threaten him, and once he found out that he was on the staff he could have simply taken his name and moved on to settle the disturbance that he was called to deal with.

    As for telling him to stop - I can't tell you how many times I've been focused on something and not heard somebody asking me a question. I'm guessing that a person who is focused on running to deal with a fight in a chaotic situation is even more prone to not hearing something, or even hearing it and not thinking it applies to him (he's one of the good guys, after all). It's not as if the guy was approaching the officer and ignoring him, or trying to stop him. Based on the story, he didn't hear him. That's not a crime. It bothers me that it's so easy to simply arrest somebody for "interfering with a police officer" or "resisting arrest" when they aren't really doing anything wrong. Those charges are meant to apply to egregious behavior, not simply be a way to punish somebody who did something the office found offensive.


    True enough. (none / 0) (#13)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 05:01:13 PM EST
    Although you'd have thought his bright red T-shirt that said "staff" on the back and the ID hanging around his neck on a lanyard would have been information enough.

    Ah well, I was, like the cop, once 23 y/o and chock full of youthful adrenalin and righteousness. Hopefully he'll grow from the experience. I like to think I did...


    I once passed my Caucasian adult daughter (none / 0) (#20)
    by oculus on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 06:01:00 PM EST
    who was sitting in her truck alongside the freeway and two law enforcement officers were approaching the driver's side of her truck.  Her hands were not in sight.  Her vehicle resembled the vehicle of a suspect in a recent robbery in our neighborhood.

    I didn't stop.  I later told her to make sure her hands are in sight at all times when law enforcement approaches you.  She sd., I was getting out my driver license, as I know they would want to see it.  I sd., listen to me.


    I hope she does (listen to her mother)! (none / 0) (#21)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 06:54:10 PM EST
    Keep on hoping. (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by oculus on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 07:07:20 PM EST
    seattleite here (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by zaitztheunconvicted on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 05:16:38 PM EST
    David the unconvicted spends some time in Seattle.  Seattle is one of my home cities.

    I read the newspaper articles about this.

    Things are even worse for the cop.  The guy showed the cop his ID and t-shirt.  The cop either didn't believe him or acted as if he didn't.  The cop arrested him for obstruction of justice and resisting arrest, if I recall correctly.  I think that the cop or another cop lied or fabricated on the police report, which happened to be contradicted by multiple witnesses, as well as by the plaintiff.

    Jurors who deliberated concluded that they would not have wanted to have been treated as Bradford was.  They found the cop and city liable for everything except actual malice and intentional assault.

    One of the local newspapers has had a series of articles about the use and misuse of the charges of obstruction of justice and resisting arresting by the police here, especially against those in the African American race.  The city has usually prevailed in lawsuits against it, but this time acted so stupidly it was impossible.

    Given the facts of the case, you wonder why, when the suit began, they didn't just fold and settle.

    Maybe Because They Always Win (none / 0) (#16)
    by squeaky on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 05:19:30 PM EST
    Or almost always...

    The officer supervisor... (none / 0) (#23)
    by TomStewart on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 07:50:51 PM EST
    claimed the kid had taken a swing at his officer, something that the arrested man and the officer denied. They claimed that they held him overnight to assess his injuries, which involved booking him, thus giving him a police record, something that will follow him for life.

    The cop screwed up, probably due to inexperience and excitement, but it could have been resolved at the scene without hauling the kid to the station and booking him. The charges that followed were classic butt-covering.


    Wow. i've been settling too cheap. (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Ben Masel on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 05:35:29 PM EST

    My first reaction: interference with a law (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 04:15:11 PM EST
    enforcement officer.  Jury apparently disagreed though,

    First take is probably wrong: (none / 0) (#4)
    by scribe on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 04:23:02 PM EST
    The case likely would never have gotten to the jury unless there were a pretty compelling set of facts to overcome all the immunities the law enforcement officer would be entitled to under the mess of case law the Supreme Court (under Rehnquist, Scalia, et als.) has engrafted onto the 1983 statute.  

    For a plaintiff whose civil rights were violated, just getting to have a jury trial is a triumph.  The vast majority of cases are dismissed either on procedural grounds or on immunities well before getting anywhere near a jury.  Admittedly, a lot of civil rights plaintiffs file suit pro se and lose as a result, but that's a function of would-be plaintiff's attorneys having learned - the hard way - that these cases are too often losers.  In some circuits, catching an infectious disease, like TB or MRSA, for example - because the conditions of confinement were so abysmal - is still not enough to get to a jury.


    Didn't take time to read the article. Was an (none / 0) (#6)
    by oculus on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 04:36:12 PM EST
    MSJ filed raising qualified immunity?

    The article doesn't say, but (none / 0) (#12)
    by scribe on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 04:54:11 PM EST
    I am sure one was.  It would be the exceptional case where one was not - and the judge would likely order the defense to file one - to weed out issues - after looking down from the bench at the defense lawyer, kinda cockeyed asking "you're not going to file a summary judgment motion?"

    This is absolutely true (none / 0) (#19)
    by Claw on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 05:36:41 PM EST
    Why can't cops ever just say "I'm sorry" (none / 0) (#9)
    by dianem on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 04:42:07 PM EST
    Human beings make mistakes. It is inevitable that, sometimes, police officers will make a mistake and go after the wrong person. Why is it so difficult to just say "Oh, I didn't know you were staff. Sorry I jumped you - I thought you were one of the troublemakers" and move on. Is there some kind of policy saying that if a cop jumps somebody they must arrest them or face some kind of penalty? Is the arrest simply a way to trying to justify the attack, because they are afraid they will be sued if they jump somebody and then don't arrest them? Is it that difficult for a police officer to just accept that sometimes people really don't hear them when they say "Stop. Police"? I think that this could all have been prevented with a simple apology at the scene. Well, and a bit more discretion: When you have somebody on the ground, you don't generally need to threaten and swear at them unless they are threatening you in some way.

    Great post "Why can't cops ever... (none / 0) (#14)
    by jccamp on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 05:07:57 PM EST
    When you say "Is there some kind of policy saying that if a cop jumps somebody they must arrest them or face some kind of penalty? Is the arrest simply a way to trying to justify the attack, because they are afraid they will be sued if they jump somebody and then don't arrest them?" you are absolutely correct in what the officer is probably thinking. In this case, it was a brand new officer who was probably afraid for his job, and followed the advice of some senior cop by making the arrest. A simple handshake and an apology was the proper response. Even the jury decided that the initial stop was OK, if more violent than necessary. The arrest is what led to the award. The jury specifically found that the officer acted in good faith.
    just to be clear, there is no such policy (as above), but the average cop is afraid to admit to an honest mistake, for fear of being thrown to the wolves for the greater good (you know, maintaining the current management team).
    And I think any reasonable observer would have to admit there is no shortage of people eager to bloviate about any police error, no matter how well intentioned. Just like there's no shortage of cops who really do act in bad faith.
    Maybe not this time though.

    why not apologize? (none / 0) (#17)
    by zaitztheunconvicted on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 05:22:56 PM EST
    According to the local newspapers, Seattle police (or at least some of them) have been wrongfully using charges of "resisting arrest" and "obstruction of justice," when there has been some unpleasant interaction between police and a citizen, and those charges are a shield against lawsuits for brutality and excessive force.  Apparently a whole bunch of persons--especially African Americans--but perhaps others are charged with these crimes and then the charges are dropped (because in the vast majority of cases, there is no underlying crime) but the charges are there to be used if someone has a complaint or injury or medical bills after a police encounter.

    So, why not apologize?  Apparently some of the police think that is like, being in a car accident, being at fault and telling the other party, "Hey, I'm at fault and we will pay."


    Highway robbery (none / 0) (#26)
    by diogenes on Mon Jun 09, 2008 at 10:32:43 PM EST
    What exactly were the actual damages to this fellow?  Looks like a lot of the costs are plaitiff's lawyers fees, and a lot are the city defending itself against extortion (i.e. I doubt that the plaintiff would have accepted a settlement of ten or twenty thousand dollars) which is also meant to deter future, more frivolous cases.

    Sherrif forced his way into my door. (none / 0) (#27)
    by Mona on Sun Jun 15, 2008 at 08:03:49 PM EST
    Any opinions???
    My daughter had her last day at a private school due to the owners un-professional ways.
    I went to the school to get her belongings and let her say bye to her friends, after a peaceful visit I got home and 30 minuets later I had 2 deputies and a trooper (who is the friend of the school owner) knocking at my door. I was the only one home with my 3 and 7 yr old. I answered the door and they started to question me about my visit at the school, I said it was with out problems. The dep. said we heard that you were there cussing and causing problems, I said that is not true. The trooper held his hand out in my face and said oh yes you did, I heard you cussing at her when I was on the phone with her, I then told him he is lying for her and she was not even at the school when I was there, I am scared and I am asking you to leave I need to call an attorney. I was closing my door and could feel a fight on the other end trying to prevent me from closing it. When I went to lock it the door opened enough for the dep. to stick his fingers in and my hand touched his around the lock area I said move your hand I am trying to close the door, he busted into my house pulled me out(in front of my screaming children and arrested me with 2 felonies.(resisting arrest and battery on LEO) Now I am in the battle of my life just to get those dropped!!! Can you believe that??? I wasn't even mean to them, he said since I touched his hand it was considered battery. He wrote in the reports that I bent his fingers back causing great discomfort! Which was not the case but that is his reason for arresting me, and this was after I asked him to leave and closed my door!!!! he is about 400 lbs, I am 130lbs. and 5 feet tall.

    adding to story (none / 0) (#28)
    by Mona on Sun Jun 15, 2008 at 08:07:36 PM EST
    THe dep. went to the school the next day to get statements about my visit and everyone said that it was with out problems!! This is in the police reports! and the trooper since then has changed his story a few times about the "foul lang" he heard, and how he even ended up at my house w/ 2 deputies!!He had no right being at my house!