UCLA Police Face $10 Million Claim From Judge
Posted by Alex Nochez on Feb 5, 2014 - 8:38:21 PM
WESTWOOD — A Superior Court Judge filed a $10 million claim against UCLA Police on Monday, February 3.
Judge David S. Cunningham, III
Judge David S. Cunningham III, filed the claim in regards to an incident from November 23 where he was allegedly mistreated at the hands of UCLA Police officers after a traffic stop outside of an LA Fitness.
Canyon News spoke to Judge Cunningham's attorney, Carl Douglas, who said that he found the incident “appalling” after having seen video of the incident recorded from one of the patrol cars, alleging racial bias was a prominent factor in the incident.
“It is difficult to watch, but what is clear is that the judge was victimized that day,” Mr. Douglas said.
The incident occurred on
1050 Gayley Avenue when Judge Cunningham, who served as President of the Los Angeles Police Commission between 2001 and 2005, was pulled over by two campus officers for not having his seatbelt buckled, according to a complaint he filed with the campus police department in November 2013. Officer Kevin Dodd demanded to see the judge's license and insurance registration. Cunningham then reached over to the glove compartment when he told Officer Dodd that the insurance paperwork was in the trunk.
As Cunningham stepped out of the vehicle to head to the trunk, the complaint alleges that Dodd then shoved Cunningham against his vehicle for “resisting and locked me in the back seat [of the patrol car],” where “I screamed for help.” After 10 minutes, another officer, an African-American sergeant, as noted by Mr. Douglas, arrived on-scene and ordered Officer Dodd, who is white, to release Judge Cunningham.
Mr. Douglas said that in viewing the video, he could clearly hear the arriving sergeant ask Officer Dodd, “Are you sure you want this battle?”
Officer Dodd allegedly responded, “I'm not afraid of any battle.”
UCLA put out a statement on November 25 concerning Cunningham's complaint, saying that the officers had ordered Cunningham to stay in the vehicle, but he allegedly refused and did not return to the car when prompted. The statement admitted that he was released a short time later while stressing the need for the temporary arrest since Cunningham's alleged actions were “an escalating behavior that can place officers at risk.”
Mr. Douglas noted that Judge Cunningham suffered some injuries from the arrest, including a scratch on his arm and nerve damage to his wrists. In addition, Judge Cunningham also “shows all the classic signs of post traumatic stress disorder.”
“He is afraid to leave the house most days,” added Mr. Douglas. “He still suffers anxiety whenever police cars drive past.” The large monetary claim, according to Mr. Douglas, is meant to signify the significance of the judge's injuries, with an actual lawsuit soon to follow that will be filed in Superior Court.
Canyon News reached out to the UCLA Police Department, who responded via email with a statement that they found insufficient evidence that would give cause to pursue any action after an investigation into the initial complaint.
“We are distressed when anyone feels disrespected by our officers or anyone who represents UCLA,” the statement said. “As in this case, feedback to UCLA Police provides them the opportunity to review their actions, tailor future trainings and improve performance to reflect the department's commitment to excellence.”
The university has faced racial discrimination allegations before. An October 15, 2013 review called “The Moreno Report” sought to study incidents of “racial and ethnic bias and/or discrimination” in an environment that some faculty, according to the report, had described as “in near-crisis.”
The report, which was drawn on research of the university's policies and procedures as well as interviews with concerned faculty members, found that “relevant university policies were vague, the remedial procedures difficult to access, and from a practical standpoint, essentially nonexistent” in addition to “a lack of leadership on these issues.”
Mr. Douglas was adamant about pursuing a suit against the department when he referenced Officer Dodd's words. “If it's a battle he wants, it is certainly a battle he's going to get,” he said.