Friday, June 2, 2017


Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department 
(LASD) has a history rife with abuse and 
brutality. In a state that jealously guards the 
opacity of police records, the LASD stands as one
of the most protective of its officers.

“Gun!” Conley shouted; he and Pederson then 
shot Mendez and his slumbering wife 15 times. 
Angel Mendez was severely wounded and ended 
up losing most of his right leg. Jennifer Mendez 
was shot in the back and sustained a shattered 
US Supreme Court sides with police who broke into home and shot sleeping couple
By Shelley Connor
2 June 2017
The Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously on Tuesday in favor of the police in a case involving Constitutional issues relating to an illegal search and entry in violation of the Fourth Amendment which resulted in a man and his pregnant wife being shot 15 times.
The 8-0 decision in County of Los Angeles vs. Mendez overturns a Ninth Circuit Court decision that found in favor of Angel Mendez and vacated an award of $4 million granted by the Ninth Circuit.
Notably, the court reached its unanimous decision without the input of the conservative Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch, who did not vote since arguments in the case were heard before he was sworn in earlier this year.
On October 1, 2010, 12 Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputies, acting upon the word of an informant, made plans to sweep the home of Paula Hughes in the town of Lancaster in search of an at-large parolee. Deputies were told that a man and a “pregnant lady” were living in a plywood structure in Hughes’ backyard. The deputies did not notify Hughes of the sweep; they had not obtained a search warrant, nor had Hughes given them permission to search her property.
Twelve deputies approached Hughes’ house. Two of them, Deputies Christopher
Conley and Jennifer Pederson, were assigned to clear the back of the property. Conley and Pederson made note of the plywood shack. A power cord ran from Hughes’ house to the 343 square foot structure. Clothes hung outside and the shack was equipped with an air conditioning unit—all things that signaled that the shed-like structure was inhabited.
Neither Pederson nor Conley knocked on the door of the shack, nor announced their presence. Conley opened the door and pulled aside a blanket which had been hung over the door for insulation.
Angel Mendez and his wife, Jennifer, who was seven months pregnant, lay asleep in the shack. Hughes had allowed them to live in the shed until they could recover from financial hardship. As deputies entered the structure, Angel woke and made to stand up, attempting to put down the BB gun he kept close to shoot at rats.
“Gun!” Conley shouted; he and Pederson then 
shot Mendez and his slumbering wife 15 times. 
Angel Mendez was severely wounded and ended 
up losing most of his right leg. Jennifer Mendez 
was shot in the back and sustained a shattered 
The Mendezes sued Los Angeles County in federal court on the grounds that the deputies had violated their Fourth Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure and excessive force. The court ruled in their behalf, noting that the deputies were well aware that the shack was inhabited, having been informed of the fact in briefings and having seen evidence of habitation around the outside of the shed. Moreover, the deputies’ search did not merit any exception for a warrantless search, and they had further violated the Fourth Amendment by failing to alert the couple of their presence.
The court awarded the Mendezes $4 million in damages for the shooting, as well as attorneys’ fees and two penalties for unreasonable search and seizure. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court concurred with the lower court with the exception of the so-called “knock and announce” Fourth Amendment penalty.
Invoking the so-called “provocation doctrine,” the Ninth Circuit ruled that Pederson and Conley’s unreasonable entry into the Mendez’s shelter had provoked a “violent response” from Mendez and his BB gun.
Los Angeles County petitioned for a review of the case by the Supreme Court which subsequently heard arguments on March 22. Justice Sonia Sotomayor initially noted that the Mendezes had a Second Amendment right to bear arms, and so police should expect to be confronted by armed homeowners in the course of an illegal entry. Justice Elena Kagan made similar arguments.
Nevertheless, the court handed down a unanimous decision affirming the court’s hostility to the provocation doctrine as expressed in City and County of San Francisco v. Sheehan where the court upheld the concept of “qualified immunity” for officers who had provoked a violent confrontation with a mentally ill woman and shot her.
In the Mendez decision, Justice Samuel Alito called the provocation rule “a novel and unsupported path to liability in cases in which the use of force was reasonable.”
The court vacated the damages awarded by the court, sending the case back to the Ninth Circuit with instructions to reconsider whether the Mendezes can be awarded damages strictly on the merits of the warrantless entry; the court will not be allowed to consider the issues of police provocation or excessive force.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) has a history rife with abuse and brutality. In a state that jealously guards the opacity of police records, the LASD stands as one of the most protective of its officers.
Last June, in response to threats from the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS), a union representing LASD deputies, the LASD removed from its public information database all information on investigations into police shootings, except for racial information.
The ALADS union tenaciously fights transparency or accountability; it currently is working to keep the Sheriff from releasing to prosecutors the names of deputies who have had disciplinary actions or who have been charged with crimes.
The crimes of the LASD and other police forces in Los Angeles County have abounded. Between 2000 and 2016, at least 1,300 people in the county were shot by police. A study published in the Guardian revealed that, per capita, Los Angeles County was the 11th deadliest county in the United States for police shootings in 2015. Very seldom were officers charged in these shootings.
The Supreme Court has legitimized this criminal violence with one reactionary ruling after another. It frequently invokes the reactionary “qualified immunity” doctrine that limits remedies for excessive force.
The right-wing judges did not stand up for the Second Amendment right to bear arms that is so frequently thrown out as a bone by right-wing politicians. The liberal judges, meanwhile, assented to the reactionary ruling, ultimately forsaking Fourth Amendment rights for the right of police to shoot and maim without any significant restrictions.
John Burton, president of the board of directors of the National Police Accountability Project and WSWS writer, noted the Mendez decision was part of a definite trend and “another stone removed from the edifice of Fourth Amendment rights.”
“The whole thing is political,” he told the WSWS. “The courts want to empower the police as much as possible and limit access to remedies for police violence.”
The important questions in the Mendez case, he pointed out, are not those of jurisprudence or democratic ideals enshrined in the Bill of Rights, but those of class tensions. Such decisions allow constitutional protections to be taken away “piece by piece, instead of all at once.”

An assault by an LAPD officer led to a criminal conviction — and now, a $500,000 settlement

The Los Angeles City Council agreed Wednesday to pay up to $500,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a man assaulted by a police officer in South Los Angeles, an arrest caught on video that resulted in a rare criminal conviction — but no jail time — for the officer.
In a 12-0 vote, city lawmakers agreed to close the books on a federal civil rights case brought by Clinton Alford, who was kicked, punched and elbowed by an officer during a 2014 arrest.
The settlement marks the financial fallout of a case that echoed the larger national debate about how police use force: a black man, assaulted by an officer, recorded on video. The officer’s actions were criticized by many police officials, particularly after seeing the footage captured by a nearby security camera.
Prosecutors charged LAPD Officer Richard Garcia with assault under the color of authority, a felony that could have landed him behind bars for up to three years.
But Garcia was spared from jail last week under a controversial deal made with prosecutors. After completing community service, following all laws, staying away from Alford and donating $500 to a charity, Garcia was allowed to plead no contest to a misdemeanor charge that replaced the felony.
Garcia was sentenced to serve two years of probation. The punishment was less severe than that recommended by a probation officer, who suggested in a report filed in court that Garcia spend a year in jail and three years on probation.
Officers initially tried to stop Alford in October 2014 because police were investigating a robbery and he matched the description of the suspect, authorities said. After the assault, Alford was booked on suspicion of drug possession and resisting arrest — a case prosecutors later dismissed.
The 25-year-old is now facing life in prison after a jury convicted him a few weeks ago in a separate 2015 case. The charges in that case included rape, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon, according to court records.
Garcia is still employed by the Los Angeles Police Department, but is on unpaid leave awaiting a disciplinary hearing. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck noted last week that the hearing could result in his firing.
The City Council also unanimously agreed Wednesday to pay up to $500,000 to settle another lawsuit from a man who said he was permanently injured in 2013 after he was shot by officers and bitten by a police dog in South L.A.
The Police Commission, the civilian panel that oversees the LAPD, agreed with Beck that police were justified in firing their guns at Sergio Pina. Officers told investigators they saw the 37-year-old man point a gun at one of the officers as they searched a neighborhood for him, according to a summary of the commission’s decision.
No gun was found at the scene, but the board said a “preponderance of the evidence” supported the officers’ account that Pina was armed. Both the commission’s report and another report from Beck noted that police went to the neighborhood because someone called 911 reporting a man walking around with a gun. Beck’s report said Pina matched the description of the man.
Pina contested the idea that he had a gun in two lawsuits he later filed, saying he was unarmed at the time of the shooting.
”We are pleased with the settlement because it was what the client wanted,” said Dale Galipo, an attorney who is representing Pina. “However, we felt we could prevail on the case had we gone to trial.”
The settlements were the latest in a string of police-related payouts that have captured the attention of City Hall, particularly as lawmakers took steps toward a controversial plan to borrow up to $60 million to help pay a skyrocketing legal tab.
Not all of the city’s costly settlements involved the LAPD. In August, for example, the council agreed to pay roughly $200 million to settle a lawsuit brought by disability rights groups over the lack of accessible publicly funded housing.
But LAPD-related lawsuits have taken a toll on the city’s coffers. During the last fiscal year, the city paid almost $81 million to settle such cases, a sharp increase from recent years, driven by high-dollar settlements for two wrongful murder convictions and a police shooting that left a boy paralyzed.
The city has paid over $32 million for LAPD-related legal cases during this fiscal year, which ends June 30, a spokesman for the city attorney’s office said Wednesday.
Councilman Mitch Englander, chairman of the Public Safety Committee, said in a statement that he was “very concerned with the current trend of rising payouts.”
Englander noted that many of the settlements stemmed from encounters that predated the Police Commission’s renewed efforts to minimize when officers use serious force — changes that have included revamped training, new protocols and more technology.
“I will be looking closely at the implementation of these reforms to observe any measurable effect they have in halting or reversing this trend,” he said.

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