Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica Police Excessive Force Case Cost Rises to More Than $2 Million||
By Jonathan Friedman
September 29, 2016 -- Without comment, the Santa Monica City Council voted on Tuesday not to appeal a federal jury’s decision to award $1.1 million to an African American man who alleged police used excessive force when arresting him last year at Virginia Avenue Park’s electric vehicle charging station.
The City will pay 36-year-old Justin Palmer an additional $1 million for attorneys fees. Palmer had asked for $1.35 million, City Attorney Marsha Moutrie said. This brings the City’s total cost to $2.1 million.
Council members discussed the lawsuit with City legal officials during a closed-session portion of the meeting, and the 6-0 vote was made in public.
The incident occurred in April 2015, and the jury decided in Palmer’s favor earlier this month (“Jury Awards $1.1 Million in Excessive Force Case Against Santa Monica Police,” September 7, 2016).
Following the jury’s decision, the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) noted in a statement that it could file an appeal.
Soon after, an organization called Coalition for Police Reform (CPR) started an online petition demanding the City not appeal the verdict.
More than 300 people’s virtual signatures appeared on the petition as of this week, including those of former mayors Paul Rosenstein and the Rev. Jim Conn, as well as school board member Oscar de la Torre and Rent Control Board member Todd Flora.
Following the council’s vote, a message was posted on the petition stating, “Santa Monica, thank you for choosing not to appeal the excessive force verdict and to pay damages even though the City was not held liable.”
The jury’s verdict was against one of the two officers involved in the incident and not the City, although the money going to Palmer will come from the City.
Palmer alleged he was injured on the night of April 21, 2015 by two police officers when they forced him to the ground in handcuffs and then pepper sprayed his face.
The SMPD’s statement released after the jury verdict said Palmer was arrested for a municipal violation and for resisting arrest, and that “officers deployed pepper spray and performed physical control techniques.”
Police say Palmer was using the charging station after the park had closed at 11 p.m. Palmer has not denied this, but says he had arrived at the charging station long before 11 p.m. and waited his turn.
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