Ventura PD: Excessive force case settled
Plaintiff awarded $285,000
By VCR Staff 12/13/2012
On December 22, 2011, a residential burglary was reported to the Ventura Police Department. Three days later, the Department received information that one of the items stolen (an iPad) was at a particular residence in the City. Officers responded to that location where they encountered Mr. Denny Fields. Following some brief questioning, Mr. Fields started closing the door on the officers (denying he knew anything about the stolen iPad and was trying to call his attorney, according to Field’s attorney Brian Vogel), and a physical altercation ensued which resulted in both Mr. Fields and two of the Department’s officers being injured. (Officers rushed Fields inside, beat and used a Taser on him, and officers allowed a K9 to bite him, Vogel said.) Although Mr. Fields was arrested on assault and mayhem charges, the District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute him. (The stolen iPad was never found.) Mr. Fields and the lessee of the residence subsequently filed a civil rights lawsuit against the City in federal court in Los Angeles.
The incident with Mr. Fields involved the City’s officers reacting to a volatile, violent and dynamic situation. Settlement negotiations were commenced which resulted in the action being resolved for $285,000. While this is a significant amount of money, the City’s Risk Manager, Ellis Green, notes that the potential exposure to the City and its taxpayers was considerably more, as a federal civil rights case can result in an award of hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees in addition to compensatory damages, regardless of any contributory fault on the part of the claimant.
Assistant Chief of Police Quinn Fenwick notes that the Department has been subject to very few lawsuits such as the one brought by Mr. Fields. Nevertheless, the Department has taken this matter very seriously, thoroughly reviewing its policies and procedures as well as the conduct of its officers, and using the incident to identify and implement training procedures in order to ensure the continued trust in the Department by the public it serves.
Law enforcement officials declined further comment.
Taken from Ventura Police Department press release.
From VC Reporter staff.