Lawsuits. OPD’s Once and Future Legacy.

Categories: Front Page, Open Mic

Oakland quite possibly spends more per capita on settling lawsuits caused by questionable and unconstitutional policing than any other city in America. Certainly it spends more per capita than any other significantly-sized city in California, having shelled out about $60,000,000 in the last ten years, double that of San Francisco, which has about twice the population, and vastly more than San Jose, the Bay Area’s biggest metropolis. Just months ago Oakland settled a civil rights case involving public strip-searches (!) for $4.6 million, and

The city has paid out nearly $19 million over the last two fiscal years in connection with claims and lawsuits… More than half of the payouts involved the police department.

Here’s information on some of the biggest settlments in the last decade.


There is no reason to believe this fiscal bleeding will stop because there are numerous lawsuits ‘on tap’ waiting to come to trial or be settled.

Further, bringing the person, philosophy and recommendations of William ‘Stop & Frisk’ Bratton to Oakland seems likely to lead Oakland’s police to behave even more unlawfully than they already do — setting up the city up for plenty of lawsuits-to-be.

Here are some of the lawsuits that have arisen in the last year or so and which are pending against OPD and the City of Oakland. Five of these are the result of police violence against Occupy Oakland activists. These lawsuits could easily cost its taxpayers tens of millions of dollars over the next few years:

Olsen v Oakland, OPD, Roche et al

Without warning, one of the officers fired a high-velocity round… at Mr. Olsen, hitting him in the head. The impact fractured Mr. Olsen’s skill and caused hemorrrhaging of his brain… Mr. Olsen lost his ability to speak and perform basic mental and physical functions.

Sabeghi v. Oakland, Uu, Patterson, Gonzalez

Officer Uu and other officers beat plaintiff so viciously that they ruptured his spenic vein… Police officers, jailer and jail medical personnel mocked and ignored his pleas for help. Plaintiff was not taken to a hospital until approximately 128 hours after the beating.

Campbell et al v Oakland, Howard Jordan

Mr. Campbell was filming police officers… when he was shot in the leg… with a lead-filled shot bag… These police actions were in direct violation of the crowd-control policy that Oakland adopted in ILWU Local 10 v Oakland and Coles v Oakland.

Blueford vs Oakland, Jordan, Masso, et al

On May 6th, 2012… Officer Masso shot … Alan Blueford to death when Mr. Blueford was on the ground… Officer Masso shot decedent three times on the ground… Mr. Blueford did not present a legitimate threat to Officer Masso…

All gunshots that struck Mr. Blueford were blatantly unreasonable, excessive uses of force against a man who had fallen to the ground… At the time of the shooting, the decedent was on his back, trying to get up.

Jones v. Oakland

Tony Jones… filed a $10 million lawsuit in federal court Wednesday accusing the officer of violating his civil rights… Officer Cesar Garcia shot him in the back and Garcia and the city of Oakland violated his constitutional protections against unlawful detention, unlawful arrest and the use of unreasonable force… “At this point it’s uncertain if Jones will be able to walk normally again.”

The suit alleges that the city of Oakland was negligent by keeping Garcia on the police force despite its knowledge of his “wrongful and dangerous behavior” in previous incidents, including “his violent tendencies, his propensity to use deadly force without sufficient justification and his pattern and practice of using unnecessary force.”

Angell et al v Oakland, Alameda County, Howard Jordan et al

Without a dispersal order or other warning, class members were detained, arrested… and imprisoned for 12 to 85 hours… class members were incarcerated for long periods in overcrowded and inhumane conditions, including unheated or deliberately chilled cells… no sleeping facilities, sometimes standing room only, no toilet facilities, no feminine hygiene, and and no food, water or medical care.

Defendants’ actions deprived the plaintiff class of their right to freedom of speech and association; the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures; the right to equal protection… the right to be free from the use of excessive and/or arbitrary force…

Ovetz v Oakland

A College of Marin instructor is suing the city of Oakland over treatment he says he received from police during a Jan. 28 protest… Without provocation, Ovetz claimed, officers struck him in the face, slammed his head into the ground and beat him with a baton, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California… Ovetz was arrested and jailed for several days on suspicion of obstructing an officer and resisting arrest but charges were dropped…

The lawsuit, which seeks an unspecified amount of money, alleges violations of several constitutional rights in addition to excessive force, false arrest, assault and battery.

It should be noted that OPD is not affected by these lawsuits. Settlments do not come out of OPD’s budget — some 40% of Oakland’s yearly outlays — they come directly from taxpayer monies that might otherwise be used for something else, but which vanish almost invisibly into the accountants’ ledgers. Laws shield individual police from any adverse consequences of their actions (and in the rare case where that is not true, the City Council has demonstrated it will indemnify the officer for any punitive damages the court awards).

And so it continues.


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