Small Police Department Faces Internal and External Lawsuits

At the small police department in Sierra Madre, Calif., many lawsuits, including personal injury lawsuits, are being filed by citizens against police officers as well as within the department itself. There is also turmoil from within, with three lawsuits filed by the union against the city about the alleged actions of Chief of Police Marilyn Diaz. Officers claim that Diaz conducted illegal searches and altered work schedules, among other claims.

Lawsuits within the police department are not the only ones being filed. Some officers’ alleged actions have also caused lawsuits.  According to the Pasadena Star News, one couple, Bruce and Pamela Morgan, claim that two officers caused them physical and emotional injury in Oct 2007.  

Supposedly two officers responding to a domestic dispute forced the couple "from room to room" while searching the house.  The Morgans state they did this without a warrant.  They allegedly used physical force to move the couple. The couple was then arrested for “interfering in the investigation” but those charges were dropped.

According to Patrick Scoffinger, he too was injured by two officers who allegedly pushed him down from behind and broke his nose, and then he claims they falsified reports showing he was injured during an arrest.  Later, Patrick was cleared of any charges for resisting arrest and public intoxication.

Attorney Peter Beirne is representing the injured parties, and he stated that “In both cases, the police were not acting within their bounds.”  He continued, “Just detaining someone to cause them injury is not within their bounds. To come into a home without permission without getting a warrant,  and conducting an investigation inside someone’s home for over an hour, and then when the people tell them to leave their home, arresting them for interfering is inappropriate.”

Jason Jensen also filed a claim after he was reportedly shot by an officer who found him sleeping in a vehicle suspected of being stolen, though no actual charges were filed against Jensen.

According to Chief Diaz, “use of force training” is something she’s pushing to improve the department.  They have been providing training on civil litigation and use of force on a weekly basis.
She said in a statement, “We want to ensure officers are trained so they perform their jobs in the safest way for the public, and themselves and to minimize risk and liability to the city."

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