With the recent high-profile cases of alleged police brutality, Alameda may have wanted to settle a lawsuit alleging excessive force against one of their officers, rather than take their chances in the court room. As a result, the city of Alameda has agreed to a $450,000 settlement in the case of the alleged beating of the mentally and physically disabled Jeffrey Navarro.
On July 27, 2012, Jeffrey Navarro, 43, was riding his bike on the 2500 block of Clement Avenue. Police say Navarro matched the description of someone who had stolen a cell phone charger from a Verizon store. According to police and city officials, Alameda police sergeant Patrick Wyeth ordered Navarro to stop, but he fled on his bicycle. A brief chase was followed by Navarro being tackled to the ground by Wyeth.
Much of the incident was captured on a body camera worn by Wyeth. Alameda has been testing the use of body cameras, which could reduce use of force by the police, and reduce complaints and further lawsuits. The police department plans to ask the City Council for approval to purchase wearable cameras for their officers.
On the video, Sgt. Wyeth can be heard saying, “You better stop. Otherwise, you're going to get hurt. I don't want to hurt you.” According to the attorney for Navarro, Susan Kang Gordon, the baton strikes by Wyeth were unjustified, given that Navarro was unarmed and demonstrated no threat to the officer.
The beating left Navarro with a broken arm, elbow fracture, and with further injuries to his neck and leg. Navarro was hospitalized for several months, and his lawyer claims that he is still crippled as a result of the beating. No phone charger was found, and while he was arrested for resisting arrest, no charges were filed. The Alameda Police Department's internal investigation found that Wyeth's actions were consistent with department training and policy. City officials are sticking by their claims that Wyeth's actions were reasonable and lawful.
The Alameda City Council, in a closed session, approved the settlement. However, the city is not admitting any liability. In a statement, city officials said, “While the city believes the case is defensible, the city is aware of the recent incidences and public debate occurring throughout the country regarding the use of force by police officers. Rather than subject the city, its Police Department and its taxpayers to what would likely be a long and costly jury trial, the city decided it was in its best interests to bring this matter to resolution now.”
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