Home / #Solutions / Sheriff Must Pay $100K of His Own Money for Brutality Case or Head to Debtors Court

Sheriff Must Pay $100K of His Own Money for Brutality Case or Head to Debtors Court

Los Angeles, CA — As the Free Thought Project has reported extensively, police officers, even when found at fault for their abusive actions, are almost never held personally liable. It is the taxpayers who foot the bill. However, a new trend in accountability seems to be on the rise, and will be massively more effective at curbing police brutality than any system in place right now.

The most recent case of a police officer being held personally liable comes out of Los Angeles, where former Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca must decide within a week whether to pay $100,000 in damages — stemming from a civil lawsuit involving an inmate abuse case — or face liens on his assets, an attorney for the inmate said Friday, according to the LA Times.

The damages are from a 2013 judgment against Baca, three other deputies, and a captain. In that case, inmate Tyler Willis proved to a jury that he was punched and kicked repeatedly, shot with a Taser multiple times and struck “numerous times” in the ankle with a heavy metal flashlight, causing fractures and head injuries.

After a brief trial, the jury returned a verdict in Willis’ favor and held Baca personally liable. However, Baca, with the power of the police union, fought the ruling for the last 4 years, calling the idea of a police officer being held personally liable a “huge mistake.”

We disagree.

When police officers actually fear the loss of their own money, they may think twice before savagely beating a handcuffed woman or breaking into the wrong house and killing the innocent owner.

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In spite of never winning an appeal, Baca has refused to pay and now Willis’ attorney is going one step further.

“Baca has to pay up or we will proceed to collect in debtors court,” Samuel Paz, an attorney for Willis said. “If necessary we will go forward with proceedings to identify his assets and place liens to collect on the debt.”

For those unfamiliar with the former sheriff, he was forced to resign in 2014 amid a massive scandal involving the horrendous abuse of inmates in his jail. While Baca quietly retired and skated out on punishment, more than two dozen of his underlings were convicted on criminal charges for their role in the abuse. Baca claims he had no idea that dozens of his employees were carrying out the abuse right under his nose for more than a decade.

Baca wasn’t the only officer held personally responsible in the 2013 lawsuit either. Anthony Vasquez, Mark Farino and Pedro Guerrero, and Daniel Cruz were found to be “malicious, oppressive or [act] in reckless disregard” of Willis’ rights.

Last week, all four of the officers agreed to pay $65,000 — their portion of the $165,000 lawsuit. However, Baca has continued to refuse.

It seems that Baca, who is currently drawing a $328,000 annual pension for the rest of his life — in spite of being a terrible cop — is holding out for the county to use taxpayer money.

However, in court documents, the county has noted that they have no intention of paying for Baca’s abuse.

This is the second such case in only weeks, in which cops are being forced to come out of pocket after being found at fault in a lawsuit. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Deputy Adam Lin’s case was a bit more extreme than Baca’s, however.

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In 2013, Lin spotted 19-year-old Dontrell Stephens in a “high-crime area” — the man’s own low-income neighborhood — riding a bicycle in a manner the deputy found suspicious.

Lin stopped the youth, who dismounted the bike with a cell phone in his hand and slowly approached the officer. Just outside the range of dash cam video, the officer shot Stephens four times — claiming he was in fear for his life — but footage and evidence clearly showed the claim to be baseless.

Three of the bullets remain lodged in Stephens’ body, according to the Sun Sentinel — two in his arm and one in his spine, which left him paralyzed and dependent on a wheelchair for mobility.

Stephens won a massive $22.4 million settlement and U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Seltzer ruled that Lin should foot at least a portion of the bill. Last month, nearly everything this officer owned was seized to pay back Stephens — including everything from his furniture to his clothing.

Lin will most assuredly think twice before shooting another unarmed teen.

As for Baca, however, it appears he has yet to learn his lesson and will have to be forced by the court to pay.

Imagine, for a moment, the result of all police officers being held personally liable for their actions. In nearly every other profession on the planet, if someone hurts someone else while on the job, they are held liable — personally. Why can’t cops carry personal liability insurance just like doctors?

As instances of police brutality and police killings continue to be exposed, there is no doubt that the US is in dire need of reform. The simple requirement for police to be insured for personal liability is an easy fix — especially to remove repeat offenders from the force.

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All too often, when a tragic death such as Tamir Rice occurs, months later we find out that the officer should have never been given a badge and a gun in the first place because of their past. However, insurance companies, who can’t fleece the taxpayers to pay for problem cops, would have to come out of pocket to pay for them and would make sure that these officers are uninsurable.

If the officer becomes uninsurable, the officer becomes unhirable — simple as that.

There are likely many cops out there right now who would be denied insurance coverage by any company, due to their track records. A requirement for personal liability insurance would, quite literally, weed out problem officers — almost overnight.

  • Mark Skinner

    Nothing is more effective than hitting a person who has done “wrong” in the wallet. When we know that a wrong doing is going to be paid for by us PERSONALLY, it really does make one think before doing the wrong thing.

    • The Cat’s Vagina

      I beg to differ. I believe that prison time is a far more effective deterrent to doing “wrong” than having to part with four months’ pay. See, your calculations fail to take into account people who can AFFORD to buy a little impunity – where’s their incentive to think before acting?

      • police state

        Because as stated insurance companies will not insure officers with bad records and insurance would be a condition of employment.

  • Bruce_Mitchell

    Having such insurance should be a condition of employment. Keep posting such accounts and the public may eventually come to see that by getting insurance companies involved by requiring police officers to carry liability insurance, the problem of police abuse of citizens will diminish rapidly. Insurance companies are not going to be willing to insure officers who are violent or serial abusers.

    • Ed

      Well the Unions beat us to it and have contracts to the contrary! Police “catch 22” rule!

      • mgresist

        If you make it a law in your area, union contracts have to comport to the law, not the other way around. Don’t let a police union contract stop you.

      • Bruce_Mitchell

        Contracts must be renegotiated periodically. Given the sad state of policing these days, all those contracts should now be scrutinized carefully to be rid of the excessive benefits, such as allowing officers special privileges when facing charges — and adding provisions for liability insurance, if the insurance carriers are interested in such a market.

  • Guy

    Great Article, and about time too, that cop’s like this, are being exsposed for the Monsters with bandages they actually are !

    I wonder if the County or Court can be like the IRS, and garnish his retirement account for the money to the victim that he oue’s ?

  • palvadore

    Good! Now get after the crooked cop that heads the Kennesaw Ga police dept!

    • Monica Acosta-Zamora

      RMentally he’s in hell now. Which I pray is worse than debtors prison. Hell on earth.

  • Ed

    So where’s the solution? Cities & States have signed contracts with unions which use every trick in the book to keep officers on the job. It will take years to put something like this to work. Matter of Fact we have been talking about this for the last 25 years, look where we are now!

    • Bill Scott

      …or maybe just ban all public service employee unions. They’re committed to working against those who are coerced to pay cops’ salaries — taxpayers.

  • mgresist
  • Bri

    While the content of the article is great news, your headline is hyperbolic clickbait. No one is going to debtors prison.

  • OneGoodDeed

    Better start insuring yourselves officers. The people are coming for your assets to be made whole again from your abusive policing.

    • palvadore

      Legislators use the Courts to find the holes and then they write change the rules and the law to protect the actions of bad cops.

  • henrybowmanaz

    “When police officers actually fear the loss of their own money, they may think twice before savagely beating a handcuffed woman or breaking into the wrong house and killing the innocent owner.”

    What can possibly be added to this statement… other than F*G A!

  • generalisimo

    More citations please. Things that seem to good to be true usually are!

  • Arthur Bradley

    How can any body, in their right mind, pay some body, $328,000. thousand dollars, for one year of work. No wonder everyone else is broke.

  • Bill Scott

    Requiring all cops to purchase personal liability insurance is but one of several recommendations for serious police reform put forward in an op-ed published last summer, “How to Stop the Killing”:

    http://williambscott.com/2016/07/how-to-stop-the-killing/

    Excerpts:

    “It’s time to implement real solutions, such as:

    * True third-party investigations of every cop-caused fatality, ala the National Transportation Safety Board model (see “Law Enforcement is Fifty Years Behind Aviation“).

    * A protocol similar to the Aviation Safety and Reporting System whereby good cops can anonymously report the misdeeds of their badged colleagues.

    * Federal statutes requiring all law enforcement officers wear body cameras and carry (and pay for) personal liability insurance. Penalties for noncompliance include immediate dismissal. If a bodycam “fails” during a fatal encounter, or its video mysteriously disappears, the officer would be considered guilty of manslaughter, at the least, and subject to criminal charges. ….”

    #ThePermit

  • Little_Caesar

    Preach on brother! Can I get an amen?