A prominent judge is filing a $10 million claim against UCLA police after he says two officers handcuffed him, roughed him up and threw him into a squad car during a traffic stop for a seatbelt violation, his attorney says. Beverly White reports for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. Monday, Feb. 3, 2014.
A prominent African-American judge has filed a $10 million claim against the UCLA campus police department alleging two officers roughed him up during a traffic stop for a seatbelt violation, his attorney said.
David S. Cunningham had just finished his morning workout at an LA Fitness in Westwood on Nov. 23 when he was pulled over by officers Kevin Dodd and James Kim, said his attorney, Carl Douglas, in a press release.
“As a result of their actions Judge Cunningham sustained serious injury and damages to his mind, body, and reputation," Douglas said in a statement.
Douglas alleges Cunningham's wounds as well as patrol car video support claims of excessive force.
"The video shows the judge being pushed into the backseat of the patrol car, hands handcuffed in back of him and the doors close, and the judge is laying on his back with his feet up in the air, trying to right himself," Douglas told NBC4.
UCLA officials said they “fully investigated” Cunningham’s complaint, as required by law, but “did not find sufficient evidence to sustain his allegations.
“We are distressed when anyone feels disrespected by our officers or anyone who represents UCLA,” said UCLA spokesman Steve Ritea in a statement. “As in this case, feedback to UCLA Police provides them the opportunity to review their actions, tailor future trainings and improve performance to reflect the department’s commitment to excellence.”
Cunningham said he was driving out of the parking structure and unhooked his seatbelt briefly to remove his wallet in order to pay the parking fee. After paying, he said he drove away and a UCLA campus police car pulled up next to him.
Moments later the officers activated their overhead lights and pulled him over.
He said the officers cuffed him and threw him into the backseat after he got out of his car to retrieve his car insurance and registration information from his trunk.
Douglas says video shows a third cop intervened but that the arresting officer stayed defiant.
"The officer responds ‘I'm not afraid of any battle.’ And indeed later, the officer spews, "I don't care if his first name was Judge," Douglas said.
The situation was resolved a short time later when an African-American sergeant arrived and spoke to the officers before ordering them to release Cunningham, the press release said.
Douglas called the incident “outrageous and “a stunning overreaction to recognized and accepted police procedures.
“If an African American judge can be accosted and then arrested by a hateful police officer for a seat belt violation on the streets of Westwood, then none of us are safe," he said.
Cunningham said in the statement that he was “shaken, battered, and bruised by this ordeal.”