A prominent Los Angeles Superior Court judge claims UCLA police used excessive force Saturday morning when he was pulled over for a seatbelt violation.
Judge David S. Cunningham III alleges that after driving a block from the L.A. Fitness in Westwood, he had just buckled his seatbelt when a UCLA patrol car pulled him over. Cunningham's attorney Carl Douglas told KPCC that officers were hostile to the judge while "screaming" at him and "banging on his passenger side window."
"The officer took a benign circumstance and viewed it through the prism of suspicious eyes," Douglas told KPCC. "..And thought there was something going on that a superior court judge was doing illegally."
According to a written statement from UCLA PD, officers told Cunningham to stay in the car while they ran a license check. While they were doing so, Cunningham exited the car. Douglas says the judge told police his insurance papers might be in the trunk.
UCLA PD says the judge stood in the roadway and refused to get back in his car. That’s when he was arrested. Douglas claims the judge was thrown roughly into the back seat and that the cuffs were so tight, it caused him a doctor’s visit and medication for the pain.
"The driver stood in the roadway and refused instructions to get back in his car. As a result, the driver was temporarily handcuffed. He was released at the scene shortly thereafter with a citation for failing to wear a seatbelt," UCLA police wrote in the statement.
As part of an internal investigation, UCLA police said they are reviewing video routinely filmed from the police vehicle.
Cunningham's complaint does not attribute the incident to his race; however his attorney said race was a factor in the officers' behavior, reports the Los Angeles Times.
According to The Times:
"Do you think this would have happened if he was a white judge?" the attorney, Carl Douglas, said Monday, calling for both officers to be removed from the field immediately.
Judge David Cunningham served four years on the L.A. Police Commission during LAPD Chief Bill Bratton’s tenure. He has served four years on the Superior Court bench.
This story has been updated.