In September of 2005, Robert Contreras was shot several times by Los Angeles police officers after fleeing the scene of a drive-by shooting with two others in a van.
An internal investigation revealed that Contreras was unarmed when shot, and that the object in his hand which officers believed to be a gun was a cell phone. Contreras was left paralyzed and eventually sued the city for excessive use of force and violating his civil rights.
An independent board that supervises the LAPD cleared the officers of wrongdoing and in 2009 Contreras was convicted for his participation in the drive-by shooting.
Now, the Los Angeles City Council has rejected a $4.5 million settlement proposal from Contreras’ lawyers, opting instead to wait and see what the jury decides. After a meeting on Wednesday, Councilman Paul Krekorian said that paying the proposed settlement “sends a terrible message to police officers… not just the two officers involved, but to every officer in the LAPD, who could be faced with the same sort of situation.” Councilman Bernard C. Parks disagreed, and stated that paying the settlement would shield the cash-strapped city’s budget from a potentially much larger payout.
Should the City Council risk a possible larger settlement awarded by a jury? How can police officers determine the proper use of force in the line of duty?
Joel Rubin, reporter, Los Angeles Times
Paul Krekorian, Los Angeles city councilman for District 2, which includes the mid and northeast San Fernando Valley; he voted against the settlement yesterday
Stan Goldman, professor of criminal law and criminal procedure, Loyola Law School