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  1. #1

    Default Aggressive Actions By Off-Duty Police Officer

    My question involves police conduct in the State of: California

    I am a divorced parent and was recently attending my daughter's sporting event, as I had many times before. My ex wife and I just recently went to court where I had successfully modified support. My ex wife told people at the game that I was violating a court order by being at the game (there is no such order). One guy came up, put his hands on me, said he was an off duty officer and said I have to leave. I asked for identification and he said he didn't have any with him, it was in his car. I agreed to leave until the authorities came and would clear it up, but said I would say goodbye to my daughter first. At that point I was thrown in a choke hold and forcefully removed from the field. At no time did I say or do anything that would be considered aggessive. I would like to file civil charges against this off-duty officer, but am having difficulty finding the code that governs off duty police conduct. Thanks for any help.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    Default Re: What Statute Governs Off Duty Police Conduct in California

    So, after that, you just left?

    how do you know this guy is actually a cop?

  3. #3

    Default Re: What Statute Governs Off Duty Police Conduct in California

    he held me in a choke hold with my arm behind my back until the county sheriff arrived. He told the sheriff I violated p.c. 415; the sheriff questioned me and others present, did a background check and then let me go. I learned from one of the sheriffs that he was in fact an officer and got his name. I have been waiting for the police report before filing a complaint with his department and filing a civil suit for battery.

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Default Re: What Statute Governs Off Duty Police Conduct in California

    Well, if you have his name and information, proceed with the civil suit if you wish.

    Off duty officers follow the same laws as everyone else ... with the exception that they can magically transform into a peace officer should the need arise. Whether this was such a situation, I can't say. Whether the officer can articulate a justification for his actions, I don't know. Based solely on your account, I'd say, no. But, there may be other witnesses that have something different to say.

    So, you can make the complaint to the agency about his conduct and consult attorneys to see if anyone feels this is a case worth pursuing.

    As a note, we do not utilize anything called "a choke hold." The closest thing would be a carotid restraint, and what you describe would not be that. Besides, one would be unable to put an arm behind your back if that was done. He may have done some sort of partial horse collar move (not something we are generally trained in) and then used the arm lock to encourage your movement, but I doubt it was a choke hold. If you go to court, you will have to be more descriptive than that.
    **********
    Retired Cal Cop Sergeant & Teacher

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
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    Default Re: What Statute Governs Off Duty Police Conduct in California

    Filing a civil suit and litigating it, are two different ball games... Question is, what are your damages (?your feelings got hurt? but were you injured?) and how much are you expecting in "compensation"?

    Point is, going at it alone might suggest you will lose, and lose quickly... And hiring a attorney might not be worth his/her while or yours (try and consult with one and see if s/he'll take it on contingency. If not, there is your answer)...

    One thing I have learned on this forum is that there are always two sides to a story... The way you tell the story, makes it sound as if he asked you to leave, you simply said "no", he put you in a choke hold with your arm behind your back until the sheriff arrived -makes him seem like the aggressor-. However, according to his side of the story, you violated PC-415, which I am sure you've already read:


    PC 415. Any of the following persons shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for a period of not more than 90 days, a fine of not more than four hundred dollars ($400), or both such imprisonment and fine:
    (1) Any person who unlawfully fights in a public place or challenges another person in a public place to fight.
    (2) Any person who maliciously and willfully disturbs another person by loud and unreasonable noise.
    (3) Any person who uses offensive words in a public place which are inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction.

    So the question that remains is... Is he making that stuff up? Or did you simply decide it isn't relevant and it need not be mentioned here?

  6. #6

    Default Re: What Statute Governs Off Duty Police Conduct in California

    Thank you all for your responses. I understand this story sounds incredible and that there must be another side, but it is really that straight forward. First, I understand the question of damages - I have no physical damages, but that does not mean that punitive damages are not available for civil rights violations. I am not so much concerned about my own compensation as I am about punishing this officer who feels that he can lay hands on someone without cause (or in this case, at the say so of my ex wife). While he mentioned p.c. 415 to the sheriffs, none of the witnesses corroborated this account and the sheriffs did not even cite me for that. Once they found out that I was not violating any court order (i.e. restraining order) they let me go. The worst thing I did is I asked for this guy's identification, so he decided to forcefully remove me. Further, whether the technical term is "choke hold" or "cartoid restraint", the fact is he had his arm around my neck and I almost blacked out - while my arm was twisted behind my back.
    Even if I lose, if this has been a pattern for this officer, my actions may prevent future problems. I don't believe that his badge allows him to disregard due process.
    My main concern is this (why I posed the question regarding police conduct): once he says "I am an off duty police officer" is that enough that I have to follow his orders? was I wrong by not immediately complying with his request to leave enough to justify his use of force?

  7. #7
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    Default Re: What Statute Governs Off Duty Police Conduct in California

    Quote Quoting dickenslegalservices
    View Post
    I understand the question of damages - I have no physical damages, but that does not mean that punitive damages are not available for civil rights violations.
    The question is, how much are you willing to spend to seek some small punitive amount? If an attorney does not believe it is worth his or her time and effort, you will be asked to pay up front. You might be gambling about $5,000 or more on a roll of the dice.

    Also, if the agency does not acknowledge his actions as being consistent with policy or being done in the scope of his employment, you could well be faced with suing him as an individual as opposed to an officer and that could change the equation - and the responsibilities - a bit.

    I am not so much concerned about my own compensation as I am about punishing this officer who feels that he can lay hands on someone without cause
    I'll wager he will articulate that he had cause. Whether it will hold any weight or not is something i can't say.

    Further, whether the technical term is "choke hold" or "cartoid restraint", the fact is he had his arm around my neck and I almost blacked out - while my arm was twisted behind my back.
    Certainly not a maneuver he is trained in, that would just add to the agency's argument that he was acting outside the scope of his employment should you choose to sue him and his agency. They would, of course, still accept a complaint and can discipline him, but there is a chance they will not indemnify or support him should he be sued for this.

    Even if I lose, if this has been a pattern for this officer, my actions may prevent future problems. I don't believe that his badge allows him to disregard due process.
    The complaint should accomplish that, if there is a problem that can be identified and addressed.

    A lawsuit might be an expensive way for you to try to teach the same lesson. But, it's your time and money to risk. Before you make any claim for damages, you should really consult attorneys with experience in use of force issues and ask if they believe there is a valid claim here. Sometimes agencies simply pay out "go away" money in such allegations, so a local attorney may be able to gauge whether or not this will be a free payout for $5,000 or $10,000. Maybe.

    My main concern is this (why I posed the question regarding police conduct): once he says "I am an off duty police officer" is that enough that I have to follow his orders? was I wrong by not immediately complying with his request to leave enough to justify his use of force?
    One he has identified himself as an off duty police officer, you can probably assume he is claiming to now be acting in that capacity. While it might be a good idea to present valid ID, it is not necessarily a requirement at the moment and a defense to resisting an officer under such a circumstance could include a lack of objective knowledge that he was an officer. Besides, if I were confronting an individual off duty that I believed to be in violation of a TRO and I believed he might be confrontational, I would not waste time and risk my safety trying to ID myself.

    No matter his ID or not, his use of force will be evaluated as to whether or not it was reasonable under the circumstances he knew or believed at the time. Depending on what your ex told him, it may turn out that he is in the clear and that your target may be your ex for making such a claim or for painting such a dangerous picture without cause. Assuming, of course, there is no cause to believe you might be a threat.

    So, time to consult some attorneys if you wish to pursue litigation. And, make that personnel complaint.
    **********
    Retired Cal Cop Sergeant & Teacher

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM

  8. #8

    Default Re: What Statute Governs Off Duty Police Conduct in California

    That was really helpful, thanks for taking the time to respond. I will talk to an attorney, but I doubt I will find anyone to take this considering the lack of physical damages. I don't even know if it is worth the filing fee. But, I will let an attorney decide on that. I will still pursue a claim with this officer's department; perhaps that will settle the issue.

    As for the ex, I have filed a motion in family law court for an injunction barring her from further interfering with my participation in our kids activities. If I do go the civil route, I will name her as an accessory to battery for inciting this guy.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: What Statute Governs Off Duty Police Conduct in California

    Quote Quoting dickenslegalservices
    View Post
    That was really helpful, thanks for taking the time to respond. I will talk to an attorney, but I doubt I will find anyone to take this considering the lack of physical damages. I don't even know if it is worth the filing fee. But, I will let an attorney decide on that. I will still pursue a claim with this officer's department; perhaps that will settle the issue.
    Something I tell community members with some frequency is that the time to complain about an officer or the agency's performance as a whole is not to wait until tragedy strikes and then jump on the bandwagon saying what happened to you once upon a time, but to bring the matter to our attention relative to the time of occurrence. The agency cannot be expected to address behavior through training, discipline, policies, etc., unless they are made aware of a possible problem. It might turn out that under the circumstances known by the officer at the moment, he was justified (in the department's view) for his actions. On the other hand, they may see his actions as over the top and the specific use of force egregious. If he intentionally utilized some sort of arm and throat hold that caused your blood flow to be impeded, then that may well have exceeded both policy and the bounds of reasonable force, and is not likely a hold he was taught by the agency. In such an instance, re-training and instruction on the use of force and proper techniques might be in order.

    The point being, agencies do not usually want officers giving them a bad name and exposing them to civil litigation. If they can address an issue, it is best to do so before it becomes a problem. And if that means releasing a problem officer from service, so be it.
    **********
    Retired Cal Cop Sergeant & Teacher

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM

  10. #10
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    Sep 2009
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    Brawley, CA 92227
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    Default Re: What Statute Governs Off Duty Police Conduct in California

    I know you asked "What statute.." but there might be internal policy that governs what off-duty officers can do. This is our police department's policy. You can check to see if your PD has a policy.
    "Initiating law enforcement action while off*duty is generally discouraged. Officers should not attempt to initiate enforcement action when witnessing minor crimes, such as suspected intoxicated drivers, reckless driving or minor property crimes. Such incidents should be promptly reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
    Officers are not expected to place themselves in unreasonable peril. However, any sworn member of this department who becomes aware of an incident or circumstance that he/she reasonably believes poses an imminent threat of serious bodily injury or death, or significant property damage may take reasonable action to minimize the threat.
    When public safety or the prevention of major property damage requires immediate action, officers should first consider reporting and monitoring the activity and only take direct action as a last resort."

    "300.2.5 CAROTID RESTRAINT
    The proper application of the carotid restraint hold by a trained officer may be effective in restraining a violent individual. Only officers who have successfully completed department *approved training on the use of the carotid restraint hold and the department Use of Force Policy are authorized to use the technique. After initial training, officers shall complete training annually on the use of the carotid restraint hold." This is the current policy at our department. Lexipol policy.
    cwdjava: You said, "Certainly not a maneuver he is trained in,". CA police are not trained in this dangerous hold? Is the bar-arm chokehold banned in CA?

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