Settlements from over-reaching by law enforcement in the news …

by on October 28, 2010 · 1 comment

in Civil Rights, San Diego

magnify glassEditor: There have been a couple of legal settlements in the news of recent over incidents where law enforcement over-reached.  The first was the outrageous shooting death of a gay hired dancer – Steven Hirschfield – by Harbor Patrol cops in July 2008.   He was shot in the back by officers when they tried pulling in out of the water after he had jumped into the Bay from the cruise ship he was on.

The second settlement stems from an incident that occurred at a Francine Busby fund-raiser in North County in June of 2009 when a deputy sheriff, supposedly responding to a noise complaint, ended up pepper-spraying a number of guests.

Settlement finalized in Harbor Police shooting

By Dana Littlefield / San Diego U-T /   October 27, 201

SAN DIEGO — The family of a man who was fatally shot by Harbor Police after jumping off a cruise ship into the San Diego Bay have formalized the $2.5 million settlement in their wrongful death lawsuit against the Unified Port of San Diego.

Attorneys for the parents of Steven Hirschfield of Los Angeles and for the port said the deal was made final during a hearing Wednesday in federal court.

Hirschfield, 37, was working as a hired dancer aboard a cruise ship on July 19, 2008, when he jumped into the bay about 11 p.m. About 30 minutes later, he was shot in the back during an altercation with two police officers sent to pull him from the water.

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Busby fundraisers settle civil rights case

Pepper-spray incident prompted the lawsuit

By Matthew T. Hall / San Diego U-T /  October 25, 2010

San Diego County has paid out $1.2 million to settle a lawsuit brought against the county and a sheriff’s deputy who pepper-sprayed guests at a political fundraiser last year.  The settlement is being split among eight people — three who sued and five who were considering it.

As part of the agreement, they will meet with Sheriff Bill Gore to discuss the incident, which occurred at a Cardiff fundraiser for congressional candidate Francine Busby.  The sheriff must also write a letter of apology, though neither Gore nor the deputy sheriffs’ union head apologized after the deal was announced Monday.  Gore said in a statement he is proud of the work the department does daily under difficult circumstances and union president Hank Turner expressed disappointment in the deal.

Shari Barman, Jane Stratton and Pamela Morgan filed a lawsuit in federal court in December, alleging their civil rights were violated by Deputy Marshall Abbott’s actions after he showed up to investigate a noise complaint.  They sought monetary damages and policy changes at the Sheriff’s Department.

“This incident and this settlement are a reminder that sheriff’s deputies are not above the law,” said Barman, who hosted the fundraiser at the home she shares with Stratton. “In this country there are well-defined civil rights that are designed to protect all of us, particularly the sanctity of our homes. It is up to each of us to stand up for these rights.”

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JEC October 29, 2010 at 8:48 am

A letter in this morning’s U-T complains about out – of – court settlements as denying the public’s right to defend itself. The County pays out about an average of $3 million a year to settle suits – nearly all involve the Sheriff and nearly all are out of court. The County employees a gang of attorneys – and they’re already paid for – that not why they settle. The County is not frivolous but judges a case on how it will play before a jury – they settle out of court because they believe they will lose and lose more than what they settled for. For me, the shooting incident remains a mystery. There’s more to it which might explain why the Port District choose to avoid court.


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