Police watchman close to reaching an agreement with San José for a broken arm

San José appears to be resolving a dispute with a resident injured while attempting to film police officers.

Last week, in a closed-door session, the San José City Council discussed a lawsuit filed by Nicholas Robinson, a security guard who records police interactions. Robinson was arrested while monitoring police making an arrest near Highway 101 in November 2018. claimed in a lawsuit, officers broke his arm while detaining him and violated his Fourth Amendment rights.

City attorney Nora Frimann said the San Jose Spotlight settlement negotiations conducted by the court are confidential. He added that the city does not yet have a signed settlement agreement.

Robinson’s attorneys told the court that a settlement was reached, according to federal records. The attorneys, who did not respond to requests for comment, told Robinson that the city approved the deal, according to a screenshot of a text message.

Robinson told the San Jose Spotlight that he is upset with the award of the settlement, which he says amounts to about $ 30,000, most of which will go toward attorneys’ fees.

“That won’t even cover my future surgery,” Robinson said, noting that he has titanium rods and screws in his arms that will need to be replaced in several years.

The settlement is far from the $ 1.5 million that Robinson’s attorneys requested in September. In a court brief, they argued that the brief altercation resulted in a permanent disability.

“Although the defendants never told Mr. Robinson that he was at least in custody, they tackled him and broke his arm within 12 seconds of meeting,” the attorneys say in a court file filed in September.

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His attorneys said in court reports that Robinson suffered a broken arm that left him with permanent nerve damage. They claim that the injury has cost Robinson approximately $ 75,000 in medical bills and at least $ 10,000 in lost wages.

Paying the price

The San José city attorney said in a court brief that Robinson interfered with a felony arrest warrant at a homeless camp by shining a flashlight on police officers, preventing them from continuing their operation. .

Police body camera recordings show an officer demanding that Robinson turn off his flashlight. After Robinson turned it off, he protested that he had a right to be there and gestured with the end of his flashlight. This led officers to grab Robinson and raise his arms above his head, which allegedly resulted in the injury.

Raj Jayadev, co-founder of Silicon Valley De-Bug, a community organizing group that focuses on the criminal justice system, told San Jose Spotlight that there is a long tradition of civilians monitoring police to prevent or at least witness bad conduct.

“It is an extremely important activity, and I think Nick should be applauded for it,” Jayadev said. “In fact, he has had to pay the price with his body.”

A recent audit by the San José Police Department found that a quarter of officers received at least one complaint in 2020, and 23% of the complaints contained allegations about the use of force.

Attorney Robert Powell recently secured a $ 400,000 settlement for a San Jose couple allegedly injured by SJPD officers during a 2019 arrest. He told the San Jose Spotlight that numerous factors can come into play when resolving this type of case, including the extent and severity of injury, if plaintiff was resisting arrest, and if body camera footage was missing.

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“The problem with a empty number is that it doesn’t make sense,” Powell said, referring to Robinson’s lawsuit. “Does it seem low to you? That’s fair to say. But that’s all one can say that is intellectually honest. “

Robinson documents the traffic stops in an effort to increase transparency around police activities, he said. The First Amendment allows law enforcement officers to be searched in a public space, but restrictions apply when it interferes with police work, something several departments allege about Robinson.

Several law enforcement agencies have restraining orders against Robinson, including the San Jose Police Department, the Santa Clara Police Department, the California Highway Patrol, and the San Jose Police Officers Association. According to court records, Robinson has interfered with traffic stops by recording police officers with his cell phone, shining his flashlight at officers, and sometimes shouting “vulgarities.”

Robinson said he supports law enforcement but wants to create an additional layer of accountability for police. He noted that body cameras are supposed to do this, but he doesn’t trust them.

“We see it over and over, even when they have the cameras on, it doesn’t even hold them accountable,” Robinson said.

Contact Eli Wolfe at [correo electrónico protegido] or @ EliWolfe4 and Twitter.