In the courtroom, the judge is god. But on the street, the judge will do as he’s told. In New York, Supreme Court Justice Thomas Raffaele was taught that painful lesson, although he never really appeared to get it. In California, it was Judge David Cunningham’s lesson to learn.
[Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David S. Cunningham] claimed that two campus officers cuffed him and threw him into the back of a squad car after he had finished his morning workout at a gym in Westwood on Nov. 23, 2013.
The officers acted after he got out of his car to retrieve his car insurance and registration information and refused orders to get back in his car, the university said.
You have to love it when the media reports that the judge “claimed” something happened, just like ordinary folks do. From the LA Times:
He said that the officers stopped him seconds after he left a LA Fitness gym, shoved him against his car, handcuffed him and locked him in the back seat of a police cruiser until a black sergeant arrived. He alleges that the only explanation for the conduct was “his African American race,” and that he was not even close to university property.
What makes this remarkable is that this conduct happens to a whole lot of people who aren’t judges, who weren’t the “former president of the Los Angeles Police Commission,” and who aren’t even black. While the judge “allege[d]” that the only explanation was his race, that fails to explain why people of every color are given similarly delicate and caring treatment. It may be because the judge was black. It may also be because . . . reasons.
According to Cunningham’s complaint, he was trying to find his registration and insurance forms in his car’s glove box when a prescription bottle for high blood pressure medicine rolled out. One of the officers asked him whether he was carrying drugs. Cunningham then said he went to search his trunk for the papers and that the officers, Kevin Dodd and James Kim, rushed and handcuffed him.
Drugs? Well, that’s a familiar tune. What if he appeared to clench his buttocks too tightly? Would some judge sign a warrant for a forced digital rectal exam? After all, the officer commanded the judge to stay inside his car, but the judge got out to get his registration. It may have seemed like a reasonable thing to do for the judge, but command presence demands the judge comply. Kinda like when a judge makes some utterance from the bench that no one can challenge.
In a statement after the incident, the UCLA police department said the matter began as a routine traffic stop and that Cunningham ignored officers’ orders to stay in his car. “Despite these instructions, the driver left the vehicle – an escalating behavior that can place officers at risk,” the department said at the time.
Drugs, placing the officers at risk. They had a bad dude on the un-sunny side of the street, and that can’t be permitted, no matter what color he is. Had a sergeant not intervened, recognizing that the perp in the back seat of the cruiser wasn’t a good candidate for a digital rectal search, this could have gotten way uglier.
Cunningham, who had reviewed many cases of possible police misconduct matters during his time on the Police Commission, said he feared for his safety and began yelling about police brutality and demanded they call a supervisor.
Nonetheless, Judge Cunningham was sufficiently offended at his handling to file a claim against UCLA for being “shaken, battered and bruised,” which they settled for a cool $500,000.
[H]is attorney will receive $150,000 and an additional $350,000 will establish a scholarship fund named after Cunningham and administered by the UCLA Black Alumni Association for undergraduate or law students…
In addition, UCLA pledged to improve training for police on diversity and to hold a one-day community forum about relations between police and the public, including racial profiling.
A gracious outcome by the judge, who kept nothing for himself. Don’t try this at home, kids, as you aren’t likely to come close to such a wondrous settlement. You are not Judge Cunningham. And indeed, Judge Cunningham is not you. It’s not that his perception, that the only problem here is racial insensitivity, and a one-day training seminar for UCLA police on diversity will put this nasty business behind them, is a terrible thing. Well, maybe it is.
Whenever a person gets treated poorly by the police, there is a question in the back of people’s minds that if only this was to happen to someone in a position of authority, of power, they will finally realize that life on the street can be brutish, hostile and violent at the hands of the police. If only it would happen to them, instead of just us.
The fact is that it does, every once in a while. It happened to Judge Raffaele. It happened to Judge Cunningham. It happens.
“Both parties are eager to use this as a teachable moment that provides greater insight into important issues, increased educational opportunities and improved relations between law enforcement and the public,” the statement said. “This civic-minded agreement serves the best interest of the entire community and settles the matter to the mutual satisfaction of the parties.”
There you go. A teachable moment, a civic-minded agreement and a problem solved. Nothing more to see here. Move along. That’s a command.