Seattle citizens to be billed $268,000 for uniformed thuggery

21 May 2008 by Mike Gogulski
Posted in police | No Comments »

There’s not even an underlying charge here to justify stopping the guy in the first place. “Contempt of cop” indeed.

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Seattle to pay for unlawful arrest, excessive force

Stencil / Plantilla sobre asfixia policial by @ flickr

Stencil / Plantilla sobre asfixia policial by @ flickr

In a stunning setback for the Seattle Police Department, a federal civil court jury on Monday found patrol officers made a false and unlawful arrest and used excessive force when they detained and then jailed a young Seattle man on charges of obstruction and resisting arrest.

The nine-member jury awarded Romelle Bradford $268,000 in damages. Though they rejected punitive damages, they also found the 2006 arrest was a federal civil rights violation, which means the city must pay Bradford’s attorneys fees, an amount not yet determined.


The arresting officer in the case, Jacob Briskey, said he was “disappointed” by the verdict but offered no other comment.


It was after a club dance Bradford was supervising in August 2006 that he and club volunteers summoned police because of a potentially unruly crowd outside the club. Briskey, 26, was then a rookie officer. He arrived as things were settling down, spotted Bradford jogging down the street and ordered him to stop. When Bradford didn’t halt immediately, Briskey rushed at him and slammed him to the ground.

Bradford said he didn’t think the officer was talking to him because he said he was wearing a red T-shirt clearly identifying him as a Boys & Girls Club member. He said he was holding up his club badge and showing the officer his T-shirt when he said the officer decked him with his forearm.

Using the F-word, the young officer threatened to break Bradford’s arm as he handcuffed him in front of several youngsters who were protesting that he was, indeed, a staff member trying to help.

After a police station interview in which Bradford insisted he was a staff member, police nevertheless booked and jailed him overnight. Briskey claimed Bradford’s failure to immediately stop justified the obstructing charge and that a hesitation to offer one arm during handcuffing — which Bradford doesn’t recall — justified the resisting charge.

Criminal defense attorneys refer to “obstructing a public officer” arrests by two other monikers: “Contempt of cop” and “the cover charge.” Several told the P-I those nicknames are applied because the charges are sometimes abused to punish people for their being “mouthy” or to cover up when police might have used wrongful force against an innocent person.


The jury didn’t rule entirely in Bradford’s favor. They found that Briskey had “reasonable suspicion to stop and temporarily detain” Bradford prior to arresting him. Thus they rejected an “illegal seizure” claim. They also found that Briskey didn’t act “with evil motive, actual malice, deliberate violence or oppression, with intent to injure, or in willful disregard” for Bradford’s rights. They also rejected other claims of “malicious prosecution,” “abuse of process” and “assault and battery,” denying an unspecified request for punitive damages.

But they did find that Briskey lacked “probable cause” to arrest Bradford, and that the arrest was unlawful. They said the force used was excessive under the federal civil rights law.

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