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L.A. judge files excessive force complaint against UCPD

By Daily Bruin

Nov. 25, 2013 1:15 p.m.

This post was updated at 6:52 p.m.

A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge filed a complaint against university police Saturday, claiming two officers used excessive force after stopping him for a seatbelt violation.

Judge David S. Cunningham III was pulled over by two UCPD officers just after 10 a.m. on Gayley Avenue near Whole Foods Market, after leaving the parking lot of LA Fitness in Westwood, said Cunningham’s lawyer Carl Douglas.

The complaint alleges that two officers, Kevin Dodd and James Kim, shoved Cunningham against the side of his car, handcuffed him and put him in the back of their patrol car for not wearing a seatbelt.

“When I got out of the car to search my trunk (for license and registration papers), Officer Dodd shoved me against my car, handcuffed me, told me I was under arrest for resisting and locked me in the back seat,” Cunningham said in the complaint.

Douglas said Cunningham was injured on his hands and the back of his arm, and is seeing a hand specialist because of how tightly he was handcuffed.

Douglas added he thinks race was a factor in the way the officers interacted with Cunningham.

“I am very careful before lobbing the explosive allegation of racism, but in this case I am left with no other conclusion than the realization that David would have been treated far, far differently had he been a white judge,” Douglas said.

Douglas said Cunningham was released 10 minutes later by UCPD Sgt. Harry Standberry, after Cunningham asked for a watch commander to come to the scene.

Cunningham is also former president of the Los Angeles Police Commission.

The statement from UCPD said Cunningham was handcuffed because he refused to enter his car.

“Police officers instructed (Cunningham) to stay inside the vehicle and returned to their patrol car to run a routine license and registration check,” the UCPD statement said. “Despite these instructions, the driver left the vehicle – an escalating behavior that can place officers at risk.”

The statement added that university police are reviewing video footage from the patrol car as part of their internal investigation.

Douglas added he thinks the two officers should be placed on administrative leave while an investigation takes place.

“(Cunningham) has supreme dignity, professionalism and respect for everyone who wears the badge,” Douglas said. “For him to be slammed against his car, handcuffed so tightly that he is now visiting a hand specialist, and thrown literally into the back of a police car for a seatbelt violation is outrageous.”

There has not been a change in assignments for either officer, said Nancy Greenstein, spokeswoman for UCPD.

Compiled by Sam Hoff, Bruin reporter.

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