Judge Files Suit Against UCLA Police for Handcuffing Incident - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Judge Files Suit Against UCLA Police for Handcuffing Incident

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(FOX 11/CNS) - A family law judge filed a $10 million claim against UCLA campus police, alleging he was roughed up and handcuffed after being stopped for a seat belt violation, his attorney announced Monday.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cunningham filed the claim Jan. 16, according to his lawyer, Carl Douglas. A claim is a precursor to a lawsuit.

UCLA police spokeswoman Nancy Greenstein did not immediately reply to a call seeking comment.

According to a statement released by Douglas, the judge was driving out of a parking structure after a workout at a Westwood fitness center on Nov. 23 when he unhooked his seat belt briefly to get his wallet and pay the parking fee.

As the judge turned on to Gayley Avenue and began reinserting the seat belt, his car was stopped by UCLA police for allegedly driving without having the safety device fastened, according to Douglas.

Cunningham was handcuffed and placed into the back seat of the officers' patrol car, causing him "serious injury and damages to his mind, body and reputation," according to Douglas.

The patrol car's video camera showed Cunningham complained about his treatment and that one of the officers was annoyed with the judge for no reason, according to Douglas.

A short time later, a UCLA police sergeant arrived and ordered the judge's release, according to Douglas.

"If an African American judge can be accosted and then arrested by a hateful police officer for a seat belt violation on the streets of Westwood, then none of us are safe," Douglas said.

The statement by Douglas' office also included a comment by the 58-year-old Cunningham, who is assigned to the downtown County Courthouse.

"I am shaken and bruised by this ordeal," Cunningham said. "I fear that I have suffered nerve damage in my wrists. I am still shaken by this ordeal. Although I am a former Police Commission president, I never realized what a profound effect such a negative encounter could have on someone until it happened to me."

PREVIOUSLY:

David S. Cunningham III was pulled over Saturday morning in Westwood Village for driving without a seatbelt.  What happened next is the subject of controversy. 

The superior court judge is the former president of the LA police commission and a onetime civil rights attorney.  He says he was tossed forcibly into the back of a police car and handcuffed for no reason.

Cunningham was pulling out of a Westwood gym in his Mercedes, when the UCLA police stopped him for not wearing his belt. 

UCLA officials say Cunningham did not obey an order to stay in his car while they checked his license and registration.  Cunningham claims he was trying to offer them that paperwork, and told them it might be in the trunk.  When he got out to look,  Cunningham claims, the officer shoved him against the car, told him he was under arrest and locked him in the back seat.

The 59 year old began yelling about police brutality, and a crowd gathered outside the cruiser.  Cunningham demanded that a supervisor be called, and about 10 minutes later a sergeant arrived and released the judge.  He was cited for not wearing a seatbelt.

Cunningham has now retained an attorney and has filed an excessive force complaint with the university.  His attorney says he believes race was a factor in the judge's treatment.

"Despite...instructions, the driver left the vehicle - an escalating behavior that can place officers at risk," UCLA said in a statement. "The driver stood in the roadway and refused instructions to get back in his car. As a result, the driver was temporarily handcuffed."

The university says it is conducting an internal investigation and reviewing  video from the patrol car.

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