In Indianapolis’s second-largest legal settlement to date, the family of Eric Wells, a motorcyclist killed by a speeding police car two years ago, has received $1.5 million from the municipal government. While stopped at a red light with some other motorcycle enthusiasts, Wells was struck from behind and killed by a policeman driving a city police vehicle. Officer David Bisard’s actions at the time of the crash are a triumvirate of dangerous driving practices: he was drunk (technically only allegedly — see suspicious circumstances below), he was speeding towards a non-emergency he was not dispatched to, and to top it all off, he was using his in-car police computer for non-police purposes while driving. Any one of those details on their own would be enough for a hefty civil case. Combined, it seems to any observer that the man is justly doomed to a life in jail. In fact, a criminal trial for reckless homicide and criminal recklessness are still pending, along with two more civil cases for the two motorcyclists he only injured. So what’s the hold up?Google+
Beloit, Wisconsin will have to pay $265,000 to a teenager who was illegally strip-searched in public by a police officer. Conner Poff was sitting in his car with some friends when the police received an anonymous tip alleging “drug activity”. Officer Kerry Daugherty approached the car, asked Poff to step out, and patted him down. Up to this point, Daugherty followed standard and necessary procedure. However, the policeman detected a bulge in the teenagers pants in the region of his crotch and, apparently not being too current with his studies of anatomy, asked the boy what that mysterious bulge could be. Poff replied that it was in fact his genitals, at which point the incredulous officer told the teenager to “show him”. When Poff complied, he was slammed against the car’s back windshield so hard that the windshield shattered and he suffered a mild concussion. In the course of the scuffle, Daugherty “discovered” a small bag of marijuana in the boy’s underwear. The police officer’s defense for his violent and unjustifiable strip search? He wanted the 16-year-old to show him the marijuana, which was clearly too small to detect in plain sight, and “not his genitals”. Well Mr. Daugherty, if you didn’t want to ogle the kid’s junk, you probably shouldn’t have asked to ogle the kid’s junk.
Poff filed suit shortly thereafter, alleging that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated. Instead of going in front of a jury, which I can only assume would decide in Poff’s favor, the city agreed to a $265,000 settlement. Daugherty was not disciplined. So, the one disadvantage of the settlement system once again comes to light: the victims of injustice get some money, but the perpetrators are not punished and can say they’ve done nothing wrong. However, Milwaukee County is undertaking an investigation in the strip search practices of its police departments thanks to some of Daugherty’s comments, which suggested that his actions were part of the department’s standard modus operandi.
The ultimate moral to take away from this story, then, is to remember to tighten your belt when dealing with police in Wisconsin.