Friday, July 25, 2008

Austin City Council Settles Lawsuit Against Police Officer


Police officers face difficult situations every time they take to the streets for patrol. We have all seen the videos of officers nearly struck down by passing motorists while making a routine traffic stop. Or, what about the instances in which a cop must respond to a call reporting domestic violence? He does not know what dangers may confront him when he walks through the front door. Members of our law enforcement must make quick decisions when dealing with potential criminal activity and, unfortunately, sometimes the choices made are later determined to be excessive or altogether wrong.

In July 2006, Austin police officer Gary Griffin responded to the call of “person down” and found Joseph Cruz asleep on a park bench. When Cruz did not respond to repeated efforts to rouse him from his slumber, Officer Griffin hit him with his billy club and punched him in the face.

Griffin was fired for using excessive force, but this decision was later overturned by an arbitrator. It was determined that although Griffin did “momentarily cross the line into the use of excessive force - he was not motivated by malice or bias.” And, the written ruling to overturn Griffin’s firing also asserted the idea that the Austin Police Department does not do a sufficient job of training its officers for such situations.

But Griffin’s legal battles did not end with this successful reinstatement. The Texas Civil Rights Project filed a federal civil rights lawsuit last year of behalf of Cruz, who suffers from schizophrenia. In a ruling that has quickly pitted defenders of the police officer against those who support the victim, the Austin City Council decided yesterday to award the family $55,000.00.


“We believe based on the risks and a pending federal trial to begin Monday that settling this suit for $55,000 was the best position for the city,” said Council Member Mike Martinez.

If you have been a victim of violence, no matter the profession of the perpetrator, Bertolino LLP has attorneys in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio who are available to help you. Please give us a call and let’s discuss the details of your case.

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