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California: San Jose Agrees to settle Police Brutality Claim for $97,500

By Michael Brodheim

Yet again, San Jose officials have agreed to settle a major civil rights lawsuit arising from the alleged use of excessive police force after a relatively minor offense involving residents from immigrant communities.

In November 2009, an analysis by the San Jose Mercury News revealed that hundreds of routine encounters with San Jose police escalate into violence and subsequently result in charges of resisting arrest. The analysis led the San Jose City Council to order a review of some 200 such cases.

The latest settlement arose from a July 2006 incident in which two officers pulled over Samuel Santana (then 25) because his car was missing a front license plate and he wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Before the dust had settled, Santana was pepper-sprayed and allegedly called a “Mexican wetback” by one officer, while his uncle, Ascencion Calderon, then 65, who happened to be eating at a nearby taco stand, was allegedly kicked in the groin and had his face slammed into the hood of a patrol car by a second officer. Santana and Calderon were both charged with resisting arrest. After a mistrial, the charges were dropped.

In March 2007, the Mexican consul general, Bruno Figueroa, cited the incident as an example of police mistreatment of Latinos. The head of the officers’ union responded with a suggestion that the Mexican government solve its own police problems “before he tries to solve ours.”
In June 2007, after the city rejected a $1 million claim for damages, Calderon and Santana filed suit.

Without admitting any liability, the city agreed to settle the suit for $97,500.

Source: John Woolfolk, San Jose Mercury News, Dec. 1, 2009.

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Related legal case

Calderon, et al. v. City, et al.