Davis Police Subdue Suicidal UCD Student

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police-lineDid the Davis Police Department help prevent a suicidal UC Davis student, heavily armed, from going on some sort of tirade, or did they unnecessarily escalate a tense but ultimately non-threatening situation with a student suffering from serious head injuries?

According to a releaase from Public Information Officer, Lt. Paul Doroshov, at approximately 6:00 PM on Friday evening, Davis Police Officers were dispatched to the downtown area to search for an armed suicidal 25-year -ld UC Davis student, Nicholas Benson.

Apparently, a family member reported Mr. Benson to the police as distraught and suicidal.  Police received additional information suggesting that Mr. Benson was possibly armed with a file and threatening to kill others.  Mr. Benson, however, at this point had not targeted anyone specifically.

According to the department, “Officers made attempts to negotiate with Benson on his cell phone to no avail.”

After an intensive area search, officers located Mr. Benson standing by his pickup truck at Fourth Street and A Street.

After Mr. Benson received numerous commands to surrender, he allegedly resisted and headed straight for his vehicle.

Just as Mr. Benson entered the cab of his pickup truck, officers used a Taser and other non-lethal measures to subdue him and take him into custody.

The police found in his vehicle a loaded rifle with a telescopic sight, and a loaded shotgun. They also located hundreds of rounds of rifle ammunition in Benson’s possession.

Mr. Benson was arrested and is lodged at the Yolo County Jail on $1 million bail, charged with Making Terrorist Threats (PC 422), Carrying a loaded weapon in a public place (PC 12031), Obstructing and Resisting a Public Officer (PC 69), and Possession of an illegal assault weapon (PC 12280(b)).

While many praised the Davis Police Department for their fast thinking in averting a situation that could have become another case like what happened in Arizona, the Vanguard has learned that the family is angry that this situation was escalated to the point that it was.

Family and friends indicate that as a teenager, the individual suffered significant head injuries in an automobile accident, to the point where he nearly did not survive.

He has struggled to complete college and live a normal life.

They believe that, while he was suicidal, the idea that he was making terrorists threats was overblown and this was simply an overreaction.

“This young man belongs in the hospital not in jail,” according to one person familiar with Mr. Benson’s situation.

Unfortunately, in the aftermath of incidents like Arizona, the police are invariably going to err on the side of caution.  We may never know what really happened or what his true intentions were.  However, this seems to be an individual who needs treatment rather than to spend the rest of his life in prison, which the charges against him may necessitate.

One thing that is clear, we need more treatment options and support for the mentally ill in this country.  We are apparently willing to spend tens of thousands per year to house inmates, but not invest the kind of money we need into mental health services.

This a tragic case, and unfortunately, as we have learned in all too many incidents, the police may not be the best parties to handle such calls.  We have the example of Abrahams in Woodland, where Mr. Abrahams, also mentally disturbed, had his family call the police after he left a care facility.  What ensued was an escalated conflict, tasering, and eventually the death of Mr. Abrahams, termed by authorities positional asphyxiation.

In a similar case last fall, the West Sacramento Police took an incident involving Anthony Roman who was distraught and whose family called for a welfare check, and they ended up in a confrontation and then claimed he had a knife – which apparently was folded in his pocket.

In that case, Deputy District Attorney Jim Walker who prosecuted the case said: “It’s a scary situation when officers are responding to a call for help and they come face-to-face with a fighting, [a] violent man. West Sacramento officers should be commended for handling the situation without anybody getting seriously hurt.”

However, defense attorney Richard Van Zandt, a Yolo County Public Defender, told the Vanguard that Mr. Roman was breaking no law when police were called to the residence. The other residents, his family, had police called because he was behaving erratically. Police, knowing Mr. Roman’s mental health history, were there to detain him for a 5150 hold. Police arrested him for misdemeanor resisting arrest and left him at the hospital for a mental health evaluation and 72-hour hold.

The bottom line is that it might appear that, in many cases, the police are not best equipped to deal with mentally ill individuals.

However, I will stress that at this point, we do not know the full facts involved.  The amount of ammunition is a concern.  On the other hand, it appears that he was not walking around carrying the weapons, but rather they were in his car and he was on the street.

Would some sort of emergency mental health crisis center have been better equipped to deal with this incident?  We may never know, but it is an issue worth exploring on the policy level.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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75 thoughts on “Davis Police Subdue Suicidal UCD Student”

  1. rusty49

    “The police found in his vehicle, a loaded rifle with a telescopic sight, and a loaded shotgun. They also located hundreds of rounds of rifle ammunition in Benson’s possession.”

    Great job by the Davis PD. A family member reported him as distraught and suicidal, you don’t need a scope and hundreds of rounds of ammo to kill yourself. Who knows what he was planning, I’m glad the police acted responsively and took the situaution under control. Instead of making this a story of whether law enforcement is the best solution in a case like this, it should be a story about what a fantastic job our police dept. did.

  2. rusty49

    “I don’t understand why we need to jump to conclusions either way here. We will have the facts at some point and can decide then.”

    Facts are he had two loaded guns, a scope and tons of ammo and he was reported as suicidal. At that point and time the police did a great job, there’s nothing to “decide then”.

  3. David M. Greenwald

    Actually those are not technically facts, they are claims by the police to bolster and justify their arrest and the charges. The court will determine whether things happened as the police claim.

  4. biddlin

    We can be thankful that Mr. Benson was stopped before any shooting took place. I’ll reserve judgment on the police’ action, although they have accused me of making a “terrorist threat”, when they refused to respond to vandalism by a neighborhood bully, and I advised them that I would have to deal with it myself. They wouldn’t go after the thug, but within minutes a guy in swat get-up was on my doorstep threatening to arrest me.

  5. Robb

    “One thing that is clear, we need more treatment options and support for the mentally ill in this country. We are apparently willing to spend tens of thousands per year to house inmates, but not invest the kind of money we need into mental health services.”

    Apart from the questions that remain about this incident, I think that the quote above represents a very relevant issue. Rifkin raised it in an Enterprise column last week too and I would like to ask you (and him) to provide more investigative reporting on a few issues: 1) Who are the main providers of mental health services in this county? 2) How has their funding and/or mandate changed over the last decade? 3) Is there any emergency response unit focusing on mental health crises within local police or fire departments? 4) What exactly ARE the gaps in coverage for mental health services at the city/county level and what would it take to fill them?

    Based on my work with homeless and other individuals I am convinced there IS a problem but I am neither clear about the real causes nor what the solutions might be in the current situation of shrinking budgets. I can agree that there is a prioritization issue here but someone needs to help all of us understand what the trade-offs are.

    Please undertake this investigation and analysis for us Mr Greenwald. Thanks.

  6. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “However, my concern is still whether law enforcement is best equipped to deal with mentally ill individuals – from what I have seen in court and elsewhere, I have doubts about that.”

    Who else would you propose deal with a mentally ill person who has loaded guns? A social worker? They wouldn’t have gone near this guy. When weapons are involved, law enforcement are the only ones equipped to handle the situation.

    Do the police always do their job well in dealing w the mentally ill? In the Abrahams case, obviously not. Which only means the police need special training to handle the mentally ill, which those involved did receive, by the way, immediately after the Abrahams death.

    dmg: “I don’t understand why we need to jump to conclusions either way here. We will have the facts at some point and can decide then. In the meantime, I think there are a lot of issues in the wake of Arizona that are worth pondering. However, I will stress that at this point, we do not know the full facts involved.”

    Aren’t you “jumping to conclusions”, engaging in rank speculation the police may have done something wrong in this situation, when you admittedly don’t know all the facts?

    dmg: “The amount of ammunition is a concern.”

    Ya think?

    dmg: “On the other hand, it appears that he was not walking around carrying the weapons, but rather they were in his car and he was on the street.”

    You want to wait until the person in question is actually carrying the weapons around before intervening? An “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Ask Giffords what she thinks, after having been shot in the head point blank by a mentally ill gunman, whether she would prefer the police wait until someone w a weapon has it “in hand” ready for action!

    dmg: “Would some sort of emergency mental health crisis center have been better equipped to deal with this incident? We may never know, but it is an issue worth exploring on the policy level.”

    Any time someone is going to be taken for a 5150 hold, the police are called, and for very good reason. No social worker is willing to put their lives on the line in taking in a mentally ill person, who may not want to go, to a hospital facility. (Ask anyone in Adult Protective Services…) Not to mention the possibility of a protective dog or friends, guns or other weapons, that might be present at the time of the detention attempt.

    So how do you propose to get this person to the mental health facility, if he does not want to go, if not law enforcement? Would you like to take on the task? Good luck! If not you, and if not social workers who are most definitely and understandably not willing, then who?

    dmg: “The bottom line is that it might appear that, in many cases, the police are not best equipped to deal with mentally ill individuals.”

    The police are the only ones equipped to do this job. What I would argue is they need special training on how to do it right. It is not an easy task, nor an enviable one. No one likes doing this, not law enforcement nor mental health professionals. Ask anyone in the mental health or law enforcement field. It is almost always a last resort to put someone on a 5150 hold…

    dmg: “One thing that is clear, we need more treatment options and support for the mentally ill in this country. We are apparently willing to spend tens of thousands per year to house inmates, but not invest the kind of money we need into mental health services.”

    Agreed – both inside and outside prison we need more in the way of mental health services. But it is up to taxpayers to decide to fund mental health services, isn’t it? Taxpayers did fund Prop 63, for additional mental health services than already existed. What happened? The governor at the time took that money and contrary to taxpayer directive put it towards existing mental health services just to keep them afloat. Mental health services were cut back drastically anyway. Mental health services has notoriously been underfunded. But then Jerry Brown is proposing to cut even more from mental health services, Medicaid, adult day health, etc.

  7. Ryan Kelly

    I would think that the family would be relieved that the student is alive and safe, even if he is in jail. What was he thinking he was going to do with his gun, scope and ammunition? This story makes me catch my breath. Staff and faculty at UCD receive training on what to do if a shooter appears on campus. This is a real concern. But there is no training for how to deal with a sniper, other than run and hide. Thank you to the family for calling the police. They averted real tragedy and have kept the guy alive. Of course the student needs mental health services, but he is safe, we are safe for the time being.

  8. E Roberts Musser

    biddlin: “We can be thankful that Mr. Benson was stopped before any shooting took place. I’ll reserve judgment on the police’ action, although they have accused me of making a “terrorist threat”, when they refused to respond to vandalism by a neighborhood bully, and I advised them that I would have to deal with it myself. They wouldn’t go after the thug, but within minutes a guy in swat get-up was on my doorstep threatening to arrest me.”

    This is a whole other issue – police reluctance to involve themselves in disputes between neighbors. Often times it depends on how you approach the matter. In one case I called the police to advise them my next door neighbor was shooting arrows into the nieghborhood park and next to my 8 year old son as a demonstration of how bow and arrows worked. The police officer was shocked, and asked if I wanted him to speak to my neighbor. I declined, and said I would take care of the matter myself as a start. When I talked w my neighbor, he promised not to do it anymore, but refused to speak to me after that. No great loss, but the police were willing to get involved.

    However, when my son was seriously bullied in and out of school, the police at first were very reluctant to get involved. When my son was jumped on his way home from school and had his bike destroyed (after a series of incidents at school in which the school officials would do nothing), I called the police when the school refused to do anything. At first the police were not willing to intervene. So I advised them I was an attorney and was planning to sue the bully for the cost of the bike. The police were suddenly willing to talk w the parents of the bully. The parents of the bully were then willing to cough up the cost of the bike. The bullying from this particular kid ceased as well.

    In another incident, when my son was clocked on the side of the head by a gang member outside Lamppost Pizza in West Davis, on my son’s graduation day, the policer officer that answered the call didn’t seem all that willing to do much. He said he would try and find out who had done the dirty deed, but didn’t hold out much hope. Soon thereafter another officer was sent out to our house to get all the details. This officer was well aware of the gang and perpetrators involved. He was very sympathetic, and was emphatic he would find who had done this. And a few weeks later brought a photo line-up for my son to identify his attacker. My son had no trouble w the identification. The officer told us this gang had also beaten a drunk college student within an inch of the drunk student’s life (he was in the hospital) – so all of them were going to jail.

    Most of my encounters w the police have been very positive – they acted when the school would do nothing. Had the school addressed much of the bullying when it should have, and not been housing the gang leader at the vice-principal’s house, things probably wouldn’t have gotten so out of hand.

  9. biddlin

    I don’t know about you Elaine, but when someone repeatedly attacks my family or destroys my home, I start to wonder what the hell the police do to merit the bloated salaries and pensions.(And no, it’s not the risk. As recent events illustrate, cabbies are at eight times the risk of being murdered on the job.)

  10. Steve Hayes

    ….One thing that is clear, we need more treatment options and support for the mentally ill in this country. We are apparently willing to spend tens of thousands per year to house inmates, but not invest the kind of money we need into mental health services…..

    As tax time approaches once again, I am reminded of the Mental Health line item on the State tax form for high(er) income individuals (Michael Savage bitches about this all the time). Where the hell is all of the money generated from this specific source going!?!

  11. Rifkin

    [i]”Rifkin raised it in an Enterprise column last week too and I would like to ask you (and him) to provide more investigative reporting on a few issues:

    1) Who are the main providers of mental health services in this county?”[/i]

    Yolo County has its own Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services. Many of their clients are refered to them by law enforcement, the public health department or other welfare agencies.

    I don’t know if it is the “main” provider, but they deal with many patients who have serious disorders, including depression, which require medications. This is what their website says: [quote] Services are aimed at helping individuals with serious mental illness live as contributing and successful members of their families and communities. Services are provided to clients through outpatient clinics and Regional Resource Centers in Woodland, West Sacramento, and Davis, school-based sites, and through a network of community agencies and independent providers.[/quote] In Davis, the office for the mental health clinic is on A Street, just south of the Davis Senior Center and north of City Hall.

  12. Rifkin

    [i]”2) How has their funding and/or mandate changed over the last decade?”[/i]

    The budget for “Mental Health Administration” this year was $11,116,984; the budget for “Mental Health Services Act” was $5,278,808. So combined that is roughly $16.4 million.

    The oldest budget number I have is from 7 years ago for comparison. In 2003-04, the appropriations were:

    Mental Health Access $4,701,692
    Mental Health Admin. $2,598,928
    Mental Health Adult SOC $5,794,093
    Mental Health Children’s SOC $4,632,005

    That’s a total of roughly $17.7 million. So in nominal dollars, the appropriations have declined by about $1.3 million. If you account for inflation, $17.7 million in 2003-04 would be roughly $22.5 million in 2010-11. So in constant dollars the decline in appropriations is roughly $6.1 million (or 27%).

    Note by the way that the category Mental Health Admin. went up from $2.6 million to $11.1 million. I would guess that is because the supervisors increased the wages and benefits of their employees who administer these programs, but don’t directly provide services to clients.

  13. Rifkin

    [i]”3) Is there any emergency response unit focusing on mental health crises within local police or fire departments?”[/i]

    I don’t think so. However, Davis Police officers specifically are trained* to deal with “persons with mental health problems.”

    You might also be interested in this story about the Salt Lake City (UT) Police Department ([url]http://www.heraldextra.com/news/state-and-regional/utah/article_689817ef-edd4-5a08-8c20-740e65e4e28a.html[/url]). They were recently recognized nationally for their program in handling the mentally ill. [quote] In 2001, the department began offering one-week courses that teach officers how to detect a person with a mental illness, as well as how to determine what illness the person may have and the proper way to interact with the person. [/quote] [i]”4) What exactly ARE the gaps in coverage for mental health services at the city/county level and what would it take to fill them?”[/i]

    Probably the best person to speak with about this issue is recently retired Yolo County Supervisor Helen Thomson. When Helen was in the state legislature, she was the author of a very well intentioned law, known as Laura’s Law ([url]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura’s_Law[/url]), which is designed to help families get treatment for their mentally ill relatives. Here is what Wikipedia says about the idea of Laura’s Law: [quote]Laura’s Law is a California state law that allows for court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment. To qualify for the program, the person must have a serious mental illness plus a recent history of psychiatric hospitalizations, jailings or acts, threats or attempts of serious violent behavior towards self or others. A complete functional outline of the legal procedures and safeguards within Laura’s Law has been prepared by NAMI San Mateo.[1]

    The law was named after Laura Wilcox, a young woman who was killed by a mental patient who had refused treatment. Modeled on Kendra’s Law, a similar statute enacted in New York, the bill was introduced as Assembly Bill 1421 by Assemblywoman Helen Thomson, a Democrat from Davis. The measure passed the California Legislature in 2002 and was signed into law by Governor Gray Davis. The statute can only be utilized in counties that choose to enact outpatient commitment programs based on the measure. As of 2010, Nevada County has fully implemented the law and Los Angeles County has a pilot project. In 2010 the California Supervisors Association chose Nevada County to receive its Challenge Award for implementing Laura’s Law.[2] [/quote]
    After Mrs. Thomson was termed out of the legislature, she returned for a second stint as a YC Supervisor. However, Yolo County has never funded Laura’s Law. I would guess that if Mrs. Thomson had her way, it would have.

    * Source ([url]http://cityofdavis.org/police/cab/pdfs/Community Advisory Board Meeting 5_12_10.pdf[/url]).

  14. E Roberts Musser

    Rifkin: “Yolo County has its own Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services. Many of their clients are refered to them by law enforcement, the public health department or other welfare agencies.”

    Bc of recent budget cuts, only the most severely mentally ill can obtain help from ADMH…

  15. Rifkin

    [i]”Mr. Benson was arrested and is lodged at the Yolo County Jail on $1 million bail, charged with Making Terrorist Threats (PC 422), Carrying a loaded weapon in a public place (PC 12031), Obstructing and Resisting a Public Officer (PC 69), and Possession of an illegal assault weapon (PC 12280(b)).”[/i]

    It seems to me the Davis Police Department did a magnificent job in this case and deserves nothing but praise. It’s not impossible to think that Nicholas Benson could have killed many innocent people and or himself. The actions of our police officers prevented that great tragedy.

    That said, I don’t understand the notion of using criminal statutes if Mr. Benson was truly out of his right mind. I don’t know what happened to “Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity.”

    I would hope that a judge in our county would, upon a thorough psychiatric evaluation, force Mr. Benson into a treatment program, and, if necessary, keep him in a locked facility until his disorder is manageable and someone (such as a family member) has full control over his treatment program (to make sure he does not go off of his meds or to make sure, if he again becomes suicidal, to make sure he is taken care of by a psychiatrist as long as needed).

  16. E Roberts Musser

    Rifkin: “Yolo County has its own Department of Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services. Many of their clients are refered to them by law enforcement, the public health department or other welfare agencies.
    I don’t know if it is the “main” provider, but they deal with many patients who have serious disorders, including depression, which require medications.”

    ADMH is the main provider for mental health services for low income clients…those not meeting the low income criteria are pretty much on their own…

  17. Frankly

    “David: The court will determine whether things happened as the police claim.”

    I get that some gravitate toward advocacy for suspects as potential victims of overzealous police work. There is a social benefit when this is a balanced and thoughful pursuit. What I don’t get is how any reasonable person can argue against praising the police for their success preventing another potential shooting rampage… especially in light of what happened in Tuscon.

    A cop’s reluctance to deal with domestic complaints has a lot to do with the trouble caused by overzealous trial lawyers and overzealous police watchdog groups. If we are going to fault Sarah Palin and the Tea Party for guns and violence that contributed to the Tuscon shooting, then thinking a bit more deeply, we should fault the people and groups harassing the business of law enforcement which causes police to seek risk avoidance for domestic complaints.

  18. Alphonso

    Considering the full picture – loaded weapons, lots of ammunition and an unstable person, it looks like the police action was quite reasonable. I suppose you can argue the police did not know about the guns but they were there just the same. Most important, nobody was seriously hurt.

    I do wonder if it is really necessary to throw the book (of charges) at the guy – why not wait and get a better picture before loading up charges on a suicidal person called in by his own family?

    The family was obviously paying attention and they should be thanked for taking the action they did.

  19. E Roberts Musser

    Rifkin: “That said, I don’t understand the notion of using criminal statutes if Mr. Benson was truly out of his right mind. I don’t know what happened to “Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity.”

    Alphonso: “I do wonder if it is really necessary to throw the book (of charges) at the guy – why not wait and get a better picture before loading up charges on a suicidal person called in by his own family?”

    It is my surmisal that the criminal charges are necessary to keep this person legally institutionalized/incarcerated (against his will) beyond the normal 72 hour hold placed on a person who is 5150’d. The charges also indicate the serious nature of the mental illness, which should assist mental health professionals determine if and when this person should be released back into society. Would you prefer this person be let go after a 72 hour hold? Or after a brief stay in a mental institution? The seriousness of the crimes charged should allow this gentleman to get the help he needs…

  20. roger bockrath

    From the wording of David’s article, it sounds like the D.P.D. discovered the loaded shotgun,deer rifle and ammo AFTER Mr. Benson was subdued. I have to wonder if the further information police received, after the initial report from a family member, informed them that Mr. Benson owned firearms.

    Any fire arms which had been legally purchased by Mr. Benson would have been registered and the police would have been capable of easily accessing that information prior to confronting him. I know from personal experience that people who own legally registered weapons are treated like they just robbed a bank when pulled over for a traffic stop by the D.P.D.

    California law makes it illegal to possess a loaded firearm in a vehicle unless the possessor is “in the field”, actively participating in hunting. The law also requires ammunition to be carried in a separate area of the vehicle, away from the weapon.

    There haven’t been any deer of pheasant in downtown Davis for many years. Deer and pheasant season have been over for months According to the story released by the D.P.D., Mr Benson was definitely in violation of at least two of California’s many, many, many firearms laws. If the police had knowledge of loaded firearms in Mr. Bensons vehicle cab, they had both a right and a responsibility to confiscate those weapons

    I have a problem with over use of Tasers by police agencies. However, if police knew Mr. Benson had loaded fire arms in his vehicle, the use of Tasers on a subject who was ignoring orders, and about to enter that vehicle is certainly justified.

    Just as an added point of information: I often see news articles stating that some citizen had “large quantities of ammunition” in their possession.. Those articles seem to infer that, therefore, this guy must have been up to no good . Both shot gunners, who hunt birds, and riflemen, who hunt deer and elk, frequently practice at legal firing ranges run by sportsman clubs. It is not at all uncommon for a shooter to go through hundreds, and even thousands, of rounds in a day, while practicing. Of course, those rounds are legally required to be transported to the range in a separate part of the vehicle, away from any firearm.

  21. biddlin

    “A cop’s reluctance to deal with domestic complaints has a lot to do with the trouble caused by overzealous trial lawyers and overzealous police watchdog groups.” Too bad. The kid working graveyard at the mini-mart for minimum wage doesn’t like it either and he doesn’t have a radio or a gun for protection. Millions of us do jobs we loathe. Utility, street maintenance, and tree service personnel are at many times the risk of injury or death on the job compared to police, according to the US dept. of labor statistics.These jobs are dirty and they are dangerous,with no 3%@50 retirement deal.

  22. Rifkin

    ELAINE: [i]”It is my surmisal that the criminal charges are necessary to keep this person legally institutionalized/incarcerated (against his will) beyond the normal 72 hour hold placed on a person who is 5150’d.”[/i]

    That’s a good point. If we had a working Laura’s Law in Yolo County–we don’t–a judge could order him held against his will for longer and order that he receive proper psychiatric care.

    [i]”The charges also indicate the serious nature of the mental illness, which should assist mental health professionals determine if and when this person should be released back into society.”[/i]

    That’s what I think SHOULD happen. However, it most likely won’t.

    [i]”Would you prefer this person be let go after a 72 hour hold? Or after a brief stay in a mental institution?”[/i]

    No.

    [i]”The seriousness of the crimes charged should allow this gentleman to get the help he needs …”[/i]

    Our jails and prisons–all over the U.S.–are filled with people who have clinical depression, bipolar disorder (which includes depression), schizophrenia and so on ([url]http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/45/11/1.1.full[/url]).

    I don’t think that charging or prosecuting someone who needs psychiatric care will “allow this gentleman to get the help he needs.” It seems more likely that (unless the charges are dropped or modified) he will end up in a prison cell and while there he will be medicated. I doubt that is really the best place for him for the long run.

  23. Frankly

    “The kid working graveyard at the mini-mart for minimum wage doesn’t like it either and he doesn’t have a radio or a gun for protection.”

    Huh? Please pass me a hit so I can get your vision.

    “Utility, street maintenance, and tree service personnel are at many times the risk of injury or death on the job compared to police, according to the US dept. of labor statistics.”

    Not my point, but since you want to play, please add the statistics for suicide to your numbers. I guess that tree maintenance guy must not have quite the level of job stress; otherwise wouldn’t the rate of suicide for his job be somewhere close?

    With all due respect, your analogies are asinine. Many cops have multiple citizen complaints and a law suit or two filed against them… and most of these are for frivolous reasons because they are an easy target for the entitled, greedy, envious and angry class.

    The unfunded pension problem and early retirement age is another issue. Most cops are not over-paid for the job they do.

  24. biddlin

    “With all due respect, your analogies are asinine. Many cops have multiple citizen complaints and a law suit or two filed against them… and most of these are for frivolous reasons because they are an easy target for the entitled, greedy, envious and angry class. “
    Really? Please cite your source.

  25. Rifkin

    bidd, you might be interested in this story ([url]http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/2877740,CST-NWS-settle09.article[/url]), which was published yesterday in the Chicago Sun-Times.

  26. Frankly

    Rich: “bidd, you might be interested in this story, which was published yesterday in the Chicago Sun-Times.”

    I really like this quote from the article:
    [quote]”Jackowiak added that many of his clients who sue the police have criminal records.”[/quote]
    Quote from a May 6, 2010 WSJ article:
    [quote]Personal-injury lawsuits claiming everything from excessive force to false arrest to malicious prosecution by New York City police have nearly doubled since 2001, and the median cost of resolving cases has risen steadily, according to records analyzed by The Wall Street Journal.

    The total number of these lawsuits rose from 969 in 2001 to 1,909 last year, data from the New York City Law Department show. Such suits, which accounted for 56% of all cases brought against the police department in 2001, made up 72% in 2010.[/quote]
    My late brother in-law (God rest his soul) was known as a model caring and conscience Davis cop. He would get letters of thanks from people he detained and apprehended. Some months before he took his own life he told me of the stress he was dealing with from many things about his job, including two law suits against him for his police work. He told me it was common. I had a discussion with a Davis Police Chief about this subject, and he told me it was common. He said most of the complaints and law suits were numerous and mostly frivolous and that it made it difficult to vet out legitimate complaints and problems.

  27. Frankly

    “Most cops are not over-paid for the job they do.”

    I re-read this. I should have wrote, aside from their retirement benefits, most Davis cops are not overpaid. However, when we add the real monetary value of the retirement benefits, I think we are sometimes grossly overpaying our cops. If they retired at age 65 at 2% or maybe even 2.5% and contributed something to their healthcare benefits, I would not have any problem with their compensation given the job they do.

    I have a different opinion about Davis firefighters.

  28. Frankly

    “I think the commentary on this is actually satire. I find it hard to believe, given what just happened in Arizona, that DG could be serious here.”

    Mr Obvious, I think I missed the satire because it wasn’t that obvious.

  29. Avatar

    Jeff Boone , “””””I think we are sometimes grossly overpaying our cops. If they retired at age 65 at 2% or maybe even 2.5% and contributed something to their healthcare benefits, I would not have any problem with their compensation given the job they do. “”””””

    What will these Grandpa cops do that can help in a emergency ?

  30. Frankly

    Avatar. Okay, good point. Maybe age 60. Assuming a person stays healthy there should be no problem.

    However, like in all other industries that require hard physical labor, wouldn’t the older employees gravitate to management and desk jobs? If you are 60 or 65 and still on patrol, then it is likely that you have significantly exceeded your professional purpose and should have moved on anyway.

    This brings up a previous question I had. A long time ago I had a defined benefit pension. I worked for the private company 15 years and then moved on. That pension paid me some small monthly amount at retirement (they offered a buy out several years ago and I rolled it to an IRA). Isn’t it the same for our safety employees? In other words, do they have to work until full retirement age to qualify for their retirement benefits? It would seem a bad business practive to motivate bad empployees to stay on just so they get their retirement. I thought I understood that there is some calculation of retirement-age benefits after they have at least five years of service.

    What would be the difference, for example, for a cop with 30 years of service quiting before retirement eligibility, and another with 30 years of service retiring on or after retirement eligibility?

  31. E Roberts Musser

    Rifkin: “I don’t think that charging or prosecuting someone who needs psychiatric care will “allow this gentleman to get the help he needs.” It seems more likely that (unless the charges are dropped or modified) he will end up in a prison cell and while there he will be medicated. I doubt that is really the best place for him for the long run.”

    It all depends. If this defendant’s family gets him a good lawyer, the lawyer would plead insanity/mental defect I should think, and ask for treatment rather than jail time. I think in this case even a responsible public defender would do the same thing. But whether the judge/jury will buy that defense is another story. It will really be up to a judge/jury to determine if they think this young man needs mental health treatment rather than jail time. That is the reality…

    It is also possible that a plea agreement can be reached between the DA and the defendant, in which he agrees to treatment. Depends on how the DA views this defendant and/or the efficacy of mental health institutions…

  32. E Roberts Musser

    rb: “California law makes it illegal to possess a loaded firearm in a vehicle unless the possessor is “in the field”, actively participating in hunting. The law also requires ammunition to be carried in a separate area of the vehicle, away from the weapon.”

    I did not know this. Thanks for the background info on CA gun laws and the habits of hunters. Very interesting context…

    To Jeff Boone: My deep condolences on the loss of your brother-in-law. Police have to put up with an awful lot on the job, there is no question. It is unfortunate that frivolous lawsuits is one of the stresses of the job.

    But frivolous lawsuits are on the uptick in almost every profession. Look at the lady who won a lawsuit against McDonald’s bc the coffee was too hot! Geeeeeeeeze! Malpractice insurance for doctors and lawyers is becoming cost prohibitive as a result of so many lawsuits. But think about it – bad apples in all professions cause lawsuits to be filed in the first place – which just means it is in every employee’s interest not to protect bad apples… yet there is the “blue wall of silence”; hospitals who pass on bad doctors; churches that pass on bad priests…food for thought…

  33. E Roberts Musser

    From suntimes.com article Rich Rifkin referred readers to: “Chicago’s year-old strategy of going to trial with lawsuits against police officers instead of settling cases is paying off, city officials say.

    Last fall, police Supt. Jody Weis notified Chief U.S. Judge James F. Holderman of the change in legal strategy.

    “I have asked the Department of Law to litigate those cases which would have been settled [as] a matter of financial concern,” Weis said in a letter. “If plaintiffs know their complaint will in fact be litigated, more focus and concern will be given to the factual validity of the complaints signed.”

    In the past, the city often settled “defensible” cases because the city’s legal expenses could far exceed the cost of a settlement. One reason for launching the new strategy was a concern by officers that settlements can reflect poorly on them even if they did nothing wrong, said Karen Seimetz, the city’s first assistant corporation counsel.”

    How about fighting law suits that are frivolous bc it is the right thing to do? Justice should be of more concern than the money involved, especially in light of how much money is wasted by gov’t on so much nonsense. Frankly, judges need to start awarding attorneys fees in frivolous law suits to the winners of these cases, to stop some of this litigious nonsense – but it will take legislation to do it, I think. As far as I know, generally each side pays its own attorneys fees, no matter who wins or loses…

  34. Frankly

    Thanks Elaine.

    I know that frivolous lawsuits are on the uptick, but generally this does not happen to employees. Cops are in a unique situation and I think they deserve much more sympathy from us for what they have to do and what they have to put up with. The gun and their demanor makes us see them as capable of dealing with a lot more stress than the average person could handle. But, aside from their special training, they are just normal humans doing a job.

  35. jrberg

    Ms. Musser,

    Have you read the facts of the McDonald’s lawsuit? It was anything but frivolous, and if you claim it was, then I certainly would never want you representing me. Third degree burns are quite serious, and the Shriner’s Institute agreed.

  36. Don Shor

    I agree that the McDonald’s case is not really a good example of a frivolous lawsuit. I think this is a balanced presentation: [url]http://www.stellaawards.com/stella.html[/url] It is easy to see both sides, and thus it was perfectly appropriate for it to go to trial. Moreover, since it was in 1994 it isn’t exactly a good example of any ‘uptick’ of lawsuits of any kind.
    But I do think that agencies should defend defensible lawsuits.
    My sympathies to the family in this case, but I don’t see how the police could have handled this any differently.

  37. biddlin

    Jeff Boone- You have my sincere condolences on the passing of your brother in-law. I have family in law enforcement, going back to my grandfather, who was a sheriff in West Texas. I have also worked closely with local police and ATF in evidence recovery and hazmat containment and disposal. I have never blamed them for getting the best deal they can. Frankly I wish I’d had that kind of representation from my union. I think Michael Eisner and LeBron James are overpaid.Suicide rates by occupation are difficult to quantify, because many are reported as accidental. Whatever they are for any occupation, the subject certainly belongs in this discussion, because, unsurprisingly, this recession has suicides on the rise. Let’s keep our eyes on the big picture. We should be talking about access to mental health care for those who need it the most and more training for police to help distinguish between those likely to require special handling and sociopaths. One of my best friends from college has spent almost half of her adult life institutionalized. Much of the other half has been in rooming houses or homeless. I should mention that she is a wonderful illustrator,and somehow continues to work. Unfortunately the few thousand dollars she gets for a project disqualifies her for county medical assistance, and when it runs out she runs out of meds. Then the cycle starts again. The police pick her up, usually when someone complains about her talking to the bus stop sign or they don’t want her pan-handling outside their store. She’s 5150’d and then committed to a psych ward. These days that is only for enough time to get the blood level of her meds up to what the doctors believe are acceptable. Then she starts all over again. Last year, she was living out of a parked rv, and collecting aluminum cans from the roadside, when two police cruisers approached. She was mistaken for a wanted fugitive. When asked, she gave her true name and place of residence, to which one of the cops said “No your not!” She stopped talking. She was arrested and extradited to Utah before the mistake was discovered. While in custody, she was beaten and sodomized by other prisoners, hospitalized, given a bus ticket back to California and dropped at some hof brau in Sacramento. Her friends do not know where she is currently. These are mean times and terrible choices may have to be made, but we should not gloss over or discount the human cost.

  38. Rifkin

    [i]”What will these Grandpa cops do that can help in a emergency?”[/i]

    All over the country–where they don’t have retirement plans which encourage cops to retire at 50–there are police officers who do just fine on the job up to age 60. And if they have the chance to become a detective or a captain or a chief or they work in records, they can do those jobs well beyond age 60.

    It’s only in places where cops are given a golden parachute at age 50 that they retire that young. Barring illness or serious injury, a man who chooses to stay fit can perform all the duties of a patrol officer way past age 50. And the fact is that most cops in California who take a 90% PERS retirement (some even under age 50 with service credits from things like unused sick leave) before age 55 will continue to work in law enforcement after they “retire.” If you are interested, you might want to go over to Woodland to look at all those “grandpa cops” who are working as investigators for the DA.

  39. Rifkin

    Jeff: [i]”I should have written, aside from their retirement benefits, most Davis cops are not overpaid. However, when we add the real monetary value of the retirement benefits, I think we are sometimes grossly overpaying our cops. … I have a different opinion about Davis firefighters.”[/i]

    One thing David Greenwald has written about with respect to how we public safety personnel is that [i]firefighters in Davis make a sh##load more money than cops do.[/i] Moreover, as Dave has reported, the organizational structure of our fire department is much more top-heavy, so there is a better chance for a rank firefighter (FF2) to move into a higher paying job category (like fire captain) than there is for a rank patrolman in the Davis Police Department.

    Now, I wonder why that is that our firefighters make so much more money, work so much less and have so much more opportunity to advance. … It couldn’t have anything to do with the firefighter union funding council campaigns (something no other labor group in Davis has ever done)?

  40. David M. Greenwald

    “I think the commentary on this is actually satire. I find it hard to believe, given what just happened in Arizona, that DG could be serious here. “

    But that’s the point isn’t it, now everything is becoming Arizona or a potential Arizona. Maybe it was. The police seem to think so. We’ll find out when it gets to a court of law or he might be sent to Napa and that’s the last we hear of it.

  41. David M. Greenwald

    “But frivolous lawsuits are on the uptick in almost every profession. Look at the lady who won a lawsuit against McDonald’s bc the coffee was too hot! “

    They are on the uptick? I don’t know if that’s true. The case you cite has to be over 20 years old.

  42. Mind_hunter53

    Walking downtown Davis the other evening, I was accosted by aggressive panhandlers, while a schizophrenic was screaming out some type of sermon. We need to bring back vagrancy laws!

  43. rusty49

    Mind_hunter53

    The homeless panhandlers are getting much more aggressive in the downtown core area. I’ve contacted our council members regarding this to no avail.

  44. Linda M

    David, I couldn’t disagree with you more on this.

    My family and I were walking back from Downtown on Friday night, saw the flashing police cars and a person in the road. Later, I read the article in the paper, and I couldn’t help wondering what might have happened if we had headed out 10 minutes earlier, if we had walked past that corner before the police arrived. In my view, a man out in public with a loaded rifle and hundreds of rounds of ammunition WHO HAS BEEN REPORTED POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS to himself or others needs to be detained first, asked questions later. Surely this is not rocket science…

    I can imagine that intervening in a situation like this must be a nerve-wracking undertaking requiring split-second decisions with a huge amount at stake. I am grateful to the officers for being willing to take on the job, and I think it’s a credit to them and the family that everyone is alive.

    I originally started reading your blog because I appreciated the detailed research on City and school budgets especially. But I stopped reading because I am tired of the relentless negativity – tired of hearing nothing but criticism of anything anyone ever tries to do. Life is too short to use my energy fretting about what would-have could-have should-have been done better, so will be cancelling . I hope you put your name in for City Council – it could be a great use of that research.

  45. E Roberts Musser

    From xavier.edu: “Frivolous Lawsuits

    “The lawsuit culture is even changing the traditional American landscape…” (1)

    Frivolous lawsuits are litigation brought through the court systems that are “unworthy of serious attention.” Lawsuits have to be proven to be “brought in good faith and not for an improper purpose” (6). It’s obvious to most people that frivolous lawsuits are unnecessary and absurd. We love to read about the ridiculous claims that people make, and the outrageous sums of money they want for their troubles. What some people don’t realize though is exactly how big of a problem these lawsuits are for our country and court system and for the views and principles of our citizens in general.

    Frivolous lawsuits are an ideal example of how scapegoating has affected our society today. It is unfortunate enough when people don’t take responsibility for their actions, but when they also go so far as to legally blame someone else, they are exploiting the court system and taking advantage of the lack of expectations of others. This increase in frivolous lawsuits is in direct correlation to the overall lack of responsibility that is being shown by the population today. The reality of frivolous lawsuits is the fact that they are actually damaging to the court system and to society. This can be unequivocally shown through the implementation of the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2004 which was introduced into the House in order to decrease these harmful cases. The only reason we, as a country would need to introduce such an act would be if these cases had grown out of control. This Act shows how harmful lawsuits affect and hurt many parts of society. According to the Act, “frivolous litigation has a corrosive effect on American culture and values, threatening America’s churches, schools, doctors, sports, playgrounds, friendly relations, and even the girl scouts and other family institutions.” (1) Every aspect of life can be hurt through this simple lack of responsibility.

    Obviously lawsuits are appropriate in some circumstances. They can be used correctly when the victims have a strong, valid case against another person or group. The problem is, though, that society has abandoned the definition of a valid case for one that is much more general. Today, most people think that it’s alright to try to take advantage of people and the system in place to try to get rid of their blame and responsibility and instead, be rewarded.
    ——————————————————————————–
    “This values crisis caused by lawsuit abuse reaches all parts of American society…” (1)

  46. E Roberts Musser

    Here are some of the areas that are affected through the abuse of these lawsuits:

    Our Legal System
    Our court systems have become completely backed up with these unneeded lawsuits. As a result, people who actually have legitimate claims can have to wait years before their cases are considered. It takes at least a year to settle a lawsuit. Delays are not uncommon though, sometimes making each case last up to five years (2).

    Healthcare Industry
    These lawsuits have a major affect on the healthcare industry especially. The cost of these lawsuits is passed onto consumers in America at about $721 per person every year. (2) Many doctors practice their professions in fear of litigation. They have to order more tests for every patient than they could possibly need because of this fear alone. According to a recent press release, “an estimated $50 billion per year is spent on unnecessary test procedures designed only to guard doctors and hospitals against malpractice claims.” (2) Also, many doctors won’t prescribe some medications because they know that the medicines are involved with litigation. (2) Unfortunately some people think that suing is the only way to put a check on our doctors and the healthcare system, but there are other options. First we have to realize that doctors are certified professionals and have had many years of rigorous schooling to learn to accomplish their job correctly. They still do make mistakes like everyone, but not to the extent that they are being sued. What it comes down to is not the fact that doctors shouldn’t be sued at all, but that people should mature and realize what is considered a frivolous claim against a doctor. I am not advocating that there should be no option to sue, but instead that the option can not be taken lightly. Is it really worth endangering our own healthcare for this unworthy litigation?

  47. E Roberts Musser

    In one case, a doctor was involved with a patient in the intensive care unit of the hospital. Although she was only with the patient for about 15 minutes before he died from cardiovascular disease and diabetes, she was sued by the patients family. (6)

    Even though some lawsuits are dropped before they are decide, and some are settled out of court, this still leads to high financial costs for those involved. For example, in the case mentioned above, the doctor was sued two other times and the cases were dropped, but she still incurred a significant level of financial damage. (6)

    Schools
    The basic foundation for success in life, a good education, is also affected by frivolous lawsuits. Schools seem to be a breeding ground for litigation. There was once a time when teachers taught with a passion and love for the budding intelligence of their students. Now the pure enjoyment of the job as well as the use of good judgment is getting overshadowed by fear of litigation. As said by the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2004, “thanks to judicial rulings and laws over the past four decades, parents can sue if their kids are suspended for even a single day–for any reason–without adequate `due process.’” (1) There is also the variable of the cost of litigation to the schools themselves. There is a significant cost associated with frivolous lawsuits to schools today. (3) The Act also brings up the fact that, “large school districts routinely spend thousands of dollars each year on attorneys. The most common expenses are for student expulsion hearings and employee discipline.” (1) A remarkable eight out of ten teachers have encountered students that are quick to remind them that they have rights and their parents can sue if the teacher does something they don’t like. (1) This creates a loophole for students to get away with bad behavior with no discipline or consequences. Even children as young as first grade and kindergarten are creating trouble for teachers. One article about this age of children also says that “teachers are reluctant to take charge of such classes.” (8)

    A prime example of a case against a school system is an ironic story concerning Columbine High School. The parents of one of the gunman, Dylan Klebold sued the school for not preventing her child from murdering his peers. (7) How was the school responsible for this type of action? The parents needed to take on the responsibility of their son’s upbringing and his actions.

  48. E Roberts Musser

    Sports
    Even our favorite pastimes are being struck with absurd lawsuits. There are so many examples of lawsuits in the court system right now that are the epitome of what frivolous lawsuits are all about. In one example, a little league player was swinging a bat and accidentally hit another player. The parents of the injured child sued both the boy who hit their son, and the whole league. This shows an obvious need of these parents to blame others just for the fact of blaming them, even though accidents like these happen often.

    Not only are little league teams at risk, but the pro-leagues are as well. There is a case where a fan sued because he was struck in the face with one of the free t-shirts that are thrown out to the fans. He claims that “getting struck by a foul ball may be a risk that baseball spectators assume, getting struck by a flying T-shirt is not.” Another absurd case took place when one set of parents went so far as to sue a coach of their son’s team because they didn’t have a winning season. (4) Sports all over have these same problems with what used to be considered accidents, turning into legal issues. The problems aren’t even affected by whether the cases were won or not, but instead by the fact that these people feel the need to sue for reasons that are trivial, making them irresponsible.

    Effects on Children and Families
    The effects of these frivolous lawsuits are habitual patterns of irresponsibility and lack of accountability. Children are learning from their environment that it’s okay not to take the blame for what you do: it can always be someone else’s fault. Parents are teaching their kids this type of mentality by their example. According to Dr. Robert Needlman there is a simple but powerful message for parents everywhere, “Young children need warmth from their parents, but they also need limits and expectations.” (9) Children need this discipline to teach them responsibility. Parents as well as schools are starting, by default, to create under-disciplined lives for these children and young adults. (1) American culture in general is earning a bad reputation as one that is made up of people who don’t have responsibility. The traditional family unit consisting of strong role models teaching their children life’s lessons is crumbling,

  49. E Roberts Musser

    allowing for a less disciplined environment causing this mentality to start.
    ——————————————————————————–
    “Frivolous Lawsuits against innocent victims have become commonplace…” (1)
    ——————————————————————————–
    It seems that this entire concept of lack of responsibility and scapegoating is being shown through these frivolous lawsuits that have become a trend recently. The only way to put an end to this onslaught of litigation is to change the mindset of the people who are involved. This is obviously not an easy task; actually, almost an impossible one. Therefore, the only obtainable way to stop this problem is to worry about changing yourself, and maybe, after that, one person at a time. This starts with your kids, parents, siblings, etc. We all have to power to affect others in our life and by simply teaching those that we care for how to take responsibility for their actions, we can reverse this problematic trend.

    ——————————————————————————–

    REFERENCES:

    1. United States. Cong. House. 108th Congress, 2nd Session. 108-682 Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2004. [introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives; 13 September 2004]. 108th Congress. Congressional Bills, GPO Access. 2 Dec. 2004. .

    2. Robert, Terry. “Are Frivolous Lawsuits Driving Up Healthcare Costs?” 22 Nov. 2003. About. 2 Dec. 2004. http://headaches.about.com/cs/advocacy/a/lamus_cala.htm

    3. Enzi, Mike. “Statement of Sen. Enzi on Attorney’s Fees.” 12 May 2004. Senator Mike Enzi: Wyoming. 2 Dec. 2004. .

    4. ” Just in Time for Spring Training: Starting Line-up of Baseballs Looniest Lawsuits.” The CALA Watchdog. 12 March 2001. CACL. 2 Dec. 2004. .

    5. “frivolous.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 4th Ed. Dictonary.com. 11 Dec. 2004. .

    6. Albert, Tanya. “Ohio Physicians Fight Back: Panel Documents Frivolous Lawsuits.” amednews.com. 16 Feb. 2004. American Medical Association. .

    7.”Best of the Bizarre for 1999.” Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA). 11 Dec. 2004. .

    8.Sueyoshi, Kotaro. “Schools Battle Bad Behavior of First Graders.” 17 May 2004. The Daily Yomiuri. 11 Dec. 2004. .

    9. Needleman, Robert, M.D. “Parenting Types and Their Effects on Children.” 26 Aug. 2004. The Dr. Spock Company. 11 Dec. 2004. .

  50. E Roberts Musser

    From Wikipedia: “Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants,[1] also known as the McDonald’s coffee case and the hot coffee lawsuit, is a 1994 product liability lawsuit that became a flashpoint in the debate in the U.S. over tort reform after a jury awarded $2.86 million to a woman who burned herself with hot coffee she purchased from fast food restaurant McDonald’s. The trial judge reduced the total award to $640,000, and the parties settled for a confidential amount before an appeal was decided. The case was noted by some as an example of frivolous litigation;[2] ABC News calls the case “the poster child of excessive lawsuits.”[3] While others stated that the claim was “a meaningful and worthy lawsuit”[4]

    Liebeck’s attorneys argued that McDonald’s coffee was “defective”, claiming that it was too hot and more likely to cause serious injury than coffee served at any other establishment. Moreover, McDonald’s had refused several prior opportunities to settle for less than the $640,000 ultimately awarded.[5] Reformers defend the popular understanding of the case as materially accurate, note that the vast majority of judges who consider similar cases dismiss them before they get to a jury,[6] and argue that McDonald’s refusal to offer more than a nuisance settlement reflects the meritless nature of the suit rather than any wrongdoing on the company’s part.[7][8][9]”

  51. David M. Greenwald

    That article that you posted in its entirety is long on rhetoric, short on evidence. I would like to see the number of lawsuits filed by year to see if the number is increasing and then some sense for what percentage of them are frivolous. The other problem you have is that the MacDonald’s lawsuit (again 17 years ago) was won by the plaintiff, by definition that means it was not frivolous and if it is frivolous then you have no systematic way or measure for deciding which case is or is not frivolous.

  52. David M. Greenwald

    Linda:

    I don’t suppose you are going to read my response, but there is a context for this article. I was not there. I heard varying sides of the story and tried to weigh them against each other.

    But there is something more than just that, the report here reads pretty thin on details. Maybe it will turn out this guy was loaded to bear and about to take people out, in which case, the police did a great job.

    But I just sat through a trial where the police beat the hell out of some guys claiming that they were on drugs and a threat to them. They went through three trials trying to convict them, but then their stories started to fall apart. We may not know the truth, but we do know it probably didn’t happen like they said.

    So if I don’t ask tough questions, who am I really helping? And if I got this one wrong, as the Police Chief told me yesterday, then all the better. The truth will come out, hopefully the police acted appropriately and we are safer because of them, but I’m not going to take that as a foregone conclusion. I’m sorry if that offends your sensibilities.

  53. ucd414

    I would like to point out that Mr. Benson was detained in front of his residence not just randomly on 4th and A. This fact clearly changes the context of these allegations. He lives in a studio apartment that was once an old bed and breakfast facing the track field. He was not carrying a loaded firearm in public, but rather on his place of residence.

    Secondly many college students go down to the levy in Davis to shoot at targets or clay pigeons. When students go down there they usually bring a couple hundred rounds of ammunition. This amount is a normal amount if you are a hunter or like to go to shooting ranges, etc.

    Third, several UCD students own firearms and also buy parts online to illegally modify their weapons. While this is clearly illegal, Mr. Benson is not the only UCD student possessing such weapons.

    Fourth, personally knowing Mr. Benson, he is extremely intelligent and maybe too much for his own good. He is not the kind of guy to go on a shooting spree or even be compared to the idiot in Arizona that shoot a Congresswoman and several others. And as far as the terrorist threats go, that is a complete abuse of power on the part of Davis Police Departments.

    Another fact to consider is the context of his relationship with his parents. Were they close? And if he was actually suicidal do you think he would tell them if he wasnt close with them?

  54. Avatar

    Linda M. “””””I originally started reading your blog because I appreciated the detailed research on City and school budgets especially. But I stopped reading because I am tired of the relentless negativity – tired of hearing nothing but criticism of anything anyone ever tries to do. Life is too short to use my energy fretting about what would-have could-have should-have been done better, so will be canceling . “””””””

    Amen sister !!!!!!!

  55. Rifkin

    [i]”The other problem you have is that the MacDonald’s lawsuit (again 17 years ago) was won by the plaintiff; by definition that means it was not frivolous.”[/i]

    Whoa. You don’t think juries can make the wrong decision in a case? No one who is truly innocent has been found guilty by a jury? That’s the logic you are using here–because the jury sided with the plaintiff, the suit could not be frivolous. If the jury had sided with the corporation, only then might it have been unwarranted?

    To my mind the worst sort of lawsuit abuse is with so-called medical malpractice when a bad outcome brings a lawsuit (or the threat of one), even if all proper procedures were followed by the doctor involved.

    A roommate of mine in grad school, whose parent live in Corvallis, Oregon, told me about what drove his father out of his medical practice as an OB/GYN. He was sued [u]every single time[/u] he delivered a baby which had some sort of birth defect–most notably cerebral palsy. He could not fight these lawsuits. His insurance company, regardless of the facts of each case, would just settle. It drove him nuts, and drove his insurance rates through the roof.

    Of his various expenses of running his business, 75% of his budget went to pay for malpractice insurance. The total amount he paid for his rent, his own salary, his nurse, his secretary, his clerk, his utilities, his professional fees, his hospital costs and so on all added up to 25% of his expenses, my roommate explained to me. In the end, he just could not take it any more. The endless lawsuits drove him out of business.

    Rarely in our times is a birth defect the fault of the obstetrician. Yet Naderite attorneys know that these are the easiest cases to win multi-million dollar judgments. They know on the one hand you have a grieving family with this deformed or defective or otherwise mutilated child. They are sad, pathetic and look like they were victimized, no matter the facts. On the other side you have this big, bad corporation, the insurer. Facts don’t matter in these cases. It’s all based on emotions. Juries favor the little guy. Juries hate faceless corporations with deep pockets.

    If you look at the litigators in cases like this, you will notice one thing: the plaintiffs are almost always smarmy, pleasant looking younger men. They look more like soap opera actors than run of the mill lawyers. And the juries they select are overwhelmingly female. They want jurors who are sympathetic and emotional. They want people who are prone to favor David over Goliath.

    Perhaps the scummiest guy to ever run on a major ticket for Vice President, John Edwards, made tens of millions of dollars on the false premise that the doctors he was suing over and over again were committing malpractice by not doing more Caesarian births, which Edwards’s bogus “experts” claimed would have prevented the congenital defects. Edwards was perhaps the best lawyer ever in these cases: he looked more like a soap star than an attorney. He was an actor in the courtroom, pulling at the heartstrings of emotional jurors.

    “He won more than 50 cases with verdicts or settlements of $1 million or more, according to North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, and 31 of those were medical-malpractice suits.” ([url]http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2004/aug/16/20040816-011234-1949r/[/url]) [quote] During his 20 years of suing doctors and hospitals, he pioneered the art of blaming psychiatrists for patients who commit suicide and blaming doctors for delivering babies with cerebral palsy, according to doctors, fellow lawyers and legal observers who followed Mr. Edwards’ career in North Carolina.

    “The John Edwards we know crushed [obstetrics, gynecology] and neurosurgery in North Carolina,” said Dr. Craig VanDerVeer, a Charlotte neurosurgeon. “As a result, thousands of patients lost their health care.”

    “And all of this for the little people?” he asked, a reference to Mr. Edwards’ argument that he represented regular people against mighty foes such as prosperous doctors and big insurance companies. “How many little people do you know who will supply you with $60 million in legal fees over a couple of years?” [/quote]

  56. Frankly

    ucd414: I heard that he tried to flee when approached by the police. Why?

    “Third, several UCD students own firearms and also buy parts online to illegally modify their weapons. While this is clearly illegal, Mr. Benson is not the only UCD student possessing such weapons.”

    This seems to contradicts the statement ” Mr. Benson, he is extremely intelligent”. But then I digress to the subject of true intelligence as it relates to those with academic gifts. Call me old fashioned, but one sign of intelligence is the demonstration of good judgment. By that measure Mr. Benson appears significantly ignorant… or willful in his disregard for the law related to firearms. In either case it would be justified to consider him a potential danger to himself and others.

    “Another fact to consider is the context of his relationship with his parents. Were they close? And if he was actually suicidal do you think he would tell them if he wasnt close with them? “

    His relationship with his parents is his responsibility, not the police. If his family made false claims – as you infer – then that will come out in the investigation.

  57. David M. Greenwald

    Rich:

    “Whoa. You don’t think juries can make the wrong decision in a case? No one who is truly innocent has been found guilty by a jury? That’s the logic you are using here–because the jury sided with the plaintiff, the suit could not be frivolous. If the jury had sided with the corporation, only then might it have been unwarranted?”

    Woah, it helps when you don’t truncate my sentence, the end of the sentence clearly said, “and if it is frivolous then you have no systematic way of measure for deciding which case is or is not frivolous.”

  58. Rifkin

    [i]”you end up with a subjective standard for determining which case fits the definition of frivolous.”[/i]

    What, then, is your objective ‘standard for determining which case fits the definition of frivolous’?

    In my opinion, it is necessarily subjective. It is sort of the pronography test … I know it when I see it.

  59. Alphonso

    “Fourth, personally knowing Mr. Benson, he is extremely intelligent and maybe too much for his own good. He is not the kind of guy to go on a shooting spree or even be compared to the idiot in Arizona that shoot a Congresswoman and several others.”

    I agree with Jeff – why did this guy have loaded guns in his truck? – anyone with the most basic understanding of gun safety knows loaded guns do not belong in vehicles. That reflects zero judgment – there is no reasonble explanation for doing what he did.

  60. Mr Obvious

    [quote]DMGBut that’s the point isn’t it, now everything is becoming Arizona or a potential Arizona. Maybe it was. The police seem to think so. We’ll find out when it gets to a court of law or he might be sent to Napa and that’s the last we hear of it. [/quote]

    It appears, with what information we know right now, that this guy posed a threat to himself and/or others. The firearms in the truck just happen to be the icing on the cake that shows the cops did the right thing. I would prefer the police error on the side of caution, especially with the information they were given at the time. This may or may not have turned into an Arizona incident, but it certainly could have. I will give the officers the benefit of the doubt verses the following assumption

    [quote]Actually those are not technically facts, they are claims by the police to bolster and justify their arrest and the charges. [/quote]

    If they are not facts what are they. What part of the released information is a lie.

  61. hpierce

    [quote]But I just sat through a trial where the police beat the hell out of some guys claiming that they were on drugs and a threat to them. They even had a use of force expert who testified that the police officers were justified in killing the guys under the conditions described and that they actually restrained themselves. This guy btw, trains all officers on use of force [/quote]

    Ok… your observations were about a West Sacramento incident, charges by the DA, that wound up in Court. The current topic is about Davis police that were called in on what amounts to a “welfare check”…. profiling?

  62. David M. Greenwald

    I grant that there are distinctions in the cases, and I wasn’t intending to say they are identical. I’m just pointing out a case in which the official account turned out to be misleading.

  63. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “I grant that there are distinctions in the cases, and I wasn’t intending to say they are identical. I’m just pointing out a case in which the official account turned out to be misleading.”

    But I think that is the issue here – the lack of making distinctions in differing situations, and just questioning anything and everything law enforcement does as suspect. Credibility of that point of view (law enforcement is suspect) suffers when no distinctions are made between differing situations…

    Rifkin: “What, then, is your objective ‘standard for determining which case fits the definition of frivolous’? In my opinion, it is necessarily subjective. It is sort of the pornography test … I know it when I see it.”

    Well said!

  64. E Roberts Musser

    From inside prison.com: “it is distrurbing to note that personal injury lawyers had a whopping 70% error rate in lawsuits, with the large majority of malpractice claims dropped, dismissed, or withdrawn…”

  65. David M. Greenwald

    “”it is distrurbing to note that personal injury lawyers had a whopping 70% error rate in lawsuits, with the large majority of malpractice claims dropped, dismissed, or withdrawn…””

    Isn’t that an example of the system working?

  66. David M. Greenwald

    I don’t see frivolous lawsuits as a problem – although originally I objected to your suggestion that they were on the uptick citing a 17 year old case as example without any documentation. Any attempt to reign frivolous lawsuits will likely result in reigning in legitimate ones by people who lack the means. I see problem with people with deep pockets that can stall and run out the clock on legitimate ones. We attempted help individuals through anti-SLAPP legislation and that has merely given big entities another tool to protect themselves from legitimate law suits.

    People who advocate tort reform in general want insulation from liability. But they ignore the problems in the criminal court system and family court systems which I think are far worse, but generally impact people with less money more, so the deep pocketed interests don’t whine about it.

  67. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “I don’t see frivolous lawsuits as a problem – although originally I objected to your suggestion that they were on the uptick citing a 17 year old case as example without any documentation. Any attempt to reign frivolous lawsuits will likely result in reigning in legitimate ones by people who lack the means. I see problem with people with deep pockets that can stall and run out the clock on legitimate ones. We attempted help individuals through anti-SLAPP legislation and that has merely given big entities another tool to protect themselves from legitimate law suits.”

    By refusing to address the issue of tort reform, then you are not addressing the huge issue of say the costs of health care. Malpractice insurance rates are through the roof. How would making the plaintiff pay respondent’s attorney fees if the plaintiff’s case is determined to be frivolous discourage legitimate lawsuits?

  68. E Roberts Musser

    dmg: “People who advocate tort reform in general want insulation from liability.”

    Not necessarily. They want to cut down on the costs of malpractice insurance/costs of health care for one.

    dmg: “But they ignore the problems in the criminal court system and family court systems which I think are far worse, but generally impact people with less money more, so the deep pocketed interests don’t whine about it.”

    What is wrong w the criminal justice system or family court system (and there is plenty wrong that needs to be set right) is not the issue. Tort reform is the issue…

  69. Bill Ritter

    The Davis Police did a great job in apprehending the young man in this case and they clearly prevented a dangerous situation from becoming a possible calamity. The young man was a danger to himself and others having threatened suicide and his intent to harm others. His family thought so too and they called the police for help. He then ignored police commands and attempted to get into his truck which had two loaded guns and hundreds of rounds of ammo in the cab, in violation of our gun laws. Whatever the eventual outcome of this case, this past Friday, the Davis Police did an outstanding job protecting our community.

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