Taxpayers, Not Cops, Foot the Bill for Civil Rights Suits in City, County of Sacramento

Via Picserver

By Crescenzo Vellucci

The Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief

SACRAMENTO, CA – Taxpayers in the city and county of Sacramento may not know it, but lawsuits against city police and county deputies are costing taxpayers millions of dollars after misdeeds by law enforcement injure, maim and kill people.

In short, officers don’t pay for their bad actions when municipalities are sued—the taxpayer does.

And, a few examples—and another a bit older—were reported by the Sacramento Bee just this week.

The family of Cody Catanzarite, 37, who died at the Sacramento downtown jail, has sued the county after he was arrested for alleged grand theft in July of 2023. He was sent to the hospital before his jailing, told his captors he had ingested drugs, but died hours later.

At the jail, wrote the Bee from the lawsuit, “a registered nurse conducted a medical screening, and determined his Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale (COWS) — used to assess the level of withdrawal — was a one, the least severe level. The nurse ordered detox housing for Catanzarite, but did not order further withdrawal assessments, detox regimens or an urgent referral to a medical provider.”

The second dose, the lawsuit alleges, was delayed for five and a half hours and by that time Catanzarite’s COWS level had, the Bee reported, “skyrocketed to nine out of 11, including documented risk factors such as elevated pulse, sweating, joint aches, runny nose and gooseflesh skin.

The next morning, the suit adds, staff found him dead.

Defendants are Sheriff Jim Cooper, Sacramento County, the Sheriff’s Department, county-contracted Maxim Healthcare Services and two nurses.

The pleading, the Bee noted, “claims violations of California Code of Regulations for detoxification, safety checks, and treatment plans. It also claims violations of the U.S Constitution, and the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act. The plaintiffs are Catanzarite’s mother, Linda Catanzarite, and his daughter, who is a child.”

If there’s a settlement or if the defendants lose at trial, taxpayers most likely will foot the bill.

“He needed medical attention,” said Mark Merin, the civil rights attorney for Catanzarite’s family, adding, “He needed someone to (determine) whether he needed hospitalization. What he needed was obviously more intensive than what they gave him, which was nothing, until the following morning, which was too late.”

The Bee also reported this week a $100,000 settlement by the city of Sacramento after police shot 19-year-old Darell Richards, a Black man, to death in the backyard of Curtis Park.

The Bee said the “settlement was agreed to last September following years of legal wrangling, vigils and a trial in 2022 that ended in a deadlocked jury, but city officials and lawyers for Richards’ family would not discuss the terms of the agreement that led to the dismissal of a federal civil rights lawsuit.”

The Richards case is “one of the higher-profile shooting deaths by Sacramento-area law enforcement in recent years, spawning vigils, a lawsuit against the city by The Sacramento Bee and an 11-day trial in 2022 in federal court that ended with the jury unable to reach a unanimous verdict,” said the Bee.

Lawyers for Richards’ parents said Richards was surrendering when he was killed,

“The shooting occurred six months after Sacramento police shot and killed another young black man, Stephon Clark; Clark was unarmed and found later to be carrying only a cellphone, and his death generated protests and marches nationwide, including some that shut down portions of downtown Sacramento and led to dozens of arrests,” wrote the Bee.

The City of Sacramento agreed to pay $2.4 million to Clark’s sons and $1.7 million to his parents.

Taxpayers footed that bill, not the two officers who pulled their triggers.

And just a few months ago, a Sacramento man sued city police and county sheriff’s deputies, “claiming that after he called 911 for help from a knife-wielding homeless woman he was arrested and taken to jail, where his dreadlocks were sliced off and a bag was placed over his head,” wrote the Bee.

The suit, filed in federal court on behalf of Silas Jones, claims Jones was “wrongfully arrested and subjected to excessive force and physical abuse” by Sacramento police and deputies at the jail.

If Jones wins  his case or settles, the taxpayers will most likely be the ones to pay this bill, too.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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