Lawsuit Over Unnecessary Use of Force by Police Results in $1.7M Verdict

A Los Angeles jury has ordered the L.A. police department to pay $1.7 million to a TV camera operator who was struck by police during a rally. 

The police brutality lawsuit was filed by Patricia Ballaz, who operates a camera for FOX TV news. According to the complaint, L.A. police knocked her camera from her shoulder and knocked her to the ground. However, other reporters assaulted that day were found to be partially negligent for their own assaults, resulting in much lower, or no, compensatory damages.

The assaults happened at an immigration rally in L.A. three years ago. Ballaz and several other reporters were injured by baton-wielding police who waded in to break up the rally when they thought it had gotten out of control.

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At trial, former Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton and Deputy Chief Michael Hillman both testified that the use of force did not conform to police department policy. According to a report by Courthouse News Service, Bratton called the incident the most embarrassing thing that had happened during his 37 years with the department. However, the defense argued that the reporters put themselves in harm’s way and expected special privileges not provided to ordinary citizens in that situation.

In Ballaz’s case, the jury voted unanimously that she should not have expected to have been assaulted by police in that situation. They split, 6-3, on whether her assault was an instance of excessive force and police brutality. They awarded her $1 million for lost future earnings and medical expenses, $532,000 for earnings and medical expenses already lost, and $200,000 in current and future non-economic damages.

Another journalist, KPCC radio reporter Patricia Nazario, was awarded $37,000 for economic losses and $2,000 for non-economic damages. The jury ruled that her own negligence contributed to her being hit with police batons. Ballaz’s co-worker, Fox TV reporter Christina Gonzalez, was not awarded any damages, with the jury evenly split on whether she was the victim of excessive force.


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