The City of Santa Rosa, Calif. and its police chief face a lawsuit over the Santa Rosa Police Department's use of violent crowd control tactics “without regard for the safety and constitutional rights of those assembled.”
July 21, 2021 – Case Settled with Five Plaintiffs for $1.9 Million
The proposed class action detailed on this page has been settled on an individual basis with the five plaintiffs for $1.9 million and was subsequently dismissed without prejudice on May 27, 2021.
In a one-page dismissal order, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria noted that the court had been advised that the city of Santa Rosa had agreed to the terms of the proposed settlement, which was approved in a closed hearing on April 20. News reports relay that the settlement is the largest in the Northern California city’s history for a civil rights lawsuit involving the police department.
According to The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Rogers said he and the City Council greenlit the settlement after learning about the details of the lawsuit from the city’s legal staff and watching the relevant body-camera footage. Though declining to comment on the settlement, Police Chief Rainer Navarro, a defendant in the proposed class action, conceded that mistakes were made while affirming that the department is working to revamp its policies.
“Did we make errors? Yes, we did,” Navarro said. “But we have committed to correcting everything we can to ensure that those don’t happen again. We are committed to this process.”
Two plaintiffs have filed a proposed class action against the City of Santa Rosa, California in search of a temporary restraining order over the Santa Rosa Police Department’s (SRPD) use of allegedly violent riot control tactics against individuals peacefully protesting in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Filed on June 23, the 24-page lawsuit says thousands have taken to the streets of Santa Rosa, located roughly 50 miles north of San Francisco in Sonoma County, topeacefully protestthe May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. Despite the peaceful nature of the demonstrations, which the case says have seen “notably few” destructive incidents, the SRPD has nonetheless unjustifiably declared the protests unlawful assemblies as a means to deter participation, the plaintiffs allege.
At the onset of the protests, SRPD Chief Rainer Navarro ordered the force to shift almost immediately to the use of violent riot control tactics “without regard for the safety and constitutional rights of those assembled,” the plaintiffs say. The SRPD’s tactics included widespread and indiscriminateuse of tear gas without warning and “less-lethal” munitions such as sting ball grenades, chalk grenades and rubber bullets, the lawsuit says, adding that officers utilized these crowd control tactics “in methods designed to maximize the likelihood of serious injury.”
Though Chief Navarro has stated publicly that SRPD officers do not aim for the head, the injuries suffered by protestors “speak to the contrary,” the case claims. According to the lawsuit, Chief Navarro has described instances in which protestors were injured as “isolated incidents” while at the same time justifying the SRPD’s use of force by claiming “my officers were put in great danger.” Moreover, Chief Navarro has claimed publicly that the Santa Rosa protests were “far from peaceful” and that force was used after officers were provoked by demonstrators.
According to the plaintiffs, however, the defendants’ statements constitute an organized whitewashing of the use of violent crowd control tactics alleged in the complaint, with the apparent perpetrators facing no repercussions despite clear evidence of injuries.
“In the meantime, no officers have been placed on administrative leave, no officers have been disciplined, and no police video of the violence has been released by SRPD, despite the hospitalization of numerous protesters and the public outcry against the indiscriminate and unnecessary use of such gratuitous violence against civilians assembled in lawful protest,” the lawsuit says.
According to the complaint, Sonoma County has seen 91 police-related deaths in the last two decades, including the shooting of 13-year-oldAndy Lopezin 2013.
The lawsuit looks to represent all demonstrators who participated in or intended to participate in the protests beginning May 30, 2020 in the City of Santa Rosa.
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