Police Can Damage Your Stuff - No Liability

topic posted Sat, April 3, 2004 - 6:52 PM by  Paul
Mighty Pissed Off:

On January 4, 2004 the city of Riverside Police Department pulled me over for not wearing a seatbelt. The officer insisted that I was using methamphetamine and asked if she could conduct a search of my car. Intensely offended I granted her permission to search my car as I had nothing to hide.

Having given her permission she had me exit my car and she placed handcuffs on me and put me in the back of her sqad car after searching me (and finding nothing). She spent at least an hour with two other officers going through my car, inch by inch. Opening my belongings, unfolding papers, emptying containers, smelling bottles that had automotive stuff and/or beverages in them, and more.

I had just completed laundry and was on my way to the grocery store to finish up my errands when she had pulled me over and one of the officers was kind enough to unfold ALL of my laundry. They nearly destroyed a zipper on a sleeping bag I had in the car as well. Since I was in the back of the squad car there wasn't anything I could do to exercize my right to recind my permission and end the search so I endured as they continued their investigation.

When I was finally allowed out of her car she gave me the ticket for no seatbelt and took off while I was refolding my laundry. I wasn't about to give them the satisfaction of leaving with my life a mess. When I got back into my car I realized that they had ripped a massive hole in the headliner of my car. The vinyl that covers the ceiling of my car had a hole bigger than my head and was so damaged that it had a flap that hung down in a way that obscured the windshield.

I filed a report as soon as I got home and they had another officer come out and take pictures. They assured me that this isn't how things are done and that they'd repair it as soon as they reviewed my claim.

Apparently the cops aren't responsible for damaging people's property when done according to "procedure." The city adjuster was kind enough to send me a letter letting me know that, "[they] have found that there is no liability on the part of the City." They also said they spoke with the police department and that they, "[...] agree that the police followed procedure in [my] incident."

My question to you people, everyone who is actually reading this, what the hell do I do now? I am not financially capable of hiring a real lawyer nor am I willing to just allow this to pass. Would it be worthwhile to picket? Is that even legal? Should I distribute fliers outlining that I'm a disabled citizen and they have taken advantage of their powers of authority and are not taking responsibility for causing me financial harm? Should I make it clear that there was a black person in the car with me and that they treated him less respectfully than I was? Would it matter if I were to file a small claim against them?

How long before they break into our bodies in order to find "contraband?" Oh wait, they already do.


posted by:
  • Yikes Ouch Ugh!!

    I don't know about anything you can do, in your present situation. You might want to try contacting the ACLU or a police watchdog group, to see what they would suggest. If there is something actionable, they may also be willing to take on the case in a pro bono (for free) manner.

    I can tell you that in the future, you should never consent to a search, even if you have nothing to hide.

    a handy card outlining your responsibilities, rights and things NOT to do, when being questioned by the poilice can be found at:

    This is very similar to the information that can be found in the Burning Man Survival Guide each year. (I came over from the BM tribe to post this)

    good luck!

    • Embarassingly enough I am a member of the ACLU ~and~ I had my card in my wallet. I was just thrown off by her accusation so much that I'm in the situation I'm in now.

      Thanks for the info!

      • hehe, sorry, comiserating chuckle of pain. I'd still suggest contacting them to see if they have any suggestions as to further action, and if they'll be able to help you take it. Afterall, that's what your membership dues are for right?

        for what it's worth, typing this....just made me decide to go join that's what OUR dues are for right?

  • Re: Police Can Damage Your Stuff - No Liability

    Sun, April 18, 2004 - 7:57 PM
    Hi. Thanks for inviting me to the 909. I would not give up on this until you get a financial reimbursement. It's all about the squeaky wheel. Call the City Manager's office and tell them to direct you to the next level. Ask about the commission that was set up after the Tyisha Miller incident. Go to them. If that doesn't help, attend a City Council meeting and complain. Also complain to your Councilmemeber -- I think it's Defenbaugh in your neighborhood. Call Legal Aid. Write a Letter to the Ed in the P-E. If none of that works, let me know. I'll check some more options. Good luck.

    Warning - this started out as a one-sentence P.S., but I got carried away. :-P

    P.S. Try not to paint them all as bad guys, difficult as it may be. I was a hippie in the '60's before Miranda/probable cause laws. I remember what it was like to be CONSTANTLY harassed by LAPD. Back seats pulled out of the vehicles, everything -- and I mean everything -- dumped or tossed onto the sidewalks. Treated like sh*t. Picking up the pieces after they drove away empty-handed. During that same time, my best friend married a cop -- a decent, idealistic guy. I saw the other side of the coin. Garbage and feces thrown at their apt, anon. phone threats, cops ambushed and murdered answering fake calls. Seeing her so scared -- and only 18! An ugly time all around. I see our country going back to those times -- divided "us against them." While we should all stand up for our beliefs and fight for justice, I hope we remember to fight against the institutions or the Individuals who harm us, and not paint a whole group of people as bad. There. I feel better now. :-P
    • Re: Police Can Damage Your Stuff - No Liability

      Mon, April 19, 2004 - 5:26 AM
      Good advice Connie.

      I've contacted and heard back from the ACLU. They are not willing to help me because it's not a high enough profile incident. I'm not dead or dismembered in other words.

      I've called the city a couple of times to try and get the correct wording and address to put on my small claim form but they have consistently not known and have continually referred me to a lawyer. If I could afford a lawyer, I wouldn't be calling them myself to figure this stuff out.

      In any case, I only have six months from the date of the incident. I'm quickly approaching my statute of limitation and I still have no recourse. It took the city three months to deny my claim and I honestly believe that's the design. Chew up the time and it won't cost the city anything to screw up.

      I'm not saying the police are not people or even that they don't have it hard. But the idea that any of the take out their troubles on us is inexcusable. They were not forced into duty. They voluntered. If that job comes with shit pie, then I for one, expect them to know it and deal with it. Harsh but if someone decides to be a teacher and then determines they hate kids, wouldn't you expect them to find another job?


      • Re: Police Can Damage Your Stuff - No Liability

        Tue, April 20, 2004 - 11:30 PM
        When's the due date for your claim? Bureaucracies count on folks throwing in the towel rather than dealing with the red tape. Perhaps I can help, if there's enuf time.
        • Re: Police Can Damage Your Stuff - No Liability

          Wed, April 21, 2004 - 2:40 AM
          According to what I've been able to glean from the online documents from the city and the county I've got two possible cutoff dates. One is six months from the date of "loss," the other is six months from the date of my original claim. Yet another possible date, according to a letter I got from the City, is based on the date I received their denial of liability. I'm going to err on the safe side and assume it's the earliest date. So I think we've got until the end of May to make this happen.

          I have an interview today, I hope to get the job at the pay rate I'm targeting. It'd be nice to have some cash again.

          After my interview, unless they're going to work me immediately, I'll be getting the estimate for repair on my car. I think the shops should be open by then.

          Thanks for the offer of help.

          • Re: Police Can Damage Your Stuff - No Liability

            Wed, April 21, 2004 - 8:46 AM
            a friend of mine is in law enforcement and said you should be able to get the case take pro-bono becouse of the damage to your property. They do have the right to search and to make an absolute mess but not to damage personal property...good luck on this.
  • Re: Police Can Damage Your Stuff - No Liability

    Thu, April 29, 2004 - 9:41 PM

    I've gotten quotes to fix the headliner at this point. All of them have made it clear that the windows (front and back) have to come out to do it right. That sucks but that's life I guess. The down side is that the rubber seals for the windows will ALSO need to be replaced because they're that old and the upholstery people don't want to risk the old stuff cracking and being unuseable. It sucks major and I spent a whole day finding all this out by going to a couple of different places so it's not just one guy trying to trick me.

    So I get to find the rubber seals for front and back windows of my 1974 Ford Maverick and add that to the 400 dollar quotes I already have. This should be an interesting trip.

    Then I get to fight with the city again to figure out WHAT I am supposed to name as the plaintif. The cops or the city.

    • Okay... apparently these seals aren't easy to find.

      I have my shop manuals so... if anyone has resources that I don't have please help me find these items for a 1974 Ford Maverick, four door:

      Weatherstrip front: 03110
      Weatherstrip back: 42084

      These numbers are from the diagram in the book.

      Time is of the essence here people. I have about a week to get the paperwork in or it's all too late.


      • Re: Police Can Damage Your Stuff - No Liability

        Fri, September 24, 2004 - 12:18 AM
        So did you just run out of time?

        If nothing else you should write an editorial/press release and mail it to as many local news sources as you can.

        Even this late you could be raising awareness of how you were shuffled off and abused by those your taxes pay to protect you from just such a violation of your rights and property.

        If you make enough of a stink they may even still pay you at this late date. Probably not, but theres always a chance.
        • Re: Police Can Damage Your Stuff - No Liability

          Fri, September 24, 2004 - 2:07 AM
          I did indeed run out of time. I still haven't found anyone that can provide that rear seal. I can't even find someone to make it at this point.

          I did consider making quite a stink but after discussing it with a HUGE number of people who basically told me I'd probably have a better chance of surviving roulette with a loaded gun than surviving causing the police any bad press so I dropped the idea. I feel like shit about doing so because I feel that there is some obligation I have to help prevent the same thing happening to someone else. Sadly I'm allowing more rational thought sway my behavior away from what I think is right.

          I am still letting people know this is happening. Half of the people already know and the other half seem rather disinterested in even learning of such things. Rather flippantly dismissing the experience as my fault for driving a crappy car, being visibly poor, having tattoos, wearing my hair long, and being nervous when the cop pulled me over. But then we all know that those people are usually the same type that suggest I cut my hair cover my ink and kiss their ass for the next 30 years for a fake gold watch.

          At this point I feel like I was simply kicked in the teeth. I quite literally have no resources to pursue it beyond what I have. If I had a gob of money the problem wouldn't have even happened in the first place. And it wouldn't have been nearly as traumatic (financially and psychologically).

          I'm also quite aware that the Press Enterprise pretty much owns Riverside. Calling out the police here, with the PE being that much a part of them seems just a tad dumb. If the article, any article, were to make it anywhere I doubt I would be able to continue living here. This conclusion also came from speaking with a HUGE number of people that have lived here, do live here, or know of some details having to do with this place. Let's just say I wouldn't raise my kids here after learning what I've learned. I'm doing everything I can to get my ass out of here but rent is LA is quite a bit more expensive than it is here.

          Of course, LA has jobs too so it's all relative.

          Thanks for the reply.


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