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Black Judge Files $10M Claim Against UCLA Police After Being Handcuffed For Seat Belt Violation

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A family law judge has filed a $10 million claim against UCLA police after he says he was roughed up and handcuffed during a traffic stop for a seat belt violation.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cunningham filed the claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, on Jan. 16, his attorney Carl Douglas said.

Douglas said in a statement that the judge was driving out of a parking structure after working out at a Westwood fitness center on Nov. 23 when he unbuckled his seat belt briefly to get his wallet and pay the parking fee. As the judge turned on to Gayley Avenue and began buckling his seat belt, the car was stopped by UCLA police for driving without having the safety device fastened, according to Douglas.

Cunningham was handcuffed and placed in the back seat of the officers’ patrol car, causing him “serious injury and damages to his mind, body and reputation,” Douglas said.

The patrol car’s video camera showed Cunningham complained about his treatment and that one of the officers was annoyed with the judge for no reason, according to Douglas.

Douglas says a short time later, a UCLA police sergeant arrived and ordered the judge’s release.

“If an African American judge can be accosted and then arrested by a hateful police officer for a seat belt violation on the streets of Westwood, then none of us are safe,” Douglas said.

The statement by Douglas’ office also included a comment by the 58-year-old Cunningham, who is assigned to the downtown County Courthouse.

“I am shaken and bruised by this ordeal,” Cunningham said. “I fear that I have suffered nerve damage in my wrists. I am still shaken by this ordeal. Although I am a former Police Commission president, I never realized what a profound effect such a negative encounter could have on someone until it happened to me.”

The university released the following statement in response to the filing of the claim.

“UCLA police fully investigated Judge Cunningham’s complaint, as required by law, but did not find sufficient evidence to sustain his allegations,” according to the statement. “A letter was sent to the judge this morning notifying him of the outcome. We are distressed when anyone feels disrespected by our officers or anyone who represents UCLA. As in this case, feedback to UCLA Police provides them the opportunity to review their actions, tailor future trainings and improve performance to reflect the department’s commitment to excellence.”

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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