POMONA (CBSLA) — The ACLU of Southern California Friday filed suit against the Pomona Police Department over its deadly force policy — alleging that the department is not only violating California law, but also misappropriating taxpayer dollars.
At the heart of the lawsuit is the California Act to Save Lives, or AB 392, which states lethal force by law enforcement is only justifiable “when necessary in defense of human life.” The plaintiffs allege that the law, which went into effect Jan. 1, creates a higher standard for the justification of the use of lethal force that Pomona PD has failed to implement.
The lawsuit alleges that Pomona police officers have used deadly force several times since the law went into effect, killing at least three people. After a July 5 fatal shooting, plaintiffs allege Sgt. Patrick O’Malley “celebrated this killing, positing on his social media: ‘My boys killed another one tonight. Another notch in the belt.'”
The lawsuit further alleged that the department unlawfully used public funds and employee time in adopting policies and training protocols in violation of the new state law that were “designed by police lobbying groups.”
According to the suit, department officials joined the Peace Officers Research Association of California in actively opposing AB 392 when it was under consideration by state legislators.
“They used department resources to further the mission, even sending out messages on city letterhead. When AB 392 ultimately passed, PORAC began a campaign to undermine it,” the suit states.
According to the ACLU, PORAC’s president sent an email to its members, including the Pomona Police Officers Association, three days after AB 392 was signed into law stating that it did “not significantly impact,” law enforcement actions.
In response to this, the ACLU alleges that Pomona PD deleted the word “necessary” from its policy regarding the state penal code and that the department’s training center also instructed supervisors to review PORAC’s notices on AB 392 that denied any change to the legal standard with employees.
“Sergeant Todd Samuels forwarded the Training Center’s e-mail to a colleague at Cal Poly Pomona with the note: ‘FYI from PORAC. Nothing has changed contrary to Media reports,'” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit asks the court to approve an injunction to halt use of Pomona Police Department funds, resources, and employee time in instructing officers that the new law does not establish a “necessary standard for deadly use of force.” Other requests include an injunction barring the use of materials from PORAC and other organizations that the plaintiffs allege misrepresent the new law.
In response to the suit, PORAC President Brian Marvel released a statement which said in part: “I am disappointed to learn of these allegations after months of meetings with the ACLU and establishing what I believed to be common ground and goodwill. The complaint neglected to mention these cooperative efforts.
“This unprecedented effort to suppress the First Amendment rights of our organization and our members is ironic, given that the ACLU is purportedly dedicated to ensuring that all people are free to express themselves”, Marvel added.
The lawsuit is the first in the state concerning alleged police department defiance of the new law and was filed on behalf of members of a Pomona coalition, Police Oversight Starts Today.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)