News

Palo Alto to pay $572,500 to Buena Vista resident after violent arrest

City will also require all police officers to undergo LGBTQ sensitivity training after video showed sergeant mocking Gustavo Alvarez

The city of Palo Alto will pay out $572,500 and require all officers in the Police Department to go through two hours of LGBTQ sensitivity training as part of its settlement with Gustavo Alvarez, the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park resident who sued the city after he was violently arrested in February 2018.

The settlement also requires Sgt. Wayne Benitez, the supervising officer who slammed Alvarez on the hood of the car during the arrest and was later seen on surveillance video making fun of Alvarez, to write an apology letter to Alvarez, his attorney, Cody Salfen, told the Weekly. Benitez retired from the department in September.

The City Council discussed Alvarez's case against the city on Monday night but gave little indication at the meeting that it had approved any kind of settlement. Mayor Eric Filseth said immediately after the closed session that the council took "no reportable action."

City Attorney Molly Stump told the Weekly that the "settlement documentation is in process," which is why there was no reportable action at the Monday meeting.

While Palo Alto officials have consistently declined to discuss the incident, citing pending litigation, the city did release a statement Wednesday confirming the settlement. The council has settled the claims to "minimize the burden and expense of federal litigation," according to the statement.

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The February confrontation that sparked the lawsuit was captured on Alvarez's home surveillance camera. The footage showed Officer Christopher Conde trying to get Alvarez to come out of his mobile home; Alvarez repeatedly refused. Conde was later joined by more officers, including Benitez and Agent Thomas DeStefano. The officers ultimately kicked the door in and, once Alvarez came out, the officers grabbed, handcuffed and pinned him on the hood of a car.

The video shows Benitez then grabbed Alvarez by the hood of this jacket, slammed him against the windshield and asked him, "You think you're a tough guy?" When Alvarez told Benitez, "I'm bleeding," Benitez responded, "You're going to be bleeding a whole lot more."

After the arrest, Benitez is shown recapping the incident to another officer and imitating Alvarez, who is gay, by raising the pitch of his voice.

The department arrested Alvarez on suspicion of driving with a suspended license, resisting arrest, possession of controlled substance paraphernalia and appropriation of lost property. All of these charges were ultimately dismissed by a judge.

Earlier this year, Gustavo sued the city in federal court, claiming that the assault by Palo Alto officers followed "prior, repeated and ongoing harassment by the Palo Alto Police Department." He alleged that the officers' conduct was motivated by "hatred and prejudice of homosexual males."

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The lawsuit, which was filed on April 29 in the U.S. District Court in Oakland, also claims that the city has failed to adequately train its police officers and that its discriminatory policies are subjecting individuals "to serious and physiological harm."

The suit also claims that Police Chief Robert Jonsen and the city at large have "demonstrated deliberate indifference to this pattern and practice of constitutional violations, having shown deliberate indifference, by failing to take necessary, appropriate, and/or adequate measures to prevent the continued perpetuation of said pattern of conduct by their employees and agents."

The officers' behavior, the suit states, "demonstrates an existence of an informal custom, policy or practice, which tolerates and promotes the continued violation of civil rights of individuals by city of Palo Alto and city of Palo Alto Police Department's agents and employees."

The city confirmed in the statement that all sworn police officers will undergo training, which is scheduled for January. The statement from the city also alludes to Alvarez's criminal record, which includes a 2012 arrest for robbery at the former JJ&F Food Store.

"While the city and Police Department sharply dispute the vast majority of Mr. Alvarez' claims and have deep concerns about Mr. Alvarez's continuing criminal behavior, the city believes that this resolution is in the best interests of all involved -- including the Police Department, its police officers, and Mr. Alvarez," the statement reads.

The Police Department is also conducting its own internal review of the incident, according to the statement.

Salfen called the non-monetary components of the settlement "really positive" but criticized the department for continuing to employ all the officers who were involved in the incident. The only exception is Benitez, who was allowed to retire and draw a pension.

Salfen also called the city's dismissal of disputing most of the allegations against the officers "disingenuous."

"If they want to dispute what's on the video and try to justify what's on there, it wouldn't surprise me. But it's just a symptom of a department that doesn't take its obligation seriously."

Salfen said Alvarez continues to suffer from the effects of the February 2018 encounter.

"There is no amount of money that will ever give him back what was taken from him," Salfen said. "He lost his sense of peace and security, he lost his sense of his civil rights — the rights that are guaranteed to all individuals.

"He is still a resident of the city of Palo Alto and I'd like to think the city has a continued obligation to take care of all members of the community."

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Palo Alto to pay $572,500 to Buena Vista resident after violent arrest

City will also require all police officers to undergo LGBTQ sensitivity training after video showed sergeant mocking Gustavo Alvarez

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Nov 20, 2019, 12:01 pm

The city of Palo Alto will pay out $572,500 and require all officers in the Police Department to go through two hours of LGBTQ sensitivity training as part of its settlement with Gustavo Alvarez, the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park resident who sued the city after he was violently arrested in February 2018.

The settlement also requires Sgt. Wayne Benitez, the supervising officer who slammed Alvarez on the hood of the car during the arrest and was later seen on surveillance video making fun of Alvarez, to write an apology letter to Alvarez, his attorney, Cody Salfen, told the Weekly. Benitez retired from the department in September.

The City Council discussed Alvarez's case against the city on Monday night but gave little indication at the meeting that it had approved any kind of settlement. Mayor Eric Filseth said immediately after the closed session that the council took "no reportable action."

City Attorney Molly Stump told the Weekly that the "settlement documentation is in process," which is why there was no reportable action at the Monday meeting.

While Palo Alto officials have consistently declined to discuss the incident, citing pending litigation, the city did release a statement Wednesday confirming the settlement. The council has settled the claims to "minimize the burden and expense of federal litigation," according to the statement.

The February confrontation that sparked the lawsuit was captured on Alvarez's home surveillance camera. The footage showed Officer Christopher Conde trying to get Alvarez to come out of his mobile home; Alvarez repeatedly refused. Conde was later joined by more officers, including Benitez and Agent Thomas DeStefano. The officers ultimately kicked the door in and, once Alvarez came out, the officers grabbed, handcuffed and pinned him on the hood of a car.

The video shows Benitez then grabbed Alvarez by the hood of this jacket, slammed him against the windshield and asked him, "You think you're a tough guy?" When Alvarez told Benitez, "I'm bleeding," Benitez responded, "You're going to be bleeding a whole lot more."

After the arrest, Benitez is shown recapping the incident to another officer and imitating Alvarez, who is gay, by raising the pitch of his voice.

The department arrested Alvarez on suspicion of driving with a suspended license, resisting arrest, possession of controlled substance paraphernalia and appropriation of lost property. All of these charges were ultimately dismissed by a judge.

Earlier this year, Gustavo sued the city in federal court, claiming that the assault by Palo Alto officers followed "prior, repeated and ongoing harassment by the Palo Alto Police Department." He alleged that the officers' conduct was motivated by "hatred and prejudice of homosexual males."

The lawsuit, which was filed on April 29 in the U.S. District Court in Oakland, also claims that the city has failed to adequately train its police officers and that its discriminatory policies are subjecting individuals "to serious and physiological harm."

The suit also claims that Police Chief Robert Jonsen and the city at large have "demonstrated deliberate indifference to this pattern and practice of constitutional violations, having shown deliberate indifference, by failing to take necessary, appropriate, and/or adequate measures to prevent the continued perpetuation of said pattern of conduct by their employees and agents."

The officers' behavior, the suit states, "demonstrates an existence of an informal custom, policy or practice, which tolerates and promotes the continued violation of civil rights of individuals by city of Palo Alto and city of Palo Alto Police Department's agents and employees."

The city confirmed in the statement that all sworn police officers will undergo training, which is scheduled for January. The statement from the city also alludes to Alvarez's criminal record, which includes a 2012 arrest for robbery at the former JJ&F Food Store.

"While the city and Police Department sharply dispute the vast majority of Mr. Alvarez' claims and have deep concerns about Mr. Alvarez's continuing criminal behavior, the city believes that this resolution is in the best interests of all involved -- including the Police Department, its police officers, and Mr. Alvarez," the statement reads.

The Police Department is also conducting its own internal review of the incident, according to the statement.

Salfen called the non-monetary components of the settlement "really positive" but criticized the department for continuing to employ all the officers who were involved in the incident. The only exception is Benitez, who was allowed to retire and draw a pension.

Salfen also called the city's dismissal of disputing most of the allegations against the officers "disingenuous."

"If they want to dispute what's on the video and try to justify what's on there, it wouldn't surprise me. But it's just a symptom of a department that doesn't take its obligation seriously."

Salfen said Alvarez continues to suffer from the effects of the February 2018 encounter.

"There is no amount of money that will ever give him back what was taken from him," Salfen said. "He lost his sense of peace and security, he lost his sense of his civil rights — the rights that are guaranteed to all individuals.

"He is still a resident of the city of Palo Alto and I'd like to think the city has a continued obligation to take care of all members of the community."

Comments

Other Tom
Downtown North
on Nov 20, 2019 at 12:19 pm
Other Tom, Downtown North
on Nov 20, 2019 at 12:19 pm
13 people like this

It seems you only get compensated for unnecessary police violence if it is on video.


Ok then
Charleston Gardens
on Nov 20, 2019 at 12:20 pm
Ok then, Charleston Gardens
on Nov 20, 2019 at 12:20 pm
12 people like this

Another sign of the weak leadership of Shikada and Jonsen. As well as violation of the Brown Act by the City Council. If the City confirmed a settlement, obviously the Council took action on closed session and Mayor Filseth lied in saying otherwise.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 20, 2019 at 12:21 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Nov 20, 2019 at 12:21 pm
19 people like this

Plus the officer gets $118.000 a year every year for the rest of his life.


Jon
College Terrace
on Nov 20, 2019 at 12:55 pm
Jon, College Terrace
on Nov 20, 2019 at 12:55 pm
103 people like this

The felon who robbed the JJ&F gets $572k! What a time to be alive.


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 20, 2019 at 1:16 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 20, 2019 at 1:16 pm
102 people like this

It's difficult to sympathize with a criminal like this who, in turn, sues a city for a "violent" arrest. I hope that the victims of his crimes sue Alvarez so that all of that money is returned to them.

Aside from "medical expenses" (which should compensate only the insurer or hospital that paid for any medical expenses), I hope that Alvarez doesn't profit at all from this.


A legal immigrant
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 20, 2019 at 2:11 pm
A legal immigrant, Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 20, 2019 at 2:11 pm
20 people like this

Nayeli- alverez was cuffed already when he was brutally attacked by the criminal in a uniform Benitez. Benitez shoukd be arrested, tried and then put in the General population in prison, but knowing you support you know who, not suprised you approve of police brutality and homophobia.
[Portion removed.]


Resident
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2019 at 2:34 pm
Resident, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2019 at 2:34 pm
74 people like this

This reminds me of the recent story of the man eating a sandwich on a Bart platform which is against the law. Instead of behaving appropriately to Police he had to argue and turn a small incident into a large affair to which he later received an apology.

Time was when police arrested or pointed out to someone that they were doing something wrong, the people concerned complied. Now it seems that the thing to do is create a fuss and expect to receive an apology or a financial reward.

Is this really what society has come to?


Bad Police Work costs $
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 20, 2019 at 2:51 pm
Bad Police Work costs $, Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 20, 2019 at 2:51 pm
27 people like this

I love cops, but not blindly and defending bad cop behavior is akin to defending criminal behavior. That's why we must always speak out and NOT try to cover up for bad cops.

Over zealous cops cost the cities they work for big money. This cop's unchecked EGO slammed the guy into the car when the there was ZERO reason to do it other than to rough him up while handcuffed...that's assault even while wearing a badge and now his uncontrollable ego or anger has cost us all money.

Thanks a lot officer. Try to fix yourself, eh?


Resident
Charleston Gardens
on Nov 20, 2019 at 5:32 pm
Resident , Charleston Gardens
on Nov 20, 2019 at 5:32 pm
92 people like this

Convicted felon....a suspended license, resisting arrest, possession of controlled substance paraphernalia and appropriation of lost property.

It sound like he was in possession for a meth pipe..

What a joke... The sad part is if he was a hetrosexual white male he would be heading for Pelican Bay....

Enough is enough.


If If If
Midtown
on Nov 20, 2019 at 6:34 pm
If If If, Midtown
on Nov 20, 2019 at 6:34 pm
16 people like this

Oh yes, if this and if that. Quite honestly, if he was Augustus Gloop the Oompa Loompas would be extracting him from the exit pipe in the fudge room.

Actual ifs we can prove:

IF this cop didn't assault this guy or anyone else on tape for the world to see, we wouldn't even be here.

IF he could control himself or IF he understood that cameras are everywhere now and the old ways of "stick time" and hidden assault after cuffing are gone, we as taxpayers wouldn't have to foot the bill. Blame the guy who blew it and caused all of this. He and he alone controls himself and in this case, he couldn't or didn't. Now we pay and that sucks.


Doing The Rigtht Thing
Barron Park
on Nov 20, 2019 at 6:40 pm
Doing The Rigtht Thing, Barron Park
on Nov 20, 2019 at 6:40 pm
22 people like this

$187,035.00 of that $572,000.00 goes to the attorney so Mr. Alvarez netted about $385,000.00...not bad providing he doesn't squander this mini-windfall.

Perhaps best for him to invest in a Wells Fargo PMA & place it in trust. Apple & Tesla are good investments at this time.

Then apply for entitlement benefits from the state...perhaps early social security disability insurance, Medi-Cal and SNAP (food stamps). If previously employed & laid-off or fired Mr. Alvarez might even qualify for 6 months of unemployment insurance as well.

If properly registered with SNAP, SSDI or Medi-Cal, he will also qualify for a free Android smartphone as part of the California Lifeline Service.

Mr. Alvarez should seize this opportunity & run with it.

Rand Paul has no recourse in these matters of consequence!


Worse than that
Evergreen Park
on Nov 20, 2019 at 6:54 pm
Worse than that, Evergreen Park
on Nov 20, 2019 at 6:54 pm
28 people like this

[Post removed.]


Resident
Charleston Gardens
on Nov 20, 2019 at 7:06 pm
Resident, Charleston Gardens
on Nov 20, 2019 at 7:06 pm
53 people like this

Appropriation of lost property. That is also a great definition for Buena Vista trailer park.

So, does this apply to the Jissers or the taxpayers who had to foot the $40 million bill?

Why do we let the lawyers and politicians get away with this crap?





A legal immigrant
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 20, 2019 at 7:07 pm
A legal immigrant, Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 20, 2019 at 7:07 pm
20 people like this

Resident--while alverez may be a criminal all you say is irrelevant. He was already handcuffed when the criminal police officer assaulted him. As if if if stated we wouldn't be here if it were not for Benitezs illegal actions. [Portion removed.]


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 20, 2019 at 11:05 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 20, 2019 at 11:05 pm
68 people like this

@ A legal immigrant:

Where did I ever write that I support "police brutality" or "homophobia?" Those are your words -- and not mine. You should apologize for lying. Of course, if you lie in an effort to help your cause, it is still a lie.


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 20, 2019 at 11:18 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 20, 2019 at 11:18 pm
65 people like this

@ A legal immigrant:

Let me be clear so that you don't misinterpret my words again. Sgt. Benitez shouldn't have done what he did. I am just saying that I have little sympathy for this perpetual criminal who was whining about his rights as he tried to -- yet again -- get away with breaking the law in Palo Alto.

Given his list of criminal offenses, Gustavo Alvarez should have already been residing in what you call "general population."


Look away
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 21, 2019 at 6:18 am
Look away, Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 21, 2019 at 6:18 am
23 people like this

Understood Nayeli,so yes, on the off topic/side topic of what the perp did in his past, I don't feel any sympathy for him at all. Not one bit.

Now back to the actual topic of this cop causing this entire mess with his cowardly "slap 'em around a bit while they're handcuffed" move.

The fact that he did this and caused our city to lose over half a MILLION dollars should make every resident of PA angry at him. Whatever the side circumstances, this idiot BLEW IT because he either would not or could not do his job without the cheap shots he thought he was entitled to do. Deflectionary side topics do not address the main topic of this cop's bad behavior and the $ it cost us. I just hope the cop learned his lesson.

If you only want to discuss the guy that got arrested and not the cop that caused 1/2 million dollars to be paid to him, I don't think you're discussing the main point.


Doing The Right Thing
Barron Park
on Nov 21, 2019 at 7:26 am
Doing The Right Thing, Barron Park
on Nov 21, 2019 at 7:26 am
2 people like this

Given the general temperament of the police in these kinds of situations, I would imagine it would be relatively simple to establish a case on police brutality providing there are witnesses & verifiable physical violence on the part of law enforcement.

While the concept of 'police assisted suicide' has been around for sometime, 'police assisted lawsuits' also provide a viable economic opportunity for those wishing to cash-in on law enforcement bullying.

If children are being taught not to bully others, the police should be taught the same...thus the required course now implemented.

Kinder, less caustic police forces are needed throughout the United States. The news reportage verifies the ongoing problem & all rogue cops should be FIRED.


@nayeli
Mayfield
on Nov 21, 2019 at 7:34 am
@nayeli, Mayfield
on Nov 21, 2019 at 7:34 am
13 people like this

You should do more research about police brutality. Stop watching so much FOX news. Best advice for you.


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 21, 2019 at 9:27 am
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2019 at 9:27 am
43 people like this

@ "@nayeli:"

Your powers of deduction are wrong. I probably watch less Fox News than I do CNN or MSNBC. I don't like yellow journalism and biased op-ed disguised as "news" whether it comes from conservatives or liberals.

Let's be clear: I oppose police brutality. However, as bad as this was, it was hardly the most egregious example of it. It was wrong. It was very wrong. I still don't prance about pretending that police officers (like Sgt. Benitez) are intrinsically "racist," "homophobic" or even "brutal" at heart.

Personally, from watching the video, I think that the police officers grew frustrated by a convicted criminal "rubbing it in" and trying to use the letter of the law to get by with his criminal behavior. That's my opinion.

The police didn't act properly. However, is this "brutality?" I've been accidentally shoved in crowded places harder than this poor criminal was by the police. I'm a conservative Hispanic American. I've been mocked over the combination of my race and political views here on the Palo Alto Online (called all sorts of filthy and, yes, racist names) that seemed far more egregious than a police officer making fun of this guy's high pitched voice.

This is still no excuse for Sgt. Benitez. I suspect that the first person to admit this would be, well, Sgt. Benitez. In fact, I think that police have such a difficult job that is made more frustrating when people flaunt their perceptions about the law to avoid being arrested or detained.

Alvarez has been arrested multiple times. He is a thief. He broke into the very store where he worked (until he was fired for stealing money). A guy who breaks through the ceiling into a grocery store to steal probably isn't very green when it comes to such crime.

I do hope that Mr. Alvarez turns his life around. Maybe he'll use his small windfall to finally become a better man. We can only hope.

I do applaud the Palo Alto Police Department. With very few exceptions, I think that they've done an excellent job keeping the residents of Palo Alto safe from criminals like Mr. Alvarez. They have a difficult job. I don't think that I could ever have as much patience as a police officer (especially if they encounter criminals like Alvarez on a daily basis).


Anneke
Professorville
on Nov 21, 2019 at 9:37 am
Anneke, Professorville
on Nov 21, 2019 at 9:37 am
6 people like this

An excellent article:

Web Link

What makes an ideal police officer:

1. Initiative
2. Sense of Ethics
3. Respect and Knowledge of Laws
4. Communication Skills
5. Common Sense
6. Civility
7. Service Mentality
8. Humility
9. Controlled Temper
10.Thirst for New Knowledge

All these attributes are important for success and they function in a symbiotic relationship and help produce an all-around top-notch police officer.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2019 at 9:56 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2019 at 9:56 am
14 people like this

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown

>> Alvarez has been arrested multiple times. He is a thief. He broke into the very store where he worked (until he was fired for stealing money). A guy who breaks through the ceiling into a grocery store to steal probably isn't very green when it comes to such crime.

I appreciate much of what you are saying, but, the above demonstrates the root of the problem. It doesn't matter if the person involved accidentally stuck a stick of gum in his pocket, or, is an axe murderer. It is the job of the police to interrupt crimes and arrest lawbreakers using the minimum force necessary. It isn't their job to punish people. But, even more seriously, you really don't want police who can't control themselves and their impulses. It really is a very steep and slippery slope.

In your above paragraph-- so what if a person is or is nearly a career criminal? The police are to arrest him and bring him in, not have fun slamming him into a car hood. Improper behavior, and, -proof- that the policeman is in the wrong line of work.




Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 21, 2019 at 10:13 am
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2019 at 10:13 am
24 people like this

@ Anon:

Yes, you're right. I agree. Police officers must be patient -- even with people that they know are criminals or flaunting their ideas of how they can get out of legal culpability. It's a difficult job that most people probably couldn't do in certain circumstances.

I suppose that police should never take things personally and should patiently realize that the legal system should sort out each situation. In this case (by watching the video), I can understand why the police were frustrated by Alvarez's words or attitude. Yet, I also agree that they should not have behaved as they did.

This is no defense for what Sgt. Benitez did. He was clearly wrong. He deserves to be reprimanded and go through sensitivity training. In fact, the PAPD should consider whether this is an isolated incident (and I trust that they have).

At the same time, I think that there are victims that we can be more sympathetic with and much more egregious examples of "police brutality" than what happened here. When I read comments about "police brutality," I was expecting something fare more "shocking" than what was seen in that video.

I also agree that Alvarez's history as a criminal shouldn't have any influence on how he is detained (unless he has a history of violence or, possibly, a weapon).


Cops in the UK so good
Evergreen Park
on Nov 21, 2019 at 10:19 am
Cops in the UK so good, Evergreen Park
on Nov 21, 2019 at 10:19 am
3 people like this

I lived in the UK from 2010-2017 and I must say, the cops in the UK are the kind I'd like here in the US. SDo professional and patient! Much less "Macho ego" in general than our cops here.

I agree that this cop's stupidity cost us a small fortune...for something SO STUPID and UNNECESSARY!! Bad cop, off to training class now...at our expense again...totally preventable


A legal immigrant
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 21, 2019 at 10:20 am
A legal immigrant, Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 21, 2019 at 10:20 am
5 people like this

Nayeli- I offered an opinion about you, so no apology is needed. In your recent succinct response ( with you usual talking points), you repeat irrelevant comments regarding the incident - he was a criminal etc. Then you try to excuse the criminal cops actions - he was frustrated??? Then you claim you have been shoved harder than he was? He was handcuffed and was shoved into the hood of a car. Nice try trying to justify police brutality.
The big point is that the city had to pay 500k to settle this. I would think you would be upset about that.
In conclusion - needless police brutality and what alverez did is irrelevant.


A legal immigrant
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 21, 2019 at 10:28 am
A legal immigrant, Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 21, 2019 at 10:28 am
5 people like this

Nayeli- and there to go again. In one post you say that you had been shoved harder than alverez, implying that there was no issue with what benitez fid. In a second post you say benitez was competed wrong. So what is it?


@Nayeli
Crescent Park
on Nov 21, 2019 at 11:08 am
@Nayeli, Crescent Park
on Nov 21, 2019 at 11:08 am
6 people like this

>I'm a conservative Hispanic American. I've been mocked over the
>combination of my race and political views here on the Palo Alto
>Online (called all sorts of filthy and, yes, racist names) that
>seemed far more egregious than a police officer making fun of
>this guy's high pitched voice.

It's time you read up on the Constitution and the laws as you, for all your vaunted conservatism, are deficient in them.

You and others are free to be racist, conservative, liberal, whatever you want in your private lives. You chose to be conservative and that's ok for you. However when you, UNDER COLOR OF AUTHORITY, impose your perspective on others, you are indeed liable as would the agency you serve under.

Sgt Benitez, under color of authority and in uniform, was caught mocking another for his sexual orientation, engaging in violence uncalled for, disproportionate to the situation, etc. He should have known better. He and the agency that gave him that authority were held liable. To the tune of $600K which the public have to pay for. The fact the victim of Sgt Benitez's violence was a serial felon or worse may make for retrospective justifications of the sort you are making, Nayeli. For purposes of the law, it is immaterial. Shouldn't and doesn't matter. Sgt Benitez should have known that, and likely does now though the cost of his lapse is not accounted for by him but by us.


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 21, 2019 at 11:18 am
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2019 at 11:18 am
33 people like this

@ a legal immigrant -

First of all, I am not using "talking points." These views are original and my own.

Secondly, my comments are not "irrelevant."

Next, I am not "excusing" the cop's actions. I have stated clearly that Sgt. Benitez was wrong with what he did. I do think that it is strange that you get upset if I call Alvarez a criminal but you happily declare Sgt. Benitez to be a "criminal cop."

In addition, I didn't "justify police brutality." I said that it was clearly wrong. He deserved to be reprimanded for it too.

I am just saying that this isn't the best example of "brutality." You make it sound as though he was beaten Rodney King style. He wasn't "body slammed." Sgt. Benitez should have never shoved him into the car; however, being quickly slammed down on top of the car is a somewhat different primer for describing "police brutality." It was wrong -- but it was far from brutal.

Sgt. Benitez was wrong in what he did. It was improper -- no matter how terrible of a person Alvarez might be. At the same time, I still have little sympathy for Mr. Alvarez. I hope that all of the windfall from this settlement goes to repay the victims of his crimes.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2019 at 11:33 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2019 at 11:33 am
9 people like this

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown

Nayeli, Thank you for explaining your position, much of which I agree with. I'm don't particularly want to drag this out further, but, this is the root of the problem right here:

>>At the same time, I still have little sympathy for Mr. Alvarez.

That you brought it up again, right here at the conclusion of your argument, suggests that we still have a misunderstanding.

Whether or not Alvarez deserves sympathy, or not, does not matter with respect to the police misconduct. It really doesn't. Depending on what happens, it matters in a courtroom. It isn't the job of the police to judge that. At the time of arrest, it really doesn't matter how nice, or how creepy, how sympathetic, or unsympathetic, a person he is. Really. Leave it to the DA, the lawyers, the judge, and the jury, to determine the facts and the punishment. Police brutality undermines the whole system of rule of law. Leave the "sympathy" aspect to the legal process. You can't qualify police brutality with whether or not the object of the brutality is deserving of sympathy.


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 21, 2019 at 11:33 am
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2019 at 11:33 am
27 people like this

@ "@nayeli:"

You're completely entitled to your opinion about my understanding of (or supposed deficiencies with) the Constitution and the law -- no matter how wrong you might be. Yet, let's be clear here: Sgt. Benitez and the PAPD were NOT held legally "liable." They agreed to a SETTLEMENT. Period.

Whether Sgt. Benitez actually engaged in "homophobia" is a matter of interpretation. Is there another video? The one that I watched only had the officer mimicking the high-pitched voice of the suspect (who was whining the entire time before and during his arrest). It's not even clear that the arresting officers knew that Alvarez is a homosexual. Was that the "homophobia" that you're alleging -- or is there something else that I missed?

Still, the officer behaved improperly. Even if he was just mocking the whiny, high-pitched rhetoric of the suspect, the officer behaved improperly. You're right in that he should have known better than to let Alvarez get to him as he did.

At the same time, I am someone who knows first-hand what it is like to be stereotyped and judged on the basis of the tint of my skin, the accent in my voice, my gender, my age, my religious faith, the clothes that I wear, my sociopolitical views, etc. Like I said before, I've even experienced it here on Palo Alto Online comments (most of which are reported and deleted by the editors).

Despite all of these things, I have spoken with police officers in and around Palo Alto. They've never targeted me for harassment. In fact, they seem to be outstanding women and men doing a job that is very difficult under the best circumstances.

Sgt. Benitez was wrong. I think that he knows this. There is no real justification for pushing the guy onto the hood -- no matter how incredibly annoying the criminal might be.


Charles Walters
College Terrace
on Nov 21, 2019 at 11:38 am
Charles Walters, College Terrace
on Nov 21, 2019 at 11:38 am
33 people like this

Sweet deal.
Subsidized housing, criminal record, caught in the act, resisting arrest, pockets a half million from the taxpayers.
Only in America!


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 21, 2019 at 11:40 am
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2019 at 11:40 am
28 people like this

@ Anon -

I brought it up because that was the gist of my initial post. I don't have much sympathy for him. Did he deserve to get swatted to the hood of a car during arrest? No. Did he deserve to have his high-pitched voice mimicked with a mocking tone? No.

At the same time, I still feel little sympathy for a guy given both his criminal record and his behavior before and during the arrest. From the video, Alvarez strikes me as a guy who is clever enough to game the system as well as feeling the liberty to try and antagonize law enforcement to draw a response.

You're absolutely correct (and we can both agree on this) that the officer (Sgt. Benitez) operated incorrectly. He should be reprimanded. At the same time, I cannot hide my annoyance for criminals like Mr. Alvarez who gloat in the cards that they can play in moments like his arrest.

I still hope that Alvarez's windfall from this settlement will be used to compensate those that he victimized in the past.


Uh-huh
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 21, 2019 at 11:47 am
Uh-huh, Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 21, 2019 at 11:47 am
8 people like this

Yes, different topic than what the story was about. If the cop acted within the law and we're not talking about anything.


Simple question
Mountain View
on Nov 21, 2019 at 12:58 pm
Simple question, Mountain View
on Nov 21, 2019 at 12:58 pm
27 people like this

Question for those protecting Alvarez: do you feel he has ANY responsibility or culpability whatsoever?

It’s Simply OK to be a career criminal? It’s OK to resist arrest? It’s OK to completely and utterly disrespect the police?


Citizen
Barron Park
on Nov 21, 2019 at 1:17 pm
Citizen, Barron Park
on Nov 21, 2019 at 1:17 pm
Like this comment

He may have stolen food but that was from one place. the Police officer was nasty. This is the behavior people of color face everyday. So if you have not been face to face with a racist police officer please know you can not imagine. Second, I hope that people of color in Palo Alto play this for their children especially males so they will recognize these Police Officers. Money can not erase the behavior of these officers. If only reminds people of color please be extra careful in Palo Alto.


Just focus for a second
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 21, 2019 at 1:27 pm
Just focus for a second, Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 21, 2019 at 1:27 pm
12 people like this

Acknowledging the errors of the cop does not support the guy he arrested.
A good cop handles it differently. A bad cop does what this cop did.
Not hard to understand.
It's cop behavior that is never accepted and that would go unpunished so why so upset now?

The criminal didn't just hit PA with an almost $600K bill, the COP did that.
We're mad that this cop could not arrest this scummy guy without putting the city at such financial risk.IOther cops seem capable, but not this one, not this time.
That's why we're all here...a cop didn't do his job properly.


CrescentParkAnon.
Crescent Park
on Nov 21, 2019 at 1:33 pm
CrescentParkAnon., Crescent Park
on Nov 21, 2019 at 1:33 pm
3 people like this

Since this really happened, and the City got sued, AN LOST, on this idiotic case,
the officer who drove it to this point really needs to be fired - period. He has cost
the city a lot in money, prestige, and what kind of an officer is he at this point?

I totally disagree with the outcome of this case, in fact it is hard for me to believe,
but I do think what is owed the creepy defendant in this case is an apology, he did
not get PERFECT treatment under the Palo Alto Police Department, but nothing also
did he get that caused him hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, not to mention
what has the defendant ever done FOR the City of Palo Alto?

Wow ... pathetic.


CrescentParkAnon.
Crescent Park
on Nov 21, 2019 at 1:50 pm
CrescentParkAnon., Crescent Park
on Nov 21, 2019 at 1:50 pm
8 people like this

>> Sgt. Benitez was wrong. I think that he knows this. There is no real justification for pushing the guy onto the hood -- no matter how incredibly annoying the criminal might be.

This statement really annoys me and always has.

The 21st century is shaping up to be either the age of data, or the age of genes of the age of neuroscience and my money is on the age or neuroscience.

What I mean by the age of neuroscience is that we have lots of data on human behavior, we have lots of compute power, and lots of understanding about how people work, it should be very easy if you have "social intelligence" to reverse engineer how to get someone to blow up at you, say a police officer, an authority figure, and if you can get it on video, and if you are in a protected group so much the better.

I do think the defendant deserved a sincere apology, and the lead officer probably deserved to be dismissed, but what does the big payout do except motivate others to try to do the same thing. That means that every time some wise guy has an encounter with the police he is going to try to be just a little more annoying and disrespectful because he is not required to show any respect to police officers, though the officers are supposed to show respect to him. I wonder who made that law because it doesn't seem like a law that would defend the law or the esteem of the law in the eyes of the people.

I don't know ... does anyone ....

know many times a suspect or alleged criminal is charged with disrespecting the law? If I had to guess, I'd say never.

Dumping a load of negative emotions on anyway for however long is not nothing. When treated disrespectfully it is not right that the police should reflect that bad, but it is understandable, and it should taken into account in events. I don't like the outcome of this case, and I don't like what is says about anyone ... the criminals, the law enforcement, the law, or the city, or the judicial system.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2019 at 2:11 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2019 at 2:11 pm
Like this comment

Posted by Simple question, a resident of Mountain View

>> Question for those protecting Alvarez: do you feel he has ANY responsibility or culpability whatsoever?

Rhetorically speaking, this is what is commonly known as a "straw man".

>> It’s Simply OK to be a career criminal? It’s OK to resist arrest? It’s OK to completely and utterly disrespect the police?

This case was about the behavior of a police officer. Behavior which was not simply OK. I'm not sure why this is difficult to process. It was about the behavior of the police officer.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2019 at 2:44 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2019 at 2:44 pm
Like this comment

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park

>> >> There is no real justification for pushing the guy onto the hood -- no matter how incredibly annoying the criminal might be.

>> This statement really annoys me and always has.

>> the age of neuroscience and my money is on the age or neuroscience.

You raise an interesting issue. In effect, you are up against California's battery code, which in most circumstances will make you guilty of simple battery for pushing, or even simply touching, someone in response to their saying something "disrespectful" to you. Web Link . I guess you may find California's strict battery code contrary to neuroscience?

>> What I mean by the age of neuroscience is that we have lots of data on human behavior,
>> it should be very easy if you have "social intelligence" to reverse engineer how to get someone to blow up at you, say a police officer, an authority figure, and if you can get it on video, and if you are in a protected group so much the better.

You may think that any person will have some triggers, but, you have to admit that some people are capable of keeping their cool in almost every circumstance, right? Those would be the people who might make good police
officers. Please don't make the mistake of thinking that the average person has some kind of "right" to be a police officer. A police officer who loses his cool needs to find another line of work.

Sure, some people do have a gift for figuring out other people's weak spots. This is often a feature of movies portraying an evil genius who is very adept at it. Fortunately, as any police officer will tell you, most common criminals are not that smart.


Iluminato
another community
on Nov 21, 2019 at 3:37 pm
Iluminato, another community
on Nov 21, 2019 at 3:37 pm
16 people like this

I saw the video of this incident on another site. Here we go again - the left-wing media has decided that if you fight with the police and lose, it's excessive force. It obviously had nothing to do with sexual orientation, so that "hatred and prejudice" charge is really just slander. The only hatred and prejudice I saw in that video was against the police.


Simple question
Mountain View
on Nov 21, 2019 at 4:29 pm
Simple question, Mountain View
on Nov 21, 2019 at 4:29 pm
27 people like this

So there you go, consensus is in, it’s OK to be a career criminal, disrespect police and have resist arrest! Straw man indeed!

I just love all the armchair philosophers waxing on about “keeping cool” when they wouldn’t have the guts to spend one day in the field facing what our officers face daily.

While I certainly hold those in authority to a high(er) standard I would not expect perfection. And those of you demanding it are out of line and hypocrites.


Roger
Evergreen Park
on Nov 21, 2019 at 5:19 pm
Roger, Evergreen Park
on Nov 21, 2019 at 5:19 pm
15 people like this

The “perfect cop” does not exist, just like the “perfect human being” doesn’t exist.
I for one don’t want the please and thank you sir cop protecting me I want the cop who when dealing with bad guys owns the situation.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2019 at 5:41 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2019 at 5:41 pm
4 people like this

Posted by Iluminato, a resident of another community

>> I saw the video of this incident on another site. Here we go again - the left-wing media

Yet another straw man. The "left-wing media"? The legal process outcome was ...

Posted by Simple question, a resident of Mountain View

>> So there you go, consensus is in, it’s OK to be a career criminal

There you go again with the strawman argument. Nobody ever said it was OK to be a career criminal, let alone the consensus saying it.

Posted by Roger, a resident of Evergreen Park

>> The “perfect cop” does not exist, just like the “perfect human being” doesn’t exist.

It must be national strawman day. Nobody ever said the perfect cop existed.

The situation is actually very simple. "Lose your cool, lose your job." There are quite a few jobs where it isn't OK to lose your cool. Pilots, crane operators, surgeons. Screw up, and other people die. If you can't take the pressure, don't take the job.



Resident
Midtown
on Nov 21, 2019 at 6:20 pm
Resident, Midtown
on Nov 21, 2019 at 6:20 pm
28 people like this

All you folks that defend this piece of work (Alvarez) need your heads examined.


Did you hear this part of the story?
Palo Alto Orchards
on Nov 21, 2019 at 6:48 pm
Did you hear this part of the story?, Palo Alto Orchards
on Nov 21, 2019 at 6:48 pm
17 people like this

>Salfen also called the city's dismissal of disputing most of the allegations against the officers "disingenuous." "If they want to dispute what's on the video and try to justify what's on there, it wouldn't surprise me. But it's just a symptom of a department that doesn't take its obligation seriously."

Okay, Cody.

Mr Gustavo Alvarez, the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park resident who sued the city after he was arrested in February 2018, is scheduled for arraignment in Department 88 in Superior Court at the Palo Alto Courthouse at 9:05 AM tomorrow on charges related to his latest felony exploit.


Resident
Charleston Gardens
on Nov 21, 2019 at 6:55 pm
Resident, Charleston Gardens
on Nov 21, 2019 at 6:55 pm
10 people like this

I hope the judge has enough sense to throw the book at him.


Clarence Darrow
Mayfield
on Nov 21, 2019 at 7:17 pm
Clarence Darrow, Mayfield
on Nov 21, 2019 at 7:17 pm
14 people like this

"All you folks that defend this piece of work (Alvarez) need your heads examined."

What he did is irrelevant. The issue here is the actions of the police officer. His actions have cost the city $600K.
And BTW, in our country, actions like those carried out by Benitez , have no place.

"Mr Gustavo Alvarez, the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park resident who sued the city after he was arrested in February 2018, is scheduled for arraignment in Department 88 in Superior Court at the Palo Alto Courthouse at 9:05 AM tomorrow on charges related to his latest felony exploit."

And what does the above have to do with the actions of Benitez. Despite what many of them think, police do not act as judge jury and executioner.

"I hope the judge has enough sense to throw the book at him."
It is an arraignment, there will be no book throwing at this point. Learn how our judicial system works



Jerry
Community Center
on Nov 21, 2019 at 7:49 pm
Jerry, Community Center
on Nov 21, 2019 at 7:49 pm
6 people like this

@ Clarence Darrow,

Since you are in the know what is the felony charge against Alvarez? And what were the cirucumstances surrounding it?

Why hasn't the PAPD published this latest arrest and prosecution?


Let me answer that!
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 21, 2019 at 8:23 pm
Let me answer that!, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 21, 2019 at 8:23 pm
22 people like this

Thanks for asking!

It says that in the 3 times (!) Mr Gustavo Alvarez was arrested since Alvarez filed his lawsuit earlier this year, Alvarez was well treated by the police The PAPD applied the lessons learned and improved. Unfortunately, Mr Alvarez learned nothing and is likely headed to jail, yet again.

It says that despite Salfen's lawsuit against the City, the Police Department, 7 Palo Alto Police Officers, the Chief and a records clerk, alleging widespread corruption and wrongdoing, the PAPD is operating as an outstanding and professional police organization and moving forward. Salfen, on the other hand, is a publicity seeking fool.


Nayeli
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 21, 2019 at 9:03 pm
Nayeli, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 21, 2019 at 9:03 pm
13 people like this

@ CrescentParkAnon.:

You wrote: "Since this really happened, and the City got sued, AND LOST...."

While Alvarez indeed sued the City of Palo Alto, the case was settled out of court. Therefore, the city didn't "lose" the lawsuit. Rather, Alvarez was offered a hefty sum and he accepted -- on the condition that the officer, Sgt. Benitez (who retired earlier this year), would be required to submit a written apology.

I was unaware of Alvarez's latest criminal escapades. I would have hoped that he could have turned his life around. That money that he accepted in the settlement was sufficient enough that it would have given him a nice fresh start in some states.


Astonished
Barron Park
on Nov 21, 2019 at 11:36 pm
Astonished, Barron Park
on Nov 21, 2019 at 11:36 pm
10 people like this

This is the most ridiculous settlement that I have ever heard! But maybe not! So, the idea is to totally ignore the police and create a scene and then go to a judge that lets you go on suspicion of driving with a suspended license, resisting arrest, possession of controlled substance paraphernalia and appropriation of lost property!


Astonished
Barron Park
on Nov 21, 2019 at 11:37 pm
Astonished, Barron Park
on Nov 21, 2019 at 11:37 pm
6 people like this

This is the most ridiculous settlement that I have ever heard. But maybe not. So, the idea is to totally ignore the police and create a scene and then go to a judge that lets you go on suspicion of driving with a suspended license, resisting arrest, possession of controlled substance paraphernalia and appropriation of lost property.


Resident
Fairmeadow
on Nov 22, 2019 at 2:19 am
Resident, Fairmeadow
on Nov 22, 2019 at 2:19 am
12 people like this

"I was unaware of Alvarez's latest criminal escapades. I would have hoped that he could have turned his life around. That money that he accepted in the settlement was sufficient enough that it would have given him a nice fresh start in some states."

Why would he move to another state?
He gets to live in Palo Alto due to the $40,000,000 that was given for the Trailer Park.


Bad Police Work
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 22, 2019 at 5:28 am
Bad Police Work, Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 22, 2019 at 5:28 am
28 people like this

I'm so frustrated this scumbag gets a payday. Why was this loser able to collect almost 600K from OUR pockets?
It was because of bad policing by Sgt. Wayne Benitez.
I really hope Sgt. Wayne Benitez can turn his behavior around. We cannot afford all these payouts to people who would have otherwise just ended up in jail given proper procedures. Luckily it was settled before all the pother costs of going to court were tallied up.
Thank the city's lawyers for seeing the case was lost due to incriminating video.
And if you're frustrated, blame Sgt. Wayne Benitez. Nothing but his behavior brought us here.


Sigh
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 22, 2019 at 12:26 pm
Sigh, Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 22, 2019 at 12:26 pm
7 people like this

Thank you very very much officer Wayne Benitez. When someone complains about the cost of the new bridge over 101 we can point to the $600K not avail because of your ego issues.
Also, notice how rare it is to see a female cop loosing her cool like we saw Officer Benitez do?


Family Friendly
Old Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2019 at 3:28 pm
Family Friendly, Old Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2019 at 3:28 pm
6 people like this

"notice how rare it is to see a female cop loosing her cool like we saw Officer Benitez do?"

Seriously? There have multiple reports recently about female officers just shooting people when they feel threatened. I'm not saying they lack the courage of male officers -- it's more likely that they just lack the physical size and strength to deal with a threat the way Officer Benitez can.

Someone has to do that job. If we keep attacking officers for every little infraction when dealing with violent suspects, they'll continue the trend of just reporting on crime rather than preventing it.


Sigh
Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 22, 2019 at 3:56 pm
Sigh, Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 22, 2019 at 3:56 pm
6 people like this

No, I meant percentage wise. Anecdotally, sure, there are those stories, but percentage wise. No way. Men win.


Doing The Right Thing
Barron Park
on Nov 24, 2019 at 12:18 pm
Doing The Right Thing, Barron Park
on Nov 24, 2019 at 12:18 pm
2 people like this

> Also, notice how rare it is to see a female cop loosing her cool like we saw Officer Benitez do?

^^^ The responding law enforcement officer just happened to be a female cop. Training is standardized regardless of gender.

>> There have multiple reports recently about female officers just shooting people when they feel threatened. I'm not saying they lack the courage of male officers

^^^ Again...standardized training regardless of gender & there are more male police officers than female in the majority of precincts/departments.

Police officers are trained to 'kill' in precarious situations. The target zone as practiced at the shooting range is the thoracic area.

They do not shoot to wound (i.e. legs, lower extremities etc.).

Lastly, female police officers can be just as aggressive or hostile as their male counterparts. Gender has nothing to do with response characteristics.


Nick
another community
on Dec 1, 2019 at 3:33 pm
Nick, another community
on Dec 1, 2019 at 3:33 pm
2 people like this

Cooperate with the police or there are consequences. This criminal didn't deserve one dime. And, yes - male police officers are more aggressive than female officers. Men are testosterone driven, and women aren't. Get real.


Doing The Right Thing
Barron Park
on Dec 1, 2019 at 4:41 pm
Doing The Right Thing, Barron Park
on Dec 1, 2019 at 4:41 pm
Like this comment

from the PA Weekly...

"Palo Alto will pay out $572,500 and require all officers in the Police Department to go through two hours of LGBTQ sensitivity training as part of its settlement..."

^^^ Since 10% of the overall population is LGBTQ, one might assume that a corresponding % applies to the PAPD as well.

Its LGBTQ officers should consider taking a stand by identifying themselves & promoting this new mandate to their fellow officers.

If these individuals cannot bring themselves to doing this, they are obviously in DENIAL of who they are.


Overrated
Mountain View
on Dec 1, 2019 at 9:36 pm
Overrated, Mountain View
on Dec 1, 2019 at 9:36 pm
3 people like this

In what world are 10% of the population LGTBQ? That may be what the media portrays but it is most definitely NOT 10%, more like 5% and that’s being generous.

Let’s just at least be factual in our comments.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2019 at 9:09 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2019 at 9:09 am
Like this comment

Posted by Overrated, a resident of Mountain View

>> In what world are 10% of the population LGTBQ? That may be what the media portrays but it is most definitely NOT 10%, more like 5% and that’s being generous.

Depends on your definition. By some definitions, that is about right. I'm not sure why the definition matters in this context. Police officers are not supposed to pick on any particular "class" of people, regardless. Their job is to arrest people of any "class", who happen to be breaking the law, using the least force necessary.


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