The Costs of Police Brutality: Fresh Out Of Bankruptcy, Vallejo Pays $4.5 Million for Warrantless Entry That Led to Spinal Cord Injury, Permanent Disability


Two cops in Vallejo, California entered Vietnam veteran Macario Dagdagan's home in 2007 investigating an assault that allegedly occurred earlier in the day. They found Dagdgan in his bed, sleeping, so they woke him up, Tased him and put him in a chokehold. City attorneys insist the man "failed to follow even basic lawful demands" when cops entered into his home without a warrant and woke him up from what cops say was an intoxicated state.

Now the man has been awarded a settlement from the city of Vallejo to the tune of $4.5 million, which will be paid through the city's insurance. Meanwhile! From the Times Herald:

On Tuesday, Vallejo city leaders grappled with a question rarely faced by municipalities—is a spending deficit acceptable in the city's first year out of bankruptcy, or is it an avoidable trap?

City Manager Dan Keen presented his proposed 2012-2013 budget with its $3.4 million deficit to the City Council, which has until the end of June to decide whether to lean on city reserves to cover the shortfall.

While several council members said generally they're opposed to spending beyond the city's means, they offered little in specific alternatives to avoiding it.

The two officers, Jason Wentz and John Boyd, are no longer employed in Vallejo. They're cops in Richmond.

NEXT: "Record low are 'pro-choice'" Yet 75 Percent Support Abortion Rights

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Mayor Osby Davis called the proposed $3.2 million deficit proposal “almost unacceptable.”

    That’s almost funny.

  2. We are currently researching new, innovative ways to piss away millions of our town’s tax dollars. High-speed monorail leads the list at the moment.

  3. A federal judge in Sacramento and the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the officers improperly went into Dagdagan’s home without a warrant about two hours after the alleged assault on the girlfriend.

    Bankrupting a city isn’t enough to get things changed. You would actually need to start charging officers like this with the criminal offense of trespassing and assault. Personal accountability is the path to good civics.

    1. Normally I’d agree with you, but read up on the story. The guy attacked his girlfriend with a knife. If the outcome was the same but the officers had a warrant, would he be entitled to such monies? I’m not so sure.

      1. Do you have a link to the story that proves the allegations about the attack?

        1. It’s included in the article. Click on the word settlement

          1. UM…NO, all it says is “accused”.

          2. Yes, all I see is “accused”

            1. Fine, he was accused of beating up his girlfriend. You believe there is no truth to those accusations? Could be the case….

              1. And yes, If the fuckstick cops had gotten the warrant then it would have been OK because…THEN their commands would have been legal, not the orders of a fucking home invader. So…Fuck You Asshole.

              2. I believe it is possible that there is no truth to those accusations. Yes, it _could_ be the case. What, no jilted ex ever made false allegations against her boyfriend? Or maybe he’s guilty just because he was accused of intimate partner battery. That’s pretty much how the system works when it comes to these sorts of allegations.

              3. If the accusation is enough to prove guilt, why are we bothering with having all these silly trials?

      2. Even if what you say is true, they did not have a warrant and were trespassing. Doing that I hardly agree their actions would have been the same had they have been following the rules. If what the cops are saying IS true, and they DID have a warrant, he probably wouldn’t be entitled to any money. But, since they settled for $4.5 MILLION, I am doubting they had done ANYTHING right at all. If it was JUST because they didn’t have a warrant, no way it would be 4.5 million. Would be less than half a mil.

        1. If what the cops are saying IS true, and they DID have a warrant, he probably wouldn’t be entitled to any money.

          That was my point. Thus, it’s an issue of procedure rather than outright criminal negligence. If they had procured the warrant ahead of time then the gentleman wouldn’t really have a case.

          1. I don’t know about that though. The fact that he got 4.5 million tells me there was a little more than a warrant issue. 4.5 is very, very excessive for just not having a warrant – I think there is more to it than this.

            1. Actually, every injury they inflicted on him (physical and otherwise) followed from that one illegal act.

              How can any order be lawful, when the one giving that order cannot legally be where he is standing?

              Following from that, any act to enforce an illegal order is itself illegal, what is known, in the technical terminology of the courts, as a crime.

              It’s the valid warrant that legitimizes the actions police take that, absent a warrant, would be felonies. And if the police did not have a warrant at the moment they committed those warrant-requiring actions, then they were not (heh) legally warranted actions.

              They unlawfully broke entered, unlawfully assaulted a man for sleeping through their BE, continued brutalizing him for disobeying an unlawful order he could not have obeyed, then, after paralyzing him so that even if he heard subsequent orders he was physically incapable of obeying any order, they brutalized him some more. And all without authorization to do any of it.

              I’m surprised the court only gave him $4.5 million.

          2. Niobi! You’re still here! Nice to see all the “Fuck you, slaver”s yesterday didn’t send you off for good, all tears (obscure mythology/Shakespeare reference). Good for you.

            1. lol I was here way before that BS – just never got into it as much as that. No butthurt whatsoever. I think I got my point across yesterday, albeit with a LOT of “Fuck you’s” and a shitload of explaining. 🙂

          3. Thus, it’s an issue of procedure rather than outright criminal negligence. If they had procured the warrant ahead of time then the gentleman wouldn’t really have a case.

            What’re we saying here? That the cops can cause a spinal injury on someone while they’re in their sleep, as long as the cops have a piece of paper?

            1. That’s pretty much how it works. Not saying that’s a _good_ thing, mind, just that that’s the (lamentable) reality.

            2. Pretty much. Police have authority to enter due to the piece of paper, and having entered, have authority to control the scene. They have authority to give orders, and in the course of controlling the scene, they can physically compel obedience of those orders. They can go quite a bit beyond that, since resisting when outnumbered by guys with guns tends to indicate a willingness to engage in lethal force combat.

              But it all comes back to that piece of paper. No piece of paper, no temporary exemption from the law.

              Which the police didn’t have at the time they committed their violations of the law, so by the letter and spirit of the law, we should be hearing about their convictions in criminal court, not their loss of a civil case. But that’s not how the corrupt public officials do things these days…

    2. This is America. The land of personal irresposibility.

      1. No that’s Europe. We’re attempting to emulate, however.

  4. “which will be paid through the city’s insurance.”

    As if their insurance premiums aren’t going to skyrocket since they can’t control their cops.

    1. Maybe someone should find out who insures Richmond and drop a dime on these cops?

  5. There’s quite a bit more to the story, but I have to say that you really need to put a hurting on someone to induce a spinal cord injury.

    1. I’m interested in the part where a burst ligament led to paralysis. Seems to me that that’s the sort of thing that happens when an injury goes untreated. Like, say, when the victim is hustled into a cop car then dumped in a prison cell for a day or two to “cool off”

      1. I noticed that too. There aren’t too many ways you can injure someone’s spine enough to cause paralysis without causing enough damage to send the guy to the morgue. Survivors of that sort of spinal trauma tend to be the exception, not the rule.

        But if you widen the time frame a bit, there are quite a few ways the spine can be injured that could cause paralysis a bit later. A relatively minor injury followed by a couple days “cooling off” in a cell without medical treatment makes that sort of thing a lot more likely.

  6. The two officers, Jason Wentz and John Boyd, are no longer employed in Vallejo. They’re cops in Richmond.

    Four words, nationwide licensing for cops. Localities get all of these goodies from the federal government. There ought to be a national licensing system for LEOs. And the price of getting federal aide, ought to be agreeing to hire only licensed officers.

    1. That’s just what we need: a FedGov takeover of the police force. I think Sec. 1983 and other state statutes cover it sufficiently. What the hell is a license going to do for anybody?

      1. It would prevent bad cops from moving from one agency to another. Your conduct results in a big judgment, you lose your LEO license and become unemployable.

        I would love to get rid of sovereign immunity and make cops carry liability insurance. But that is never going to happen. So we need to figure out something short of that. And national licensing is probably the best alternative.

        It would be far from perfect. But it would be better than what is there. What is the worse case here? That is becomes a rubber stamp and bad cops continue to move from department to department? That is already happening now.

        1. I don’t think you need to go that far – I just think you should be allowed to sue the town for negligence on top of your normal suit if they hire a bad cop (who has been sued and fired in the past). That will make towns think twice about hiring cops with a history of abuse.

          1. That would be another way to handle it. But doing that would also require modifying sovereign immunity. And that is virtually impossible to do.

            1. The town itself does NOT have Sovereign Immunity. Allowing a person to sue for negligence due to the hiring practice of the town shouldn’t require any modification of Sovereign Immunity.

              1. Oh yes it does. It is just waived sometimes.

              2. The only time a government of ANY level (from a tiny village with 12 residents to the feds) lacks sovereign immunity is when they waive it, or when they are subject to legal action by a higher level of government. A state attorney can sue a city without that city’s permission, but if you or I try to do so without attaining such permission, the court will refuse to hear the case.

          2. You libertarians need to study history. The only remedy that has stopped government abuse has been the guillotine.

            1. Yeah! And what could possibly go wrong?

              1. We would get our clothes all bloody?

            2. ’tis a sharp cure, but a sure one for all ills.

        2. The worst case is that it is the thin edge of the wedge to having the Federal Government effectively dispense with the states altogether.

          I am going to assume, John, that you think these police officers relocated to Virginia, but I am sure they went 20 minutes down the street to Richmond, California. Which means that the state could handle this on a state level, but is choosing not to.

          1. Just allowing a negligence suit for people hurt by bad cops re-hired would take care of it I think. If you can sue a school for negligence for hiring someone who molests children and it turns out they were convicted of a sex-crime (due to them not properly background checking employees) – you should be allowed to do the same to the police.

          2. I assume they stayed in California. And even if CA did the right thing, they would just go to another state. This is a national and shall I say interstate problem. And it is also a problem that deals with the protection of federally guaranteed rights. It really is an appropriate problem for a federal solution.

            Don’t you think the federal government has an interest in keeping states and localities from hiring cops who habitually violate people’s constitutional rights?

            1. Don’t you think the federal government has an interest in keeping states and localities from hiring cops who habitually violate people’s constitutional rights?

              That’s what 1983 suits are for. Letting the federal government dictate a one-size-fits-all national policy on policing is a really, really BAD idea. All that is going to do is open the door for the FedGov to dictate more and more policing policies…then it’s going to turn into the National Police/Gendarmerie.

              1. I don’t see how it opens the door at all. We have a national licensing scheme for long hall truck drivers, do the feds run interstate trucking now? Indeed, if we have a state licensing system, wouldn’t that, by your logic, destroy local policing by creating a state police/gendarmerie?

                1. In these scenarios, you have public agencies (staffed with public union employees) licensing the operations of private businesses (which is evil by libertarian standards, but viewed as desirable by progressives).

                  What you are proposing is that federal public union employees license state and local public union employees all of whom are in bed with the democratic party.

                  So while the idea isn’t necessarily bad, in practice it can’t possibly work as desired.

              2. To a certain extent, the federal government already DOES dictate a one-size-fits-all policy on some aspects of policing. Google up references to 18USC242, the U.S. Constitution, and particularly, the 14th amendment to the Constitution.

                If an officer can’t abide by federal law in one state (or actively and willfully throws it out the window), what makes you think the guy won’t do the same thing in another state?

            2. If the cops in question habitually break the law in the course of their employment, there’s a pretty good case to be made that they intend to keep on doing the same sort of things they’ve done before, in the same job.

              There are laws on the books regarding crossing state lines in order to commit crimes. People have been convicted under those laws simply for actions taken on the spur of the moment, that were not planned prior to crossing the state border.

              So if a recently unemployed cop crosses a state border to seek employment as a cop elsewhere, all but salivating at the idea of getting back into “business as usual” when he arrives in his new home, that would certainly constitute intent right there!

        3. It would prevent bad cops from moving from one agency to another.

          I kind of thought that, you know, background checks and criminal history would be sufficient. You know, like it is for those of us in the private sector.

          1. It may be there are laws that prevented the background checks, such as the case pending. Although, those kind of laws should not exist, particularly as they deny a prospective employer from being fully informed concerning a potential hire.

            1. If there’s a law blocking one dept from viewing another dept’s disciplinary records on a prospective police officer, we’re doomed.

              1. Police unions do this sort of thing all the time. Powerful unions committed to ensuring police employment that don’t care about enforcing laws or keeping the oaths its members swear cannot result in anything good.

                And they haven’t.

        4. Unintended consequences, etc…..

    2. You don’t need nationwide licensing to accomplish the desired goal.

      You only need an independent “rating” agency (like with credit scores) and insurance companies that base rates using these independent ratings.

      Cities would eventually stop hiring cops with bad ratings.

      1. There is nothing to force cops to participate in the rating system. And what is the downside of hiring cops with bad ratings?

        1. It’s not about forcing cops to participate. It’s about insurers forcing cities to manage risk.

          A big hole would be cities large enough to “self-insure” that routinely view settlements as the cost of doing business.

          1. There are already lots of insurance companies who make their living insuring cities. And no such rating scheme exists. So clearly there is a reason why they don’t do it. My guess is there is no way to track cops. And even if there were, the unions are so powerful, they won’t let cities act on the information.

            1. You mean no publicly available rating scheme. You better believe that the insurance companies have in-house ratings.

              Insurance companies are the largest casinos in the world. You bet you’ll be injured, and if you win, you get paid. They bet you won’t, and if they win, you pay them, with a new wager each billing cycle. Exactly how much money you bet vs how much they bet against you is determined by quite a lot of data, charts and some seriously intensive math.

              Any insurance company that can’t balance those wagers enough to make an overall profit goes bankrupt in short order. This is one reason why making it illegal for an insurance company to turn anyone down is such a bad idea. If the insurance company goes belly-up, so does all that insurance coverage.

      2. Lots of high-risk private enterprises needed bonded employees. There’s no reason that public enterprises couldn’t use a similar concept.

        1. I agree. But once again to do that you have to get rid of sovereign immunity. And that will never happen. There is no reason for a Cop to have to be bonded if there is no danger of him being held personally liable for a tort.

          The ideal solution is to get rid of sovereign immunity and make cops get professional liability insurance. Do that and your rating scheme works. But without that, cops would just refuse to participate in it and localities would ignore it anyway.

          1. So your solution is unworkable because of the public unions at all levels of government would be in bed with each other.

            And my solution is unworkable because the public unions would never give up sovereign immunity.

            So a root cause analysis brings us to …..

      3. Cities would eventually stop hiring cops with bad ratings.

        There’s little evidence of that until you change the culture. Creating a new procedure to follow will hardly fix this. For instance, Salinas, CA never bothered to Google Ray Corupz’s name and find out just how corrupt this guy was.

        If a city can’t fucking google a guy’s name and find out that he’s been arrested, involved in various forms of corruption and insurance fraud before hiring him, making a new rule won’t change much.

        1. Police behave badly because they are immune from the consequences of bad behavior.

          City administrators behave badly because they are immune from the consequences of bad behavior.

          Elected officials behave badly because they are immune from the consequences of bad behavior.

          You combine sovereign immunity with the ability to fuck taxpayers any time you need cash, and you get the system we have now.

    3. Licensing accomplishes nothing in every other industry. The end result is always a cartel. What makes you think there would be any beneficial impact here?

      1. It accomplishes a few things. The really bad apples do get weeded out.

        1. Maybe I’ve just become cynical as hell, but I don’t see anyone being weeded out due to licensing. You do someone a few favors and in return they conveniently lose most of the records of your misdeeds. The licensing organization itself would attract the worst elements of the police and ensure that only dirty cops had clean records.

  7. Richmond?? VA? CA??KY?? Laziness there.

    1. The story is in the SF Gate. Both Vallejo and Richmond are in the Bay Area.

    2. Or is it? Maybe it is just like Springfield from the Simpsons. I’m sure there are cops JUST like them in every one of the states you named with a Richmond in them.

      1. A quick check of Google shows that there are only Richmonds in:
        Alabama, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

  8. The two officers, Jason Wentz and John Boyd, are no longer employed in Vallejo. They’re cops in Richmond.

    Paying it forward?

  9. Another project for local Libertarian Parties: Find out what background checks are made on new-hire police.
    If it is weak, make a political issue of it.

  10. I love the argument upthread about the potential solutions (and FWIW, John is nuts to want the fedgov involved any more in local matters). Unfortunately, you guys are all missing a major point: in these settlements, there is near-universal verbiage that says the officers did no wrong and the settlement closes the matter. These officers went to Richmond’s PD with a completely clean record.

    Therefore, in my opinion, the only way this kind of stuff ends is if people actually take their suits to court or make it plainly written in the settlement that the officers acted outside the scope of the law and the taxpayers are being forced to pay for their malfeasance. That way, when that same officer beats the piss out of another poor soul, the municipality can get destroyed for putting a dirty cop on the streets as opposed to a cop with a “clean” record.

    1. Hey, Sloopy, I found a great T-shirt for Ken last night.

      1. I love that shirt. Absolutely love it.

      2. I think Ken would have to say that T-shirt was fucking brilliant.

  11. Every police union contract should make the national union liable for half of all settlements.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.