November 17, 2010 in City

Courts validate police action

Officers accused of improper search, excessive force
By The Spokesman-Review

Spokane-area law enforcement prevailed in three cases, including two involving allegations that officers used excessive force, Tuesday in federal court proceedings.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in favor of the city in the case of John Burton v. City of Spokane. In that case, Burton alleged that Spokane police officers conducted an improper strip-search and had a policy of performing similar searches without warrants.

In 2005, police searched Burton during a drug investigation. No drugs were found in the search. The lawsuit also alleged officers uttered disparaging remarks. Burton claimed that his rights were further violated when a female officer was allowed to observe the search.

In an unrelated case, U.S. District Judge Robert Whaley dismissed a lawsuit brought by Ronald Campbell, who alleged that two officers used excessive force during an arrest in April 2005 when the officers prevented Campbell from swallowing a plastic baggie they believed contained drugs.

“Our officers must make critical decisions nearly every day as they go about their work,” Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said in a news release.

“It validates what we have known all along – that our officers acted appropriately and in accordance with the law in both cases,” Kirkpatrick added.

Meanwhile, in a third case, U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle dismissed a case brought by Joachim Petrolino against the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Petrolino – who moved to Spokane from Germany and speaks limited English – alleged that two corrections deputies took him to the ground and administered knee strikes that broke his ribs after Petrolino refused to sign his booking papers following a domestic violence arrest in 2004.

Petrolino alleged in court records that he didn’t want to sign the document because he believed they wanted him to sign a confession.

The case entered its second day of trial Tuesday when Van Sickle agreed with a motion made by attorneys representing Spokane County to dismiss the case.

Attempts to reach Petrolino’s attorney, Gary Stenzel, were unsuccessful.

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