Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Santa Monica Police Ordered to Pay $1.1 million In 2015 Pepper Spray Case

Palmer was sprayed with pepper spray, and so the SMPD must pay

A Federal Jury today ordered the City of Santa Monica to pay $1.1 million in damages to Justin L. Palmer, who was pepper sprayed during his arrest on April 21, 2015. Police Lt. Saul Rodriguez, SMPD Spokesman, said that the Department had not yet decided whether to appeal

Justin Palmer, 36, was at the public car-charging station at Virginia Avenue Park (map) on the evening of April 21 when he was approached by officers who said the park had closed at 11 p.m.

Palmer refused to leave, according to police, who issued him a citation for violating the park closure ordinance. He also refused to provide his identification, a Santa Monica Police Department news release stated two days after the incident.

Palmer said he told officers it was not yet 11 p.m. and asked why they needed his identification since he had done nothing wrong.

Then, abruptly, he was swept off his feet and fell head-first, hitting the side of his head and briefly blacking out, Palmer told KTLA on Monday.

He "actively resisted" arrest, police said, prompting them to restrain and pepper-spray him. After being taken to jail, he was hospitalized and "medically cleared," according to police.

The City Attorney ultimately did not file charges against Palmer, because the signs in Virginia Park did not clearly indicate the park hours. The married father of four vowed to file a Federal Civil rights lawsuit against the City of Santa Monica, where he resides.

On April 21, 2015, the Santa Monica Police Department arrested Palmer for a municipal code violation and resisting arrest. During the arrest, officers deployed pepper spray and performed physical control techniques. Palmer was placed under arrest and issued a citation. Palmer subsequently filed a federal lawsuit claiming that excessive force was used in his arrest; the matter was sent to a jury trial.

On September 2, 2016, a federal jury reached a verdict in the Palmer case. The jury awarded Mr. Palmer $1.1 million in damages. Although the jury reached a verdict, the case has not yet concluded in the trial court, and the City has not yet evaluated prospects for an appeal.

"The Santa Monica Police Department recognizes and respects the work of the court system and the jury's decision in the Palmer case. We understand the verdict is not, in any way, a general criticism of the men and woman of the Santa Monica Police Department or of their work." said Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks. "We remain steadfast in our goal of continuing to provide Santa Monica with the highest quality of law enforcement services. We will continue to keep our community safe while respecting the rights of individuals. And, like any committed organization, we strive to learn any lessons taught by our experience"

An earlier version of this story mentioned the April 3, 2012 pepper spray incident at Santa Monica College. That incident did not involve officers from the Santa Monica Police Department.


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