The controversial police action on February 20, 2020, that saw Culver City resident Lawrence Perez handcuffed while still seated on his bicycle has moved forward as a lawsuit against the city and the individual officers. The suit, filed against the city on October 20, 2020, seeks a jury trial to consider damages for Mr. Perez. It names Acting Police Chief Manuel Cid, both CCPD Officers Franco Zatarain and Officer John Tropeano for “for actions taken under color of state law,” as specified in the suit.
While the ‘color of state law’ is legal language, color is indeed a factor in the suit, and has been a part of the public conversation around the the actions of the police.
The widely seen body cam video footage of the incident caused public controversy about the actions of the officers, and Perez has sought to show how this incident is not a one-off, but part of a pattern of behavior that the police engage in on a regular basis.
From the text of the lawsuit, “The population of the City of Culver City is approximately 39,000 individuals, broken down by race as 48% white, 23% Hispanic, 15% Asian, and 8% Black. Yet, 90% of children, and 80% of adults arrested in Culver City are Black and Hispanic. While the City has previously represented that it does not maintain information of the races of individuals stopped or detained (as opposed to arrested), the City’s representation turns out to be false. The CCPD collects field investigation cards, and officers are instructed to enter the race information into a computer data base at the end of the officer’s shift. Upon information and belief, the City and CCPD’s obstruction of the right of Mr. Perez and the public to access the racial stop data, shows Defendants’ knowledge that they target racial minorities in a differential, unconstitutional, and discriminatory fashion.”
The city has a policy of not commenting on ongoing lawsuits, but the fact that Perez is suing may add further fuel towards public efforts to shift the habits of the CCPD, and change the way that the city prioritizes funding.