San Luis Obispo slated to pay $195,000 for alleged police brutality

December 18, 2009

Jeff Milne By KAREN VELIE

San Luis Obispo taxpayers are in line to pay $195,000 to a local business owner for alleged excessive force by police officers during a case of mistaken identity and police negligence.

Attorneys for both the city and Jeff Milne, owner of Babbo’s Pizzeria, have agreed to accept mediator Dave Peterson’s settlement suggestion. City council members are expected to approve the proposed settlement.

“Both sides have reached what they believe to be a fair resolution,” said attorney for the city, Jay Hieatt, of Hall Hieatt and Connely Attorneys at Law.

Jeff Milne's on his release rom jailIn July 2007, Milne arrived home after hiking up Bishop’s Peak, took off his shirt, shoes and socks and was settling down to watch television when four police officers descended on his home at 366 Christina and banged on the front door. Milne readily admitted the officers to a living room decorated with pictures of him and his family, asking, “I live here. What’s going on?”

According to court records, the officers ordered Milne to place his hands in the air and began frisking him. Upon discovering a knife in his pocket the officers pepper sprayed Milne and threw him face first to the ground.

“They kept bashing my face into the floor,” Milne said. “One officer tweaked my neck when he turned my face so another officer could force my eyelids open while another officer pepper sprayed me a second time.”

Officers than lifted Milne up from the ground by the handcuffs, kicked his legs out from under him and frisked him again, Milne said. At this point, officers discovered a gun in the bruised and bleeding man’s pocket.

“I had brought guns out to clean so I could go target shooting with a friend,” Milne said.

The cops huddled; this house call apparently was not what they had been expecting. Acting on a tip from a neighbor’s 10-year-old girl about a man forcibly entering the house, the officers – three from the city of San Luis Obispo, another from Cal Poly campus police – would later testify that they were prepared to confront a burglar. Instead, they found Milne at home.

Jeff Milne's on his release rom jailAfter the cops had conferred among themselves, Milne was booked into County Jail, charged with resisting arrest and obstructing an officer. He spent the night behind bars, dressed only in a pair of jeans.

Attorney Louis Koory of James McKiernan Lawyers successfully defended Milne on the criminal charges and filed a claim alleging police misconduct; unlawful arrest; excessive force; assault and battery; violation of civil rights; spoliation of evidence; and negligence.

“I’ve incurred two wrist surgeries,” Milne said. “I have three herniated disks and my seventh vertebrae is not lined up with the others.”

According to court records, police officers allege that none of their on-scene radios or police cameras were working during the arrest of Milne. In addition, San Luis Obispo Police officials claim that interrogation room audio and video recording equipment malfunctioned during the questioning of Milne, leaving no recordings available for the trial.

The officers involved are identified as Jeff Koznek, Amy Chastain, Crystal Locarnini, all of San Luis Obispo’s department; and Max Schad, Cal Poly police.

“If I had to do it over again, I would just call 911 and duck,” Milne said.

Daniel Blackburn contributed to this article.


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SLO-Insider

Police Unit Recorders, worn by the officers (a light lets the officer know if the unit is turned on), are required as part of department policy to be on during this type of call. Not having them on is a reason for an officer to be written up. Probably why they claimed they malfunctioned. Does anyone find it odd that three malfunctioned on the same evening?


Wasn’t one of the officers involved, Amy Chastain, in a relationship with one her supervisors, the one currently running for sheriff, at the time of the alleged excessive force? Could this be why department heads see nothing wrong with this incident?


From Ian Parkinson for Sheriff’s web site: “Ian is directly responsible for the adoption and installation of the integrated Mobile Data Computer and Mobile Video Camera units in all patrol cars. In recognition of his outstanding service, he was twice awarded the department’s Distinguished Service Award.


Whose responsibility is it that none of the recording systems where operating the evening they mistook a homeowner in his own home for a burglar, including the interrogation room audio and video systems? Why didn’t they ask for ID or look at the pictures on the wall? And why with these photos clearly showing assault, was there not an investigation and action taken by the Chief or her Lieutenant against these officers?


And lastly, would this type of behavior have been OK if they had come across a thief and not an innocent homeowner?


rukidding

Looks like the girls got a little out of hand. This definetly doesn’t pass the smell test. If they would have been all white males I’m sure the outcome of this would have been a whole lot different.

The city got off cheap on this one.


MAD HATTER

This is a disgrace. I agree that this smells fishy. He should be getting a lot more. Of course the City always tries to wiggle out of things any way they can. Also, these cops should be fired. No excuses.


Vagabond

Ya, really fishy, I think the way it comes down is he accepted a pittance in order to protect his business.


ThomasPaine

Disgraceful. Not nearly enough of an award.


JordanJ

If I were Mr. Milne, I would not settle this for 195K. Considering that he has 3 fractured vertebrae and has undergone two wrist surgeries. These injuries combined with the false imprisonment, negligence and excessive force call for extreme measures. The city has tried to sweep this travesty under the rug and might have got away with it while they settled behind closed doors. This isn’t Watt’s or Compton, this is San Luis Obispo. There is no excuse for this sort of posturing. I believe that at least a couple of these officers should be prosecuted as criminals. The forcing of Mr. Milne’s eye lids open to spray him in the face a second time is tantamount to torture. Mr Milne answered his door and invited the police in while assuring him that he was in his own home, how difficult is it to ask for an ID? NO EXCUSE FOR THIS, these police sound like they were high on something.


Cindy

KSBY has picked up a short version of this story. Here is what Linden has to say,

“The police department has maintained its officers acted appropriately.”

BARFFFF, I suggest people get over to KSBY and start posting, the public can’t let this slide, something has to be done about these 4 ‘gang bangers’ in the blue uniforms.


hotdog

I wonder what our Chief is doing about these officers. What about it Deb, what are you doing about this? Well, what are you doing about this???????????????

Obviously we need another look at the cop contract, if this case happened as reported here and these cops are allowed back on the street we have a big problem with management. This should have been resolved days after the fact, what kind of cretins need almost 2 1/2 years to resolve a simple case like this? A competent Chief would have taken care of this right away, transparently. What a travesty. I say Mike Brennler for the new Chief of SLO.

And the idiot comments about the tapes and video, sounds like third world dictatorship nonsense to me. Maybe the Chief and those four cops should pay the fine, and then do some time.


a3877110

Max Schad is the bottom scum of police officers…he pulled me over while i was a DD and lied about several things i had been doing…i’ve gotten tickets before that i’ll admit to but this guy is ridiculous. he was extremely rude before i even talked to him.


R.Hodin

Just can’t trust state of the art equipment recording equipment nowadays, I suppose. Better fire the requisition officer.


R.Hodin

Good thing he wasn’t wearing Mardi Gras beads.