So, three women whose fences were damaged by police as they hunted for the bank robber who shot and killed one of their own, are suing the city of Vallejo for the cost of repairs and one of them, also for emotional distress.
The emotional distress, the woman says, is from being told by armed officers in the middle of the operation with “guns drawn and pointed in her direction,” to get inside.
On this score, the woman is entirely off base and a case could be made that she’s trying to cash in on a terrible tragedy.
The fences, on the other hand, are another matter.
The Police Chief here says the fence damage was necessary “to maintain the safety of officers searching for the armed robber who shot Officer Capoot and to provide emergency medical personnel immediate access to the yard where other officers were administering CPR, it was necessary to tear down a wooden fence.”
And that is perfectly understandable. I don’t think anyone is suggesting the police had no right to do what they had to do, however they had to do it.
“Our first responsibility is to protect life,” he said. “A fence can always be replaced.”
And that’s true. And the city should replace them.
The damage, which was not made by the homeowners, nor was it due to anything the homeowners did or didn’t do, is in the hundreds of dollars, and though it’s not even in the same universe as the killing of Officer Capoot, it must be addressed.
It’s not OK for any police or other city department to destroy innocent people’s property, even in the discharge of their duty – even if it’s unavoidable — and not take responsibility for repairing it. They turn the residents they’re sworn to protect into victims that way, and themselves into perpetrators.
Cities must be insured for this sort of thing. Officials should have immediately informed those residents that the damage would be repaired and not forced them to sue. Though it’s big bucks to these residents, it’s a small potatoes, even for a cash-strapped city like ours, and city and police officials could have made significant PR points just by offering to repair what they broke.
Instead, they have added a little bit more ammunition to the arsenal of those who distrust authority in general and police in particular.
Another opportunity lost.
Have PoliticalMavens.com delivered to your inbox in a daily digest by clicking here