SoCal Police's Blood Money

When the DA declines to prosecute bad cops, the only justice families can get is financial

Steering's dismal view extends to juries, as well. "White people are pretty stupid," he says. "They live in a fantasy world. They don't know there's a substantial minority of cops who get off on beating people. 'Resisting arrest' or 'delaying an officer'—people go for this stupid crap."

Given all this, Steering questions prospective clients carefully before taking their case. First question: Have you had a psychiatric hospitalization? Steering says, "If you do, [the prosecution will] rip the crap out of you."

Second: Do you have a job? "Juries don't like people who don't have jobs," he says.

Third: What kind of convictions do you have? "If you were convicted of a heinous felony, they'll rip you apart in trial," he says. "If you're a child molester, nobody's going to give you any money."

Finally: Do you have any witnesses? "Sometimes it takes a lot of investigation to find out what happened," he notes.

Even with the deck stacked against his clients, Steering has seen change happen. "Jail beatings are way down in Orange County," he says. "Sheriff [Sandra] Hutchens has really made a difference. One of my clients told me that now they make you stand up for hours and hours in the jail. A deputy told him, 'The sheriff says we can't beat you anymore.'"

*     *     *

Despite such encouraging developments, achieving real change when it comes to police misconduct can be difficult for many reasons. Police officials tend to see such lawsuits as an assault on their authority, rather than a plea for accountability. Within a department, even if officers feel one of them overstepped his bounds or delivered substandard performance, "snitching" is as unpopular as it is in gang circles. This, combined with a belief that the actions were justified by circumstances and that civilians don't understand the pressures of policing, can lead to an "us against them" mentality.

Another issue is the rarity of criminal prosecutions brought against law-enforcement personnel because of "justified shootings." Steering notes that in 2010, the LAPD shot 15 people who "reached for their waistband." None had a gun. None of the officers was prosecuted. Steering represented the family of Ashley MacDonald, a suicidal 18-year-old girl who was fatally shot by Huntington Beach police in 2006 after she brandished a small knife in a public park. Although the cops put 15 bullets into the teenager, none was charged with a crime. It was found the officers' actions didn't violate department policy.

But when a jury awards a plaintiff or a settlement is reached with a city, where does the money come from? The taxpayers? Like corporations, cities have insurance policies. Smaller cities often join insurance risk pools to spread the risk and get better rates. Depending on the city, policy, association, etc., the deductible for a liability could be between $50,000 and $1 million. The deductible is typically paid out of city coffers; the balance would come from insurance.

One such pool that includes Stanton provides its 31 member cities $50 million in limits on an occurrence basis, with no aggregate. That means each member city is covered up to that amount per incident. As a PERMA insurance company spokesperson noted, "In the unlikely event a judgment was made in excess of the $50 million, then the member would be responsible for the amount over $50 million." Even the largest settlements, such as the $24 million won by the Dole family, have not yet risen to such levels.

"No aggregate" means a city with multiple occurrences throughout the policy year would have a $50 million limit available for each occurrence. So even if a city had multiple brutality judgments against it, about all that would happen is the city's deposit premium, paid to fund the coverage, would increase. The spokesperson noted that his association has never expelled a member for above-average liability losses and that he has never heard of an insurance pool that has.

Ron Thomas has little patience for this. "I get hate email because people think I'm going to bankrupt the city," he says. "The city is not going to go broke. The system is designed so that the city doesn't get penalized. So they get complacent and don't care. We're actually suing the mayor, police chief and two councilmen individually. That might wake them up a bit."

Even though bad cops are rarely prosecuted or fired, many families find civil litigation offers some form of justice and even forgiveness. In his case, Steering "subpoenaed every one of the police officers," Merritt Sharp Sr. says. "They squirmed in court every day for about two weeks. 'Do you know who pointed a gun at Mr. Sharp?' 'No.' 'Do you know who handcuffed Mr. Sharp?' 'No.' The jury didn't believe the cops."

But all too often, what the family really wants—an acknowledgment and an apology—is not forthcoming. "My clients Zerby and Dole never got an apology," Mardirossian says. "After the settlement, the legal responsibility of the police is over. It's all about ego."

To families seeking someone to be held accountable for the death of a loved one, even small judgments against individual cops become very important. In the case of Doug Zerby, in addition to the $6.5 million judgment that will be paid by the city, the two policemen were ordered to pay $5,000 each to the family.

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60 comments
Eden
Eden

The comment below by 'Bustin' was posted by a severely mentally ill woman. She is the mother of a girl Doug went to High School with and she is very sick. She is also cyber stalking my family and this case. Please delete her comment OC Weekly. I can provide you with whatever information you need to substantiate what I am saying. I don't expect every person to agree with the ruling in my brothers case and I do believe people are entitled to their opinions..however these are the rantings of a seriously delusional, sick woman and are simply ridiculous and malicious in an entirely different context. Doug Zerby was a very real person, his son is very real, I am very real, his murder and the trial were very real. Cyber stalking is a very serious offense and I would be grateful for your support in discouraging it on your site. She uses many different alias's and post comments making the same ludicrous, outrageous, ridiculous claims in nearly all of them. It's very easy to identify that the comments are not coming from a mentally sane person versus someone very opinionated who does not agree with my families stance nor the trial outcome regarding my brothers murder. Thank you. 

Bustin
Bustin

This was a carefully staged Hoax, just like sandy Hook.  No body...no one was killed.  There never was such a person as Douglas Zerby.  No records found at Millikan High School.  None of the so called friends on his face book page discuss his passing at all and most of those accounts are fictious set up for this event.  The so-called sister, is a hungry , not even D List Actor, who one month after this so-called tragedy...filmed herself and girlfriends whopping it up at THE PLAYBOY MANSION bringing in 2012 as though her brother hadn't just been murdered.  Look this up on YOU TUBE under EDEN MARIE JAMES ...she is a vacuous bad actor who never produced ONE TEAR...nor did her family members.  The father is actually Jim Soltis there is no Zerby family.  The so-called friend Zerby was allegedly visiting Doug Blair is a gay alcoholic felon who has done time in prison for DUI and in and out of rehab.  He is a lying creep of an individual who would sell his soul for a cocktail.  He doesn't work and lives off his parents at 43 years old....no wonder he was never called as a witness.  And the friend, who dropped Zerby off at Doug's is also a low life scumbag, who put an underage boy in the hospital for rough sex.  These two unsavory characters were definitely not friends with a straight young man who was the father of a young boy.  This is horse manure fed to you to alter your reality.

srberry33
srberry33

Violence is sad.   R.I.P.  Something needs to be done about these type of life ending mistakes.

danholan
danholan

fuck the DA, hang the cock sucking pigs !!

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

Hey we all know that the police are thugs against the citizenry.

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

This is an off subject inquiry: Does anyone know what's up with the 2 old World War II planes flying over Costa Mesa and what types of planes they are? Is there some sort of air show going on in the area, the one with the big double wings on the back of it is way awesome and cool.

Minerva Magdalena
Minerva Magdalena

Popo, Pig, 187's (What We in the Barrio called them cuz they were looking for Blood that night)...To name a few of the names La Gente calls them. If their trippin on their power who in the hell do we call on to STOP THIS BULLSHIT? The Police Chief? Its a SET-UP.

felixculpa
felixculpa

It's strange that the US has retained antiquated features of English common law such as the grand jury & capital punishment yet has abolished the possibility of private prosecution. All the stranger when you consider that criminal prosecution is in the hands of elected politicians rather than professionals - that's asking for corruption. Also, there's no institution comparable to HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, which has existed in the UK for over 150 years, nearly as long as there's been a police force.

18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

Well look here, my YouTube and Twitter account (by the same name) now surpasses the FBI's very own page defining this federal civil rights felony - 18USC241. Appropriate considering that I have been on the receiving end for so very long. Nothing like being a victim of a crime to make you an expert on the specific  topic. 

And that reminds me: Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell - September 1, 2012 -  Atlantic and East Wardlow Road - white female officer - 4:52 PM - u-turn in front of my wife w/o siren ON as we were on our way to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary with a dinner and play at the International City Theater (like all us Hispanic gang members do) ???????



Gary_Hurd
Gary_Hurd

Facebook has blocked this news item unless you use the "share" dialog at the top of this page.


It is a news item that should be shared.

Gary_Hurd
Gary_Hurd

Mr. Gordon Moore needs to have all of his material wealth taken, and his sorry ass sent to prison as well. He can share a cell with th murdering cops.

marcy
marcy

Cops, for the most part, are barely civilized thugs.


DaveMan50
DaveMan50

Sue the hell out of them. 

County district attorney's office. The LA DA cleared Shurtleff and Ortiz of criminal liability in a November 2011 report. "The evidence examined in this investigation leads to the conclusion that this was a tragic mistake of fact," the report states. "The evidence also demonstrates that the police actually and reasonably believed that Zerby was armed with a firearm at the time of this incident."

This is just an excuse to dismiss wrongful doing. Verbal Bull Shit. Trigger happy cops, who worry about their own safety have to be fired. And the justification for cop murder stopped!!!

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

"Government is pretty good at pointing the finger of criticism at private individuals and private companies.

But look at what Oakland, CA, just got caught doing. While their army of full time cops cruise around making big money and qualifying for that huge public safety pension at just age 50.....

That police department was caught assigning ONE PART TIME investigator to cover 10,000 reported burglaries last year.

The Chief of Police was so embarassed at being caught that he just resigned yesterday... BEFORE the media published the story.

Google it. YOUR government at work?! 

ONE part time investigator all of last year for 10,000 burglaries....  AND.. get this... the ignorant bureaucrats actually paid a private company to tell them that was a problem. Yes. The ignorant public employees couldn't figure that out on their own... they PAID for an analysis".

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

"80 PERCENT OF ALL COPS ARE CRIMINALS AND VIOLATE THE LAWS WHILE THEY ARE "ON DUTY" AND ARE BEING PAID TO DO SO AND BE SO".

"THE CITIZENS HAVE A RIGHT TO PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM THE POLICE". - OCDA TONY RACKAUKAS.

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

"Following the death of Doug Zerby, his family filed a $21.5 million federal civil-rights and wrongful-death suit against the city. James claims the city delayed the civil trial and issued a citywide "gag order," forbidding employees from commenting or possibly assisting the Zerbys. LBPD declined to comment for this story; the Long Beach city attorney's office did not respond"

Why are the police not responding to the story and why is the LB City Attorney's Office NOT RESPONDING?

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

"The evidence examined in this investigation leads to the conclusion that this was a tragic mistake of fact," the report states. "The evidence also demonstrates that the police actually and reasonably believed that Zerby was armed with a firearm at the time of this incident."

BULLSHIT: THIS WAS AND IS A POLICE MURDER! THE COPS ARE MURDERERS! YOU DO NOT FIRE UPON SOMEONE UNLESS YOU PLAN TO KILL THEM AND THE WEAPON NEEDS TO BE IDENTIFIED. THE MAN WAS IN HIS OWN YARD AND THE POLICE DID NOT HAVE PERMISSION TO BE THERE BEFORE AN INVESTIGATION WAS AND/OR IS CONDUCTED.

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

Murder by POLICE OFFICER, PLAIN AND SIMPLE - the cops were in NO DANGER and they are setting themselves up in someone else's apartment before they knew what was going on and they killed a man in cold blood. An assault weapon with a telescopic site that they could look through to see what the man was holding and they still killed him.

jvgilbert87
jvgilbert87

he had what looked to be a gun on his own property so you call the police. good work Gordon, Unreal.. if you were really concerned with your safety maybe you should get yourself a gun for home defense

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

Don't normally like to second guess Officers, but this case seems to be cut and dry.  It appears to be a classic case of inadequate training and poor judgement.  Many Police Departments train, retrain and keep training Officers in the critical skill involving the use of deadly force.  Shoot - don't shoot scenarios are an integral part of such training.  This teaches Officers to understand that not all people encountered are bad guys and even fewer are armed.  In addition, there are always less than lethal uses of force which can be deployed, unless the suspect is cranking off live rounds from a firearm at you.  That would have been hard to do with a water hose nozzle.  This is an unfortunate example of negligent training on the part of the Police Department and extremely poor judgement on the part of the responding Officers.   

Jay Mendoza
Jay Mendoza

Looks like they need to calm down with their power trip and do their job the right way

ocjusticewarrior
ocjusticewarrior

True justice will be served when these killer cops are behind bars!  I hope the families who win their civil cases, will appeal the DA's "justified killing" decisions to the Department of Justice, and I hope the DOJ prosecutes these murderers!  They should be held to a higher standard!  If you or I murdered, wouldn't we be in jail?!?!?

ocjusticewarrior
ocjusticewarrior

Killer cops are not limited to the OC.  Let's not forget Michael Lee Nida II, killed by Downey PD on 10/22/11; Tony Francis, Jr., killed by Lakewood Sheriffs in Bellflower on 8/24/12; Jose de la Trinidad killed by Compton Sheriffs in Lynwood on 11/10/12; Andres Avila killed by Pomona PD on 10/16/11; Javier Arrazola, Jr., killed by LAPD on 10/1/12.....and many, many more.....UNARMED innocent men murdered by rogue, hot headed cops!!

ocjusticewarrior
ocjusticewarrior

Good article, Michael Goldstein, but I would like to add that the water nozzle that Doug Zerby was holding had a BRIGHT GREEN tip!  It was clearly NOT A GUN!  The cops all lied and their lies were exposed in court!!

paullucas714
paullucas714

wow great article. I hope that this wakes up the agencies and starts to deliver a sense of accountability to the police agencies.

chux91
chux91

Excellent article!! Over the past say 10 years THOUSANDS have been wrongly executed by the cops (mass murderers who prefer to do the job one body at a time - think about it) just in southern California alone. Any interaction involving a cop is one of the most hazardous health risks an otherwise healthy individual can face these days. Add in the minority element and cops acting with little or no accountability and what do we get?? THOUSANDS wrongly executed by cops THROUGHOUT OUR COUNTRY over the past....pick any number of years you want, which surely rates as one of the biggest outrages and mass killings of our times. Doesn't it??

Brett Bremer
Brett Bremer

Cops are the biggest Gang in the country, Fuck them. They do nothing but target people every day, They're jobs are boring to them unless they get to kick some ones ass or shoot somebody, They are crooked trigger happy, Pussys that don't do shit for anybody. Fuck Every Last one of them, Specially the O.C sheriffs dept. And Garden Grove Police!

Mike Scharnell
Mike Scharnell

Wake up, the police departments are using our tax dollars to pay these claims! They should pay out of their pensions since it is their fault and not ours!

Whophantom
Whophantom

Chicken poop cops are nothing but a bunch of sissies. Without their badge they they are scared girlie men.

vegandawg23
vegandawg23 topcommenter

@Minerva Magdalena None of that made sense. Speak english please.

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

@18usc241 - Don't do the crime, if you can't do the time.  Quit whining like a little girl.

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

I just looked that up: Does that include the local police in any jurisdiction and can that statute be used against them while they are at the scene after they stop anyone for anything in the performance of thier duties and prevent them from detaining you or taking you in.

I need to find out the details of this statute because I was arrested last year on an elder abuse charge after the fact that never occured because the elder gentleman has alzheimers/dementia disease and is incapable of telling the truth. He lied to the paramedics at the scene that I had punched him when no such thing occured. The hospital even said that there were no signs of physical abuse to any part of his body and that his face appeared flushed due to loss of internal bleeding that causes near Syncope Collapse and Fainting. He has over 2000 pages of medical records.

Gary_Hurd
Gary_Hurd

@marcy You are almost correct. Cops are for the most part barely under control killers. The entire paramilitary uniformed occupying force in America is controlled and staffed by combat veterans. They are still as ready to murder US citizens as they were to murder Iraqi, Afghanistan,  or Pakistan civilians. 

It is necessary to deal with all police as a potential deadly threat. They are not going to be held responsible for their crimes by the so-called "justice system." They have a license to kill.


wiseoldsnail
wiseoldsnail

@tongue_twister_for_t 

yup.  ol' coward jordan ... now trying to collect pension based on 'medical retirement' ... by doing so, he opens up his medical history to public scrutiny, in spite of the unconstitutional 'police officers' bill of rights' 

wiseoldsnail
wiseoldsnail

 

why don't you normally like to second guess officers?  that's our job, as their employers.


tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

"80 PERCENT OF ALL COPS ARE CRIMINALS AND VIOLATE THE LAWS WHILE THEY ARE "ON DUTY" AND ARE BEING PAID TO DO SO AND BE SO".

"THE CITIZENS HAVE A RIGHT TO PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM THE POLICE". - OCDA TONY RACKAUKAS.

ltpar 3 hours ago

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

@Whophantom Sounds like those girlie men must have kicked your sorry ass once or twice.  So what does that make you, a girlie man bitch? 

Whophantom
Whophantom

@ltpar @18usc241 your a pussy Itpar. Your the little girl wanting to be fucked in the ass like the incest retard that u r. Can't wait to run into u. I like drinking with real cops in La Mirada. If u kiss our ass, come on down. We have some good dick u can suck and assholes u can lick!

18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

@ltpar Oh please elaborate for all the reader's of the OCWeekly!  

Because after publicly calling your Bernie Madoff community of clown cops fraud bluff for about 85 weeks, no one wants to come out and play. For good guys, you sure do a lot of hiding while I bask in the sunlight. 

wiseoldsnail
wiseoldsnail

@ltpar @18usc241 ah, another cop with nothing to do but act stupid.  no crime ... police like you beat and abduct people for no crime at all .. you seem to not have read the article

18usc241
18usc241 topcommenter

@tongue_twister_for_t The US criminal code applies to EVERYONE. 

That Orange County cops don't understand this simple notion until they are in prison like Brad Gate's boy toy Mike Carona is another matter.

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

@Gary_Hurd @marcy - If that were true, your ass would be history.  By the way, you like to use terms like combat veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Have you ever been to any of those places?  Of course not, and you wouldn't make a pimple on the ass of one of those veterans you are calling a murderer. 

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

@wiseoldsnail - Because not being present and having all the facts that the Officer had to work with, means that we are just guessing.  Guessing is not our job as employers of the Officers.

RonaldMexico
RonaldMexico

@ltpar @Whophantom You still here troll? Man I thought you left for North Korea by now for some of that delicious boot licking to be done there. Why are you still here traitor?

Whophantom
Whophantom

@ltpar @Whophantom, ur my bitch Adam Henry. U must b part of their groupies who likes it  straight up ur ass & u lick the cum off their sissy dicks. What copper bar do u like to hang out @.

tongue_twister_for_t
tongue_twister_for_t topcommenter

WELL:

"80 PERCENT OF ALL COPS ARE CRIMINALS AND VIOLATE THE LAWS WHILE THEY ARE "ON DUTY" AND ARE BEING PAID TO DO SO AND BE SO".

"THE CITIZENS HAVE A RIGHT TO PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM THE POLICE". - OCDA TONY RACKAUKAS.

ltpar 3 hours ago

wiseoldsnail
wiseoldsnail

@ltpar @wiseoldsnail we're not guessing.  we're responding with a bank of current information from the current situation, combined with historical information about police behavior.  our job is to insist that we have the right to exercise meaningful oversight on those in our employ. 

police investigating themselves is not meaningful oversight.

Whophantom
Whophantom

@ltpar @RonaldMexico @Whophantom "Cup of Tea". now I know your a Flamer...LOL. Do u "Curtsy" when u see us patrolling your white ghetto neighborhood? U mention "dicks" so much U must love sucking ours. Remember, the "brotherhood" doesn't protect their own anymore. Brown Power is taking over your white stupid  neighborhoods where we treat everyone with respect.

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

@RonaldMexico @ltpar @Whophantom - I only use profanity when dealing with ass holes like yourself.  As far as fore fathers go, I think it would be your neck getting stretched and not mine.  Don't give up hope thought, if the revolution comes, you may still have a chance to dance. 

RonaldMexico
RonaldMexico

@ltpar @RonaldMexico @Whophantom I notice how you use profanity to try and get your points across a true sign of an "intelligent" man. Yes, you stay here and carry the flag for the smart folk. Yes your servile traitorous ways are needed here to show us what not to be anti-American, fore fathers would hang your commie pinko neck.

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

@RonaldMexico @ltpar @Whophantom - Still here, having my daily cup of Tea while reading the unintelligent rants of ass holes like yourself and Whopantom. Somebody has to stick around and respond to the crap all you "dickheads" write. The two of you should get together and you might be able to write an intelligent sentence or two.    

Whophantom
Whophantom

@ltpar @Whophantom, well of course u do, because that's all u can get is other peoples mommas. U look like incest runs in your family. U have no class & either your a fucked up lawyer or, a cop groupie. No matter, we'll cross paths some day & u can show me how big your balls are if u have any. Anytime, anyplace u retard!

ltpar
ltpar topcommenter

@tongue_twister_for_t - Sounds like great work, if you can get it? Obviously you don't have the intelligence or skills to be one of the men or women in blue.  Keep flipping those burgers at McDonalds and who knows one day you may even get promoted to working at the front counter. 

 
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