Monday, September 9, 2013
Police Officer Who Sent Video of Screaming, Handcuffed Woman Appropriately Suspended—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Long Beach police officer was appropriately suspended for 40 hours based on e-mailing to his wife and to a friend the video he recorded on his cell phone of a handcuffed woman, face-down on the floor, screaming, the Court of Appeal for this district held Friday.
Authoring the unpublished opinion was Sanjay Kumar, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge serving on assignment to Div. Five. It upholds a judgment of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joseph E. DiLoreto, who denied a writ of administrative mandamus.
The video was taken by the appellant, Officer Jason Mifflin, in the booking area of the police station. In e-mailing it to his wife, he commented:
“I hope you’re enjoying the party at home. This is what I am doing.”
In sending it to a friend, he remarked:
“This is what I’m doing at work tonight. Do not forward this to anybody.”
Mifflin insisted he did nothing wrong. Kumar disagreed, going through the administrative findings, one by one, backing each one.
•“By instructing his friend to not forward the video, Mifflin demonstrated he was aware the video could be sent to others, and potentially go viral,” he wrote. “This evidence is sufficient to support the finding that Mifflin negligently failed to exercise due diligence in the performance of his duty.”
•Kumar noted a Civil Service rule proscribing “discourteous” conduct, and said:
“Discourteous conduct includes behavior which is lacking consideration or respect for others….
“Mifflin argues his conduct was not discourteous because the suspect’s face was not visible in the video and her name was not mentioned. While these facts reduce the level of discourtesy, they do not eliminate it. The suspect’s clothing, hair and skin tone were visible, and her voice audible. It was certainly possible she could have been recognized by someone who knew her. This evidence is sufficient to support the finding that Mifflin was discourteous.”
•The jurist pointed to a department regulation requiring employees to “[t]reat all persons equally and with fairness.” He wrote:
“Mifflin singled out the suspect in this incident for videotaping and commentary, apparently because of her extreme emotional distress. He did so for his own personal benefit. It is reasonable to conclude Mifflin did not treat this suspect the way he treated other suspects. This evidence is sufficient to support the finding that Mifflin acted unfairly toward the suspect.”
•A provision of the Department Manual requires employees to “conduct their private and professional lives in such a manner as not to harm the integrity or reputation of the Department.”
“Mifflin’s behavior could have damaged the integrity or reputation of the Department. Commander [Josef] Levy [since retired] testified the Department ‘works very, very hard day in and day out to garner the respect and trust of the community members and the people that we serve, especially in the minority of the community.’ He opined the video sent by Mifflin had the potential to be very damaging to the reputation of the department. Levy also pointed out that with a video “once you hit that send button, it’s out there.”
Mifflin’s contention that nothing on the video linked the suspect to the department was rejected. Kumar reasoned that the friend to whom Mifflin sent the video knew who had sent it, the suspect might be recognized, and it was clear the woman, in restraints, was in law enforcement custody.
The penalty was not Kumar said, explaining:
“Mifflin exercised poor judgment in sending the video to his friend. In so doing, he created a risk of legal liability for the Department….Further, Commander Levy explained the level of discipline was determined in part by the fact Mifflin knew his conduct was wrong and did it anyway.”
The case is Mifflin v. McDonnell, B244804.
Huntington Beach attorney James E. Trott argued on behalf of Mifflin and Senior Deputy Long Beach City Attorney Christina L. Checel acted for the city.
Copyright 2013, Metropolitan News Company