UCLA announced late Monday that it will open an internal probe into claims made by David Cunningham III, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, who alleged that UCLA campus police used excessive force when they stopped him Saturday morning as he was exiting a gym parking lot in Westwood. It’s safe to say Cunningham, who is black, knows the definition and gravity of such claims—he’s also a former president of the Los Angeles Police Commission.
Cunningham had just paid a parking lot fee and was leaving an L.A. Fitness gym Saturday morning when campus police pulled him over for not wearing a seat belt.
The stop unfolded badly, according to Cunningham’s complaint, the Los Angeles Times reported:
Officer Kevin Dodd asked to see his driver’s license. Cunningham handed them his wallet, then the officers requested registration and insurance.
When Cunningham reached for his glove box to retrieve the documents, an officer “yelled at me not to move,” he said in the complaint. “I became irritated and told him that I need to look for the paper.”
A prescription pill bottle rolled out of the glove compartment, prompting the officer to ask if he was carrying drugs. Douglas said the medicine was for high blood pressure.
Cunningham couldn’t find his registration and insurance paperwork in the glove compartment and told officers he thought it was in the trunk.
“When I got out of the car to search my trunk, Officer Dodd shoved me against my car, told me I was under arrest for resisting and locked me in the back seat,” Cunningham wrote in the complaint.
Cunningham, 60, said the officers shoved him against his car, handcuffed him, locked him in the back of their police cruiser and told him he was being detained for resisting arrest.
Cunningham was later released. He limited his complaints to excessive force but his attorney Carl Douglas asked the broader, and perhaps more pertinent question: “Do you think this would have happened if he was a white judge?”
In a statement issued late Monday, CBS reported UCLA said, “During the course of the traffic stop, police officers instructed the driver to stay inside the vehicle and returned to their patrol car to run a routine license and registration check. Despite these instructions, the driver left the vehicle — an escalating behavior that can place officers at risk. The driver stood in the roadway and refused instructions to get back in his car. As a result, the driver was temporarily handcuffed. He was released at the scene shortly thereafter with a citation for failing to wear a seat belt.”