In 2016, Alton Sterling, who an autopsy showed had in him what experts called a dangerous combination of substances, some illegal, underwent a minutes-long struggle with police after they had responded to reports he had threatened somebody. Unfortunately, acting in a way that experts said reflected subpar procedure but an understandable fear for their safety, one of the two white police officers trying to control Sterling fatally shot him.
Given these dynamics of the incident, authorities didn’t charge either officer with a crime, concluding their actions not unreasonable. However, his children – five, from different mothers; he never was married – already had launched a civil lawsuit against the city for wrongful death, blaming the city for allegedly not having a written policy for use of deadly force, claiming it tolerated “racist behavior” among its police, and that it didn’t vet adequately the hiring of the two officers.
Any award wouldn’t go to the three mothers, but would be administered on behalf of the minority children. The one who is of age, accused of raping a child but declared mentally incompetent, at present presumably also would have any award administered by the judicial system.
Set to go for trial in 2021, last year both sides (the city-parish used outside counsel) met with a mediator, from which they agreed a sum of $5 million would go to the plaintiffs. City-parish attorneys did not admit to any fault on behalf of the city and said although going to trial might end up costing more than settling despite the city’s lack of culpability, this figure was too much, saying that a municipality should need to pay up only $1 million in damages under existing law
The money would come from the city’s insurance reserve fund. As for that offer, the city-parish attorneys said Council action occurred suddenly without any real consultation with them.
Despite that, a number of Democrats on the Council asserted that making the offer of judgment would avoid a potentially larger payout and that the city before has settled such lawsuits against officers. Republicans (except for Councilor Chandler Loupe, who had been a leader of making this particular deal) questioned the process that led to the offer amount, wondered whether it represented a good deal for taxpayers, and argued that a trial would create the best resolution.
To the benefit of taxpayers. The sore-loser lawyers behind the suit patronizingly said too many council members “had no clue” about the case, but this rhetoric disguises their need for this Hail Mary maneuver to salvage a weak case. City-parish attorneys echoed this perception in their advice, seeming confident in their recommendation to pursue a much lower settlement amount. Just because elites have attempted to foist a “systemic racism” canard to poison the culture or that poorly-managed cities roll over doesn’t mean Baton Rouge must follow.
Citizens should applaud the six council members who had their back, and let the process play out to an appropriate conclusion. However, the wisdom of Loupe and the Council Democrats they need to question.