Two years before an amateur cameraman videotaped Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney G. King, an NBC-TV camera crew secretly recorded a Long Beach officer who appeared to shove Don Jackson, a black former police officer, through a plate glass window after a traffic stop.
Jackson quickly achieved national notoriety as the videotaped “sting” he had set up to show how police allegedly mistreat minorities was broadcast nationwide.
In the five years since the incident, the two officers involved have retired, misdemeanor charges against them were dismissed and the last chapter arising from that infamous encounter came to a close Tuesday as Long Beach announced the settlement of a lawsuit brought by Jackson and a friend who was with him when he was arrested.
The episode thrust Long Beach and its Police Department into the spotlight of national attention, and the Jackson case prompted the police chief to crack down on his officers with additional discipline, supervision and stings of his own.
The settlement will pay Jackson and his friend, Jeffrey Hill, $170,000, “but the lion’s share will go to attorney fees,” said Long Beach Assistant City Atty. Robert Shannon.
He said the settlement is less than it would have cost to defend against the lawsuit. “The city was paying attorneys for the two officers and the police chief,” Shannon said. “We would have spent far more than $170,000 to try the case.”
Thomas E. Beck, Jackson’s attorney, would not comment on how the settlement would be divided between Jackson and Hill, saying the distribution is confidential.
“I feel vindicated,” Jackson, now a graduate student at Pennsylvania State University, said Tuesday. “I feel that I was pointing out a problem that very few people wanted to deal with. I was lambasted by so many political officials who said I was crying wolf and only seeking personal attention. I know that I have shaken up that department, that I have forced change.”
He said he will use part of the settlement to set up a hot line where people can report suspected police abuse. The lawsuit originally sought $385 million in damages from the city and officers--$35 million on each of 11 causes of actions, including alleged civil rights violations, excessive force and malicious prosecution.
The lawsuit grew out of a sting Jackson had set up with NBC to demonstrate his allegation that minorities, especially black men, are routinely harassed and abused by police.
On Jan. 14, 1989--Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday--Long Beach Officers Mark Dickey and Mark Ramsey stopped Jackson’s beat-up sedan on Pacific Coast Highway for an alleged traffic violation as Jackson and his friend, Hill, drove through the city.
The camera crew that had tailed Jackson, a former police sergeant in Hawthorne, recorded Dickey as the officer confronted Jackson and appeared to push his head through a plate-glass window.
Dickey was charged with misdemeanor assault on Jackson, and both officers were charged with filing a false police report. The two officers retired in 1990 on stress-related disabilities allegedly stemming from the Jackson case. They are being paid 50% of their salaries for life.
During the two years Dickey and Ramsey awaited trial, some Long Beach officers picketed NBC, and others wore T-shirts that read: “We Do Windows.”
In the midst of the officers’ 1991 trial, the incident was eclipsed by the videotaped King beating. After the longest misdemeanor trial in Long Beach history, jurors deadlocked 11-1 for acquittal in May and Municipal Judge James Wright dismissed the charges after declaring a mistrial.
After the mistrial, Long Beach National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People member Ernest McBride said: “I was just thinking, if Los Angeles wants to move the Rodney King police brutality case to Long Beach, they can do it and they would declare that nothing happened.”
The 1992 King trial was moved to Simi Valley where the four officers accused of beating the motorist were acquitted on all but one charge stemming from the beating. Those verdicts led to deadly and destructive rioting.