Black judge handcuffed by UCLA cops 'even-keeled,'
By Richard Winton
Los Angeles Times
November 25, 2013
Colleagues of Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David S. Cunningham III,
who has filed a complaint against UCLA police for excessive force, said they are
shocked by the incident and don't believe the mild-mannered former police
commissioner would have provoked authorities.
“Calm and thoughtful are two words that come to mind with David,” said Andrea Ordin,
a former U.S. attorney, Los Angeles County counsel and L.A. police commissioner. “I
have known him as a judge, a lawyer and from his work with the police commission. He
is devoted to public service and the community.”
UCLA police pulled Cunningham over in his Mercedes on Saturday morning in
Westwood as he was leaving L.A. Fitness. He was not wearing a seat belt.
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
Although Cunningham did not accuse the campus police of racial discrimination, his
attorney Carl Douglas said, "Do you think this would have happened if he was a white
Former Los Angeles Police Commission Vice President Alan Skobin said he was
shocked at the incident, especially because Cunningham is a devoted supporter of
law enforcement and spent much time trying to improve local policing.
“He is a very even-keeled guy," Skobins aid. "I have seen him under pressure and he
is a guy who keeps his calm and wits about him.”
Skobin said on many occasions during police commission meetings, Cunningham
would refuse to react to speakers.
UCLA said it is investigating the incident.
Cunningham said in his complaint that he was in the process of buckling his belt after
paying a parking attendant when a UCLA police cruiser stopped his Mercedes at 1050
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.
The judge, who as an L.A. police commissioner had reviewed hundreds of potential
police misconduct matters, began to fear for his safety, Douglas said.
"He lost his cool," Douglas said. "He began yelling about police brutality and about
being a 60-year-old man slapped in handcuffs in the back of a patrol car for not
wearing a seat belt. A crowd was gathering and he demanded they call a watch
After about 10 minutes, a UCLA police sergeant arrived and released Cunningham,
who was appointed to the bench in 2009 by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Ed Obayashi, a legal adviser to several California sheriff’s departments and a use-of-
force expert, said the UCLA officers had probable cause to stop Cunningham if he
was driving without a seat belt -- a clear violation of state law.
“Based on their training and experience the officers may have been erring on the side
of officer safety when they saw him reach for his glove compartment. There may be a
gun. So he has the right to say, 'Don’t move,'" Obayashi said.
Officers have "absolute power" to order people to stay in their car or get out of their
"If an individual disobeys an officer's commands, you have an other violation,"
It is unclear whether UCLA police ordered him to stay in his car.
Cunningham is the son of former Los Angeles Councilman David S. Cunningham Jr.,
who served on the council for 14 years after being elected in 1973.
Cunningham III was appointed to the police commission, LA’s five-member civilian
oversight panel of the LAPD, in 2001 by then-Mayor James K. Hahn and became
president of the body in 2003.
Cunningham, who was often seen publicly with former LAPD Chief William J. Bratton,
helped usher in an era of reform-oriented community policing.
UCLA culture: contempt and racism?
|San Diego Education Report
If the following is an example of UCLA's attitude toward doctors,
what can patients expect?
Are patient advocates really just window dressing?
African-American doctor depicted as gorilla at UCLA
A respected African American faculty surgeon filed a racial discrimination suit against the
UCLA Medical Center and UC Regents. Dr. Christian Head has been intentionally
degraded based on his race and UCLA officials have ignored blatant acts of racial
discrimination, including an edited photo depicting Dr. Head as a gorilla being sodomized
by his supervisor. That alone is offensive. But the fact that the photo was publicly
presented for laughs during an annual medical school sponsored event attended by
more than 200 physicians, faculty, residents and guests is both shocking and
indefensible. Hear what Dr. Head has endured and what UCLA officials continue ignore.
Black UCLA Professor Files Lawsuit After Being
Depicted as Sodomized Gorilla
May 19, 2012
By Kirsten West Savali
Head is the first and only Black tenured professor in UCLA’s Otolaryngology (Head and
Neck) surgery department. His lawsuit specifically names colleagues Dr. Marilene Wang
and Dr. Gerald Burke, accusing them of making inappropriate and racist comments over
the years about Black Americans.
He filed the 40-page complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, reports the
Los Angeles Times, accusing UC Regents of “failing to prevent discrimination,
harassment and retaliation.”
...University spokesman Phil Hampton, claimed that an investigation concluded that there
was no evidence to “substantiate unlawful activity.” He also claims that Head was told to
take his issues to the Academic Senate committee and had declined to do so...
UCLA surgeon Dr. Christian Head’s lawsuit against UC
regents gains support through petition
By NICOLE CHIANG
May 24, 2012
...Chancellor Gene Block said in a statement Tuesday that the university investigated the
claims but was unable to substantiate them...
[Maura Larkins' comment: Hmmm. A code of silence among doctors? I imagine this
is not good for patients who have been harmed by doctors.]
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block seems to have suddenly seen
Black Surgeon Christian Head Wins $4.5 Million Racial
Discrimination Lawsuit from UCLA Medical School
July 19, 2013
Hinterland Gazette Staff
Former UCLA surgeon Dr. Christian Head won a $4.5 million racial discrimination lawsuit
from UCLA medical school which superimposed his face onto a gorilla which was being
sodomized by a department chairman in a slide show presentation.
Dr. Head filed the lawsuit against the UC Board of Regents in April after claiming he was
publicly humiliated by the portrayal. In the lawsuit, Head accused the university of failing
to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation against him. The complaint alleges
that during a resident graduation event in 2006, a slide show was created by the
residents and reviewed by staff, including the photo of his face superimposed onto a
Two UCLA professors were also named in the lawsuit. Dr. Gerald Berke and Dr. Marilene
Wang were accused of making ‘inappropriate racial comments and insinuations about
blacks’ and Christian Head for years.
UC Regents like to pull out their checkbook rather than change UC culture. UCLA
recently got rid of the one doctor willing to go public with problems at UCLA. They paid
him $10 million to leave so they could go ahead with business as usual.
Editorial: UC’s court settlements fail to address root grievances
April 27, 2014
By Editorial Board
As the University of California Board of Regents well knows, court settlements can be
useful in dodging unfavorable legal outcomes and the bad press that accompanies
But a recent $10 million settlement in a whistleblower-retaliation case involving UCLA
doctors illustrates why settlements pose a challenge for a public university. Namely,
they bury information and slow reform that could address the root cause of lawsuits.
Last week, the regents agreed to shell out $10 million to Dr. Robert Pedowitz, former
chairman of UCLA’s orthopedic surgery department. Pedowitz alleged that the
university retaliated against him after he pointed out that UCLA physicians were failing
to disclose payments from medical device-makers and other outside groups.
As part of the settlement, Pedowitz left the UCLA faculty, and
the university denied all wrongdoing.
A UCLA statement on the case claims that “multiple investigations by university officials
and independent investigators concluded that conduct by faculty members was lawful.”
But it doesn’t comment on the important question of whether Pedowitz was castigated
for raising concerns.
While the University’s incentive to press for a settlement instead of allowing a jury to
come to a verdict in order to protect the University’s good name and reputation is clear,
the blanket denial of impropriety that accompanies such agreements leaves important
answers shrouded in darkness.
Commissioning an independent investigation of the serious issues brought forth in this
court case would go a long way to address concerns of secrecy and counter
accusations that UCLA merely pays its way out of ethical quandaries.
Last July, the UC settled a discrimination lawsuit filed against the University by a UCLA
head and neck surgeon, Dr. Christian Head, for $4.5 million.
UCLA commissioned an independent third party to investigate and write a report
concerning racial discrimination after Head’s case was settled. While the resulting
report was not a direct outcome of the case, UCLA’s choice to commission such a
report after allegations of racial discrimination sends the right message: The university
takes these allegations seriously and does what is in its power to address them.
Similarly, in the wake of the pepper spraying of protesters by university police at UC
Davis during the 2011 Occupy Wall Street protests on that campus, then-UC President
Mark Yudof commissioned the Reynoso Task Force Report to examine the decision-
making by the police and university administration that led to use of force.
Moving forward, the university should commission similar reports by independent
investigators to address the concerns brought up in settled lawsuits, such as Pedowitz’
s. Doing so would demonstrate a commitment to preventing inappropriate action on the
part of university employees without incurring legal penalties.
In cases like that of Pedowitz or Head, the University’s choice to pay out millions of
dollars in settlements to put serious grievances to bed paints the UCLA administration
as one quick with the checkbook and resistant to real soul-searching. Surely we can do