By Eric M. Johnson
SEATTLE (Reuters) – Seattle will pay $45,000 to a woman who police shocked with a stun gun after stopping her for speeding when she was seven months pregnant, resolving a long legal dispute in a city under federal scrutiny over allegations of harsh and biased policing.
Malaika Brooks sued the city and the three police officers who stopped her in 2004 as she was driving her 11-year-old son to school and shocked her three times after she refused to sign a traffic ticket and leave her car under threat of arrest.
“After almost eight years of litigation, we are pleased to have this matter resolved,” City Attorney Peter Holmes said in a statement on Wednesday, in which he admitted no wrongdoing on the part of the officers involved.
“We stood behind our officers throughout the years that this dispute has been pending, and that does not change with this settlement,” Holmes said.
Brooks could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Seattle case developed amid a number of lawsuits seeking damages over the growing nationwide use of stun guns, which incapacitate people through a jolt of electricity.
After the incident, Washington state lawmakers amended the law so that people who refuse to sign citations would no longer be subject to arrest. In Seattle, police policy now restricts the use of stun guns on pregnant women to exceptional circumstances, Holmes said.
The Seattle Police Department has been under federal oversight since 2012 to revise its rules on the use of force and to root out any biased policing.
Brooks was repeatedly warned of arrest during a half-hour standoff with police before officers shocked her on her thigh, arm, and neck.
“I have to go to the bathroom. I am pregnant. I’m less than 60 days from having my baby,” Brooks told one of the officers who had shown her his stun gun.
Brooks, whose daughter was born healthy, contended that excessive force was used in violation of her constitutional rights. She sued in 2006, with her claims dismissed in 2011 by a U.S. appeals court, Holmes said. She filed state law claims against the officers in 2011, with a trial scheduled for November.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined in 2012 to review the appeals court decision, which found partly in her favor but also found the officers had immunity because the law on the use of stun guns was not clearly established at the time.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Peter Cooney)
[Image: Police with taser, via Flickr Creative Commons]