More confessions of a plaintiff's expert

Part Two: The names of the officers and their agencies have been altered, but the details and states where the testimony took place are accurate


Last time, I described two cases where I, your humble expert, testified as a plaintiff’s expert in a couple of lawsuits filed by current or newly-terminated officers who were accused of violating agency policy and/or using excessive force or poor tactics. And as you might have expected, Part 1 generated a few responses. They ranged from “That a boy, Dave. Keep up the good work” to “how dare you go against the agency. The cop may have been a real pain in the ass and they wanted to get rid of him.”

I appreciated both sides. The first comment needs no reply. And the second is irrelevant. For the record, all the officers were top notch street dogs. Clean records, excellent evals, and in one case, the officer was a high ranking supervisor. I couldn’t care less if the administration considers the officer a “pain in the ass.” The reasonableness of an officer’s use of force is supposed to be judged by what the officer knew immediately prior to and at the exact moment he used that force; not by his position as a union rep, the number of degrees he holds, or his rank or position.

Okay. With that preliminary stuff out of the way, here are two more to ponder.

Plaintiff’s Case #3: Michigan
Sheriff’s Deputy Ronny Wright was assigned to a Multi-agency Drug Task Force. On this day, he volunteered to act as a Forward Observer while another agent posed as a UPS delivery man dropping off a large box of high-grade marijuana to a rural, isolated mobile home. As soon as the suspect/resident accepted the dope, the arrest team was going to execute the search warrant.

However, the doper smelled a rat. It might have been the fact the newly-appointed Drug Unit Commander decided to use a plain brown panel van sans any UPS logo or markings to make the delivery. Be that as it may, shortly after the phony UPS guy left, the suspect grabbed his SKS and began firing wildly out his trailer door aiming into the field, where it just so happened Ronny was secreted. The Ops Plan suddenly changed from warrant execution to extracting Ronny from his FO location. A spot was picked out and Ronny began his slow crawl out. Every member of the team was briefed on exactly where Ronny would be exiting from — all were given a description of his clothing and all acknowledged either verbally or with hand gestures that they “got the memo.”

Without warning, the Arrest Team Supervisor, who happened to be the aforementioned Drug Unit Commander, left his position of cover, leveled his scoped, tactical rifle and fired a string of .223 rounds at Ronny as he low-crawled out of the field. The team members yelled for the commander to stop, but not before Ronny suffered extensive multiple gunshot wounds. Fortunately, his vest stopped the center-of-mass rounds, and he was put on extended medical leave while the IAB investigation progressed.

Eventually, it was learned that the Drug Unit Commander failed to even attend the pre-raid briefing, claimed he never read the Ops Plan, swore he wasn’t aware that an FO was even in place and apparently missed the radio transmission that Ronny was being extracted from the field. Based on all the foregoing, Ronny filed suit against the Unit Commander who was busted down in rank and eventually forced to retire after felony criminal charges were filed against him by the State Attorney’s Office. I testified on behalf of Ronny Wright against the Drug Unit Commander. The civil case never went to trial but after my deposition, a favorable settlement offer was made to, and accepted by the permanently-disabled Ronny Wright.

Plaintiff’s Case #4: Texas
Off-duty Captain Arnie Roberts happened upon a heated argument in an auto-parts store one afternoon. Matters became volatile and the owner, after recognizing Roberts as a cop, called 911. While awaiting the local police response, Roberts verbally intervened after repeated verbal threats started flying. When matters appeared to settle down somewhat, Roberts went out to his vehicle to wait for the responding officers so he might explain to them what was transpiring inside, but the initial aggressor followed him out the door and confronted him at his POV.

When the aggressor became physical with Roberts, Roberts drew his off-duty gun. Undeterred by the presence of both Roberts’ police ID and his handgun, the enraged suspect attacked Roberts. One shot ended the attack. An internal review failed to find any excessive force on the part of Roberts, but a sustained finding of “poor tactics” resulted in his termination.

Roberts sued to get his job back. When negotiations proved futile, I was called to testify for plaintiff Roberts against his former agency. Again, the Judge agreed with my assessment over that of a former Texas sheriff (with no force creds whatsoever) who opined that Roberts’ defusing tactics were improper. The Judge ordered Roberts reinstated to his rank of Captain, with all back pay and raises for the previous two years.

So there it is, folks. The rumors are true. Yours truly has testified as a plaintiff’s expert. And here’s more news: I’m going to continue to do so, when, in my opinion, good honest cops are railroaded by a system that bets that most officers are going to just roll over and accept summary judgment rather than contest an improper finding of “poor tactics” or excessive force from some administrator who wouldn’t know an arm bar from an aardvark. You bet I’m going to make myself available on their behalf should they decide to use the civil justice system to “right” a perceived “wrong.” And I’m going to continue to make myself available in the event that honest, hard-working street cops find themselves under criminal indictment for what most objective trainers would conclude was proper force.

So the next time someone tells you “that guy Grossi testified last month as a plaintiff’s expert in New York State Supreme Court In the Matter of Joey Bagadonuts vs. the Little Town (NY) Police Department” you may want to ask, “Isn’t Joey Bagadonuts a cop?”

“Oh, yeah, he is...”

About the author

Dave Grossi is a retired police lieutenant from upstate New York now residing in southwest Florida. A graduate of the State University of New York, Dave has served as a patrol officer, undercover narcotics investigator, detective, sergeant, and lieutenant. For 12 years, Dave was the lead instructor for the Calibre Press Street Survival Seminar. He has instructor credentials in virtually every force discipline and has testified both in the United States and abroad as an expert witness in use of force cases. He is a combat veteran of Vietnam, and a member of the Force Science Research Center.

Contact Dave Grossi

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