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September 21, 2005

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Publication Date: Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Menlo Park: City settles police brutality claim Menlo Park: City settles police brutality claim (September 21, 2005)

** This is the second settlement this year involving police officer Scott Mackdanz.

By Renee Batti

Almanac News Editor

Another legal case involving allegations of excessive force by Menlo Park Police Officer Scott Mackdanz has concluded with the city's agreement to pay more than $13,000 to the Menlo Park man making the allegations.

Jeffrey Kaditz, 25, of Menlo Park will receive $13,250 from the city after the two parties signed off on the agreement during a recent mediation session, according to his Redwood City attorney, William Litt.

Last February, the city was ordered to pay about $27,000 to David McBay, who sued the city after being injured during another incident involving Officer Mackdanz.

"Both situations were investigated [by the police department], and Officer Mackdanz was cleared" of any wrong-doing, said City Attorney Bill McClure, who added that the mediated settlement with Mr. Kaditz included no admission of guilt.

Mr. Kaditz filed a claim with the city last September, alleging that he was injured after Officer Mackdanz slammed his face into the hood of a patrol car after he was pulled over while driving home. The designated driver after an evening out, he was driving with three friends in the car, according to the claim.

Mr. Kaditz said that the officer ordered him out of his car, and after pushing him against the patrol car, handcuffed him, the claim said. Although Mr. Kaditz asked why he was being detained, Officer Mackdanz waited until a second officer arrived before he told him that he believed him to be intoxicated.

A subsequent test showed that Mr. Kaditz's blood-alcohol level was far below the legal threshold used to determine whether a driver is drunk. He was ultimately cited for making an illegal turn, according to the claim.

Mr. Kaditz, the head of software development for a startup company in the network security field, suffered a 4-inch abrasion and a cut on his face, and severely bruised ribs and sternum from being hit or kneed by Officer Mackdanz, according to the claim.

The claim asked for $90,400 in damages.

Mr. Litt, Mr. Kaditz's attorney, said his client settled because he "decided that he had essentially made his point, and he was satisfied the city was paying attention to his claim."

His client, Mr. Litt said, "is not your typical police misconduct case. He's pleased [with the settlement] primarily because it allows him to put the issue behind him. ... To him, the money was never terribly important. It was more the principle of the thing."

City Attorney McClure said the city settled with Mr. Kaditz to avoid a costly trial. "We made an economic decision, even though we thought the claim had no merit."

A lawsuit that ends up in court typically costs the city between $50,000 and $70,000, he said, although the McBay case that was settled in February cost in excess of $100,000 because of a series of procedural anomalies.

Mr. McClure said that even though the jury in the McBay case awarded the plaintiff $27,000, it didn't award any punitive damages. The award included payment for "pain and suffering," medical expenses and lost wages, he said.

"Essentially they found that it was an unfortunate incident where the guy was injured and shouldn't have been injured," Mr. McClure said.

Mr. McBay needed numerous stitches in his nose and chin after his encounter with Menlo Park police officers, who showed up at the home Mr. McBay was house-sitting, thinking he was trespassing. Mr. McBay said his injuries were the result of being thrown onto the driveway by Officer Mackdanz while in handcuffs.

Officer Mackdanz, who has worked on patrol and in the canine division, is now working as a code-enforcement officer. Mr. McClure said the shift in his duties is not unusual; all officers are rotated into the department's various division, he said.

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