A Newport Beach police officer who claimed $250,000 in damages for humiliation and torment after he was recognized in plain clothes and asked to leave an American Civil Liberties Union conference on police spying rejected a proposed settlement Monday.
Over the weekend, the board of the ACLU of Southern California had agreed to contribute $1,000 to sponsor an essay contest for high school students. Better known for suing police departments, the ACLU by this action would have settled the only lawsuit ever filed against it by a police officer, according to attorney Meier Westreich.
Richard Long wanted the essay topic to be on police-community relations, his lawyer, Jeffrey M. Epstein of Los Angeles said. The ACLU board's draft of the settlement called for the topic to be police-community relations "as they relate to the Bill of Rights."
Difference in Perspective
"Long's concern was that the contest shouldn't be used as a platform to espouse the views of either side," Epstein said Monday.
Westreich saw it differently.
"Long doesn't want to do something that would advance civil liberties, and the ACLU won't do anything that doesn't advance civil liberties,' Westreich said.
Long, then a community relations officer for the Newport Beach Police Department, attended a 1980 ACLU chapter meeting at Newport Harbor High School to discuss police spying, among other topics. He was asked to leave the meeting after an ACLU lawyer recognized him.
Shortly after the incident, the ACLU filed suit against the Newport Beach police chief, contending that the department was attempting to infiltrate the organization through undercover police officers.
Long Later Countersued
Nine months later, Long countersued, claiming that he had been harassed and singled out as a police spy at the meeting.
Ironically, the proposed 16-page settlement document states that the Newport Beach Police Department, to which Long still belongs, does not engage in "surreptitiously monitoring or surveilling" any group engaged in lawful, nonviolent activity.
The ACLU proposal specifically states that creating the essay contest "does not constitute an admission of any wrongdoing" on its part.
Lawyers for both sides estimate that the case will take about five days to try in Orange County Superior Court.