Excessive Force?

Officer forced to retire over assault allegations of gay man will collect $118,600 pension

A police officer in Palo Alto, California forced into retirement over harassment of a gay man will collect a $118,600-per-month pension as part of his departure.

Sgt. Wayne Benitez left the Palo Alto Police Department at the end of September as part of a civil rights lawsuit filed earlier this year. In it, Gustavo Alvarez, a gay man, alleges that Benitez and five other cops used excessive force on him during an arrest in 2018. Officers had gone to Alvarez’s home after he refused to be detained for allegedly driving with a suspended license.  Alvarez claims the six officers pulled him from his home and slammed him up against the hood of his car knocking out several of his teeth. He also claims the officers taunted him for being gay. Police booked Alvarez for a DUI and resisting arrest, though those charges were later dropped.

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“Obviously the police department and the city of Palo Alto thus far have failed to step up and condemn the actions of these officers,” Alvarez’s attorney, Cody Salfen, told reporters. “To think that taxpayers are still rewarding (Benitez) is incomprehensible at this point in time and history. It’s disgusting and symptomatic of a department that tolerates its employees breaking the law.”

Footage of the incident, filmed inside Alvarez’s home, has prompted public outcry over the incident. The Benitez case is just the latest in a series of lawsuits against the Palo Alto Police Dept. In 2016, the department reached a settlement with a man who alleged officers broke his arm during a traffic stop. In 2011, the department also paid $35,000 to a gardner who alleged that officers tased him during an unlawful arrest.