Sergeant Suing Kensington Police Settles for $47,000

Contact Ashley Trott at [email protected]

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A San Francisco institutional police sergeant will receive $47,000 as part of a settlement reached Wednesday ending a lawsuit she filed against two police officers who she said unfairly targeted her because of her age, gender and nationality.

Elsa Seward, a 69-year-old Berkeley resident and former citizen of the Netherlands, filed a civil suit against the Kensington Police Department and Sgt. Hussain Khan and Officer John Ty after being arrested on suspicion of impersonating a police officer outside her home in October 2006.

Jim Chanin, Seward’s attorney, said he believes she was arrested on the basis of age discrimination. Seward accused the officers of violating her civil rights, discrimination and battery.

Chanin said Seward sued to prove a point, not to make money.

“She didn’t want to break the bank,” said Chanin. “(She) wanted an amount that would say ‘Look, this isn’t trivial, it reflects something they would pay if they did something wrong.’”

Seward was pulled over by Khan and Ty for a minor traffic violation on her way home from her shift at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center, where she oversees security officers as an institutional sergeant.

According to the police report, Ty saw Seward had a police badge in her possession and asked to see it along with her DMV designation as a police officer. Seward did not produce the designation, which made Ty suspicious. Ty then gave the badge to Khan, who doubted its authenticity because Seward’s name was not on it.

Chanin said badges do not need to have both a number and a name, and that DMV designation is optional. If Seward were below the average age of retirement for a police officer, she would not have been taken into custody, he said.

In court documents, the defendants wrote that Seward did not have her police identification card with her and did not know if her licence had the police designation, which they found unusual.

In Seward’s complaint, she said she asked to go to the restroom in her house while the officers were examining her badge, but Khan denied the request and told her that “she was old enough to hold it.” She said she was forced to urinate on herself, which was humiliating.

In their response to the complaint, the defendants wrote that Seward had not indicated that her need to go to the bathroom was urgent. They wrote that police were not told Seward had urinated on herself until after the incident.

The police report says that Khan accompanied Seward into her house so Seward could get a pay stub, and that while on the way to retrieve the pay stub Seward asked to be arrested.

Chanin denies that Seward ever made such a request.

Seward was held at the station until Ty and Khan verified that Seward was a sergeant by calling the San Francisco Institutional Police.


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