Police Misconduct

Mentally ill man files suit in arrest

He says Lane County officials and Springfield law enforcement mistreated him in 2008

By Jack Moran

The Register-Guard

APPEARED IN PRINT: SATURDAY, DEC. 25, 2010, PAGE B4


A Eugene attorney has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Lane County and the city of Springfield on behalf of a mentally ill man who claims that law enforcement and county medical officials mistreated him and neglected his medical needs after a 2008 arrest.

In the suit, Mark Andrew Kemp asks a judge to award him unspecified monetary damages and require Springfield police and Lane County Jail officials to revise their policies regarding treatment of mentally ill criminal suspects.

Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center in Eugene filed the lawsuit this week in U.S. District Court.

Among the claims included in the 32-page lawsuit are several alleging that jail deputies and medical staff did little to help Kemp, 51, after he repeatedly displayed bizarre behavior indicative of a mental illness after police arrested him twice in December 2008 on trespassing charges.

Kemp’s time in the jail ended Jan. 10, 2009, when he had to be taken to a local hospital after becoming “critically ill” while in custody, according to the lawsuit.

The series of events detailed in the suit began Dec. 29, 2008, when Springfield police arrested Kemp for acting disorderly while trespassing at a gas station.

Jail officials released Kemp from custody later that same night, but Eugene police arrested him again the next day after finding he had trespassed at a local office building, according to the suit.

While the lawsuit states that Springfield police used excessive force in arresting Kemp, it says a Eugene police officer “respectfully and peaceably” arrested him in the second incident.

After the Eugene arrest, jail officials placed Kemp on a “mental health hold” that required he not be released without treatment.

He remained in jail until he went to the hospital three weeks later, according to the lawsuit.

The suit claims that jail officials disregarded a Eugene Municipal Court judge’s order on Jan. 6, 2009, to transport Kemp to Oregon State Hospital in Salem because he was mentally unfit to assist in his defense. During his time in jail, deputies allegedly assaulted him after he did not respond to their orders, according to the suit.

The suit alleges that officials violated Kemp’s constitutional rights and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Kemp is described in the lawsuit as an intermittently homeless person who has lived in both Eugene and Springfield.

CLDC & Josh Schlossberg

Two police officers with the Eugene Police Department confronted environmental activist Josh Schlossberg as he handed out flyers and information to interested passers-by on the public sidewalk in front of the Umpqua Bank. Mr. Schlossberg was providing information on the negative impacts of some of the business investments of the Bank on the local forests. After one of the officers decided everything was in order, an EPD sergeant with a history of questionable actions against activists and others, investigated Mr. Schlossberg’s public activities again. Mr. Schlossberg told the sergeant that he was recording their interaction with a handheld camera that recorded video as well. The sergeant confiscated Schlossberg’s camera and then employed excessive force to falsely arrest him for surreptitiously recording a police officer.

The CLDC filed a federal civil rights (§ 1983) lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Schlossberg against the sergeant, Eugene Police Department, and the City of Eugene for police misconduct. In addition to determining whether the officer used unlawful force against Mr. Schlossberg, his lawsuit also challenged whether the City of Eugene violated the rights of all citizens by maintaining a custom or policy of ratifying and condoning police misconduct through the internal affairs process (police policing themselves as a result of civilian complaints) by not holding officers accountable for their misconduct, and basically rubber-stamping their unlawful or unprofessional behaviors. Section 1983 creates a cause of action against any person, including municipalities who, under color of law, deprive another of his or her rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the US Constitution. Mr. Schlossberg claimed that the City maintained a custom that allowed members of the EPD to engage in misconduct.

On Monday, January 23rd, a federal jury ruled that Sergeant Solsbee used excessive force in an arrest of environmental activist Josh Schlossberg. The CLDC has been working tirelessly for years on Schlossberg’s case and is pleased with the verdict. We hope that this case will be a precedent in protecting the rights of activists to film police officers. We are also pleased to see that an officer’s excessive use of force goes punished and that an activist brutalized is awarded reparations.