SARASOTA - A man claiming that Sarasota Police beat him slaps them with a lawsuit. It's just one of three cases filed the same day against the department. The attorney for all three men says the main reason the suits come is that police should not have arrested them at all.
"We believe that these arrests were without factual foundation and we believe we've done sufficient investigation to determine that," says Andrea Mogensen, attorney for Jason Dragish, Christopher Young, and Darren Kersey.
A security camera captured Dragish's arrest at a Main Street club. It appeared to show Officer Scott Patrick punch Dragish repeatedly as he and fellow officers subdued him. Kersey was arrested at Gillespie Park when an officer accused him of stealing public utilities by having his cell phone charger plugged into one of the park's electrical outlets. Police arrested Young at an Occupy Sarasota event.
None of the arrests led to convictions.
Mogensen says that the three cases filed the same day don't necessarily mean a pattern of police abuse. All three incidents happened before Sarasota named Bernadette DiPino the police chief. She says she can't comment specifically about these cases, but says she has emphasized training officers to apply the law consistently.
"Never taking away the discretion of the police officer to make the decision but that everybody has a the same knowledge, the same approach, to handling a situation," DiPino says.
Mogensen says that her office tracks how a police agency responds to perceived problems, and has noted improvement in Sarasota. But if cases like these happen, she says someone has to hold police accountable.
"Law enforcement officers are a necessary and important part of our community, but their authority is not absolute," says Mogensen. She had to notify the city six months ago that she intended to sue. She says she tried to reach a settlement with the city in all three cases since then, but the city refused to make a deal.