$22K Settlement for Dad Choked by SFPD OK’d

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge this week approved a $22,500 settlement of claims that San Francisco police arrested and choked a man for taking his baby on a bicycle ride with no helmet.
     Takuro Hashitaka and his family sued four San Francisco police officers, Police Chief Greg Suhr and the city and county of San Francisco in Federal Court in 2014.
     Hashitaka claimed the officers took him to the ground and choked him until he fell unconscious before taking his crying 10-month-old son, Moku, away and giving him to Child Protective Services.
     The incident occurred after the bicycling dad flashed two police officers an “annoyed” look for driving into the biking lane where he was riding with his son, the complaint claimed.
     The dad said police officers ignored his pleas to call his wife, who was only one block away, in violation of SFPD’s children of arrestees policy.
     The defendants pointed to a police report claiming the officers were “unable to reach” Hashitaka’s wife, but police could not say who tried to contact her.
     Family & Children’s Service later told Hashitaka’s wife, Jessica, that “the police said her husband was drunk and had hit a police car on his bike,” according to the complaint.
     Family & Children’s Services found no merit in the child-neglect complaint and in a report described Moku as “a beautiful, healthy, clean and well-groomed baby boy” with loving parents, according to the complaint.
     Hashitaka, who suffered neck and hand injuries, spent two nights in jail on suspicion of “federal child endangerment” but was never charged with a crime.
     He claimed his arrest was brutal and unjustified, and that the “forceful” removal of his child caused him emotional distress and anxiety.
     U.S. District Judge James Donato dismissed the case last month on the condition that both parties adhere to the terms of a settlement agreement.
     The judge approved a new stipulation of the settlement on Aug. 26, setting aside $1,000 of the $22,500 settlement for Moku, now two years old.
     The $1,000 award will be placed in a tax-exempt college savings plan, not to be withdrawn until Moku turns 18. No attorney’s fees will be deducted from that amount.
     The remainder of the settlement goes to Moku’s parents after payments of a one-third contingency attorney’s fee, costs and a medical lien by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, according to the plaintiffs’ July 28 memo requesting approval of the minor’s claim compromise.
     “My clients and I are pleased that the Hashitaka family will be compensated for their ordeal, and particularly hope that this case will help get SFPD to consistently comply with its children of arrestees policy,” the family’s attorney Rachel Lederman told Courthouse News Service last month.
     The child of arrested parents policy requires officers to try to make arrests away from children or at a time when children are not present. The policy also requires police to determine whether a non-arrested parent, adult relative or other responsible adult is willing to take responsibility for a child when arresting a parent in the presence of a child.
     Police Chief Greg Suhr, who was named as defendant in the case, must approve the $22,500 settlement before it can be finalized, according to the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office.

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