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Cox won a $460,000 judgment in 1992 against two officers, and a separate $165,000 award from the city in 1993 after a judge found that the District had shown "deliberate indifference" to citizens complaining of police brutality.
Cox, a 28-year-old former Marine, was driving home to Bowie from Dupont Circle at 3 a.m. on Dec. 30, 1990, when he changed lanes without signaling. Officers Barry Goodwin and William Brady pulled him over.
During his two years on the force, Goodwin had already accumulated three review board complaints. In 1989, a Bethesda account executive accused Goodwin and others of throwing him into a plate-glass window in Georgetown and handcuffing him so tightly his wrists bled. In 1990, a motorist said Goodwin and other officers kicked and shoved him, according to the motorist's lawsuit. The city eventually settled the case. A student also filed an excessive-force complaint, naming Goodwin, in December 1990.
Goodwin denied all the accusations, according to court papers. All three complaints were still pending when Goodwin and Brady stopped Cox.
Goodwin was immediately confrontational and, after an unpleasant exchange, grabbed Cox's car keys and threw them into a parking lot, Cox said in a recent interview. Cox said Goodwin threatened to beat or shoot him if he came out of the car, then wrote a traffic ticket and tossed it into the passenger's seat.
Emerging from the car to retrieve his keys and driver's license, Cox said he tried to read Goodwin's badge number. Goodwin then "hit me in the head with his nightstick," Cox said.
Goodwin slammed him against the police car, Cox said. "The next thing I knew, a bunch of officers were on me," he added. Cox was arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct, placed in a police wagon and driven around for about 30 minutes before the officers returned to the 2nd District station.
"This was the scariest part," he said. "Nothing made any sense. . . . I feared they would kill me."
During a subsequent review board inquiry, Goodwin said Cox had resisted arrest. Goodwin declined requests from The Post for comment; Brady did not respond to messages requesting an interview.
Cox had bruises and a six-inch gash above his left eye, according to court records. He paid a $25 fine and was released just before noon on Dec. 30 nine hours after the traffic stop. According to Cox's account to the court, when he asked the officers why he had been assaulted, Brady replied, "Slow night." Charges against Cox were dismissed six months later, when the officers failed to show up in court.
Cox filed a review board complaint, then sued the District and Officers Goodwin and Brady. For more than a year, Cox waited while Goodwin accumulated more citizen complaints.
A Philadelphia man said Goodwin beat him outside a Georgetown club in June 1991. The city paid the man $10,000 after a city attorney withdrew from the case, saying that Goodwin would not cooperate with her efforts to defend him.
Cox's lawsuit came before U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green in February 1992, when national attention was focused on the Rodney King brutality case in Los Angeles. Goodwin and Brady failed to appear in court. Green found that Cox had "persuasive" evidence of a "mauling" by Goodwin, which Brady did nothing to stop. She held Goodwin liable for $350,000 and Brady for $110,000.
Cox also sought damages from the city for what he called a "pattern and practice" of police excessive force. His complaint focused on the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which took an average of 33 months to resolve a complaint, according to documents from the board. The seven-member board, which began operating in 1982, had the authority to recommend to the police chief that individual officers be disciplined.
The long delays had consequences for citizens and police. Officers despised the review board because it often took years to clear their names in frivolous complaints. Citizens complained that problem officers remained on duty while cases languished. At least 44 D.C. officers had three or more complaints pending against them when Cox filed his grievance, according to review board documents.
In Cox's lawsuit, Green found that the District "made a conscious choice" to ignore complaints and had failed to properly train and supervise officers. Her decision was upheld by the D.C. Circuit Court in 1994, and the District paid Cox $165,000.
The review board set its hearing on the Cox complaint for Jan. 18, 1995 four years after the original traffic stop. Goodwin appeared in his own defense, and the panel said he exhibited a "disturbing pattern of behavior" and concluded that his testimony was "evasive, filled with inconsistencies and embellishments."
Still, the board found most of Cox's complaint unfounded, saying it could not assess the degree of force necessary to subdue him. The board found Goodwin guilty only of using "demeaning language" and recommended a 10-day suspension and counseling. The department temporarily removed Goodwin from patrol in 1992. He is now back on duty in the 2nd Police District, which encompasses Georgetown and Upper Northwest Washington.
After the review board disbanded three years ago, more than 800 pending complaints were forwarded to the police districts for investigation. Duckett, the former police lieutenant, said no one in the department had time to deal with them. "The system fell apart," Duckett said. "Not one person was found guilty of anything."
City officials, acknowledging the shortcomings of requiring citizens to file grievances directly with the police, said they plan to create a new civilian complaint board.
Cox said he still has not collected the judgment against the officers. But money was never the central issue, Cox added. Rather, he said, he wanted to show that beating citizens is "not what the police are supposed to be doing."
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