Man battles SFPD over alleged racial profiling, excessive force 

click to enlarge James Holmes
  • MIke Koozmin/The S.f. Examiner
  • James Holmes, a security guard, alleges racial profiling, excessive force and unlawful detention in his lawsuit against the San Francisco Police Department.
A black security guard is suing the Police Department for false arrest and racial discrimination, alleging physical and mental injuries following a brief detention last year.

James Holmes, a resident of a single-room-occupancy hotel on Polk Street, has regular nightmares and is seeing a therapist at UC San Francisco for post-traumatic stress disorder, medical records show.

His condition grew out of an incident from more than a year ago, after Holmes had finished his shift as a security guard at the Stonestown mall Feb. 23. As he was waiting for a Muni bus about 11:30 p.m. near Mission and 11th streets, police, believing he fit the description of a man suspected of firing a weapon, “roughly” forced Holmes to the ground and handcuffed him, dislocating his left knee in the process, he alleges.

After an hour’s detention, he was released, the suit alleges. Holmes hailed a cab to take him to the emergency room at St. Luke’s Hospital. He missed six weeks of work and rang up $30,000 in medical bills, according to the suit.

Holmes filed a handwritten lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court late last year as his own lawyer, after having difficulty finding an attorney willing to take the case.

His current attorney, Stanley Goff, filed an amended complaint alleging racial profiling, excessive force and unlawful detention last month.

“They threw him on the ground and terrorized him,” Goff said. “They can’t be doing these kinds of things to innocent civilians.”

Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office, which represents the Police Department in lawsuits, said the office could not comment on pending litigation.

The case will be forwarded to federal court.

Holmes filed an earlier complaint with the Office of Citizen Complaints, which is charged with looking into reports of police misconduct. That complaint was denied.

That office received 740 complaints from the public in 2012, the most recent year from which data are available. Of these, 49 were “sustained,” or found to have merit — the second-lowest “sustained” rate in 20 years. No complaints of unnecessary or excessive force or racial bias were found to have merit that year.

A lawsuit can follow a complaint whether or not the OCC finds it valid. Since current Police Chief Greg Suhr took over the role of San Francisco’s top cop in April 2011, more than 228 claims or lawsuits have been filed against the Police Department, according to records obtained by The San Francisco Examiner.

Of those, only 20 resulted in any financial payout or settlement. Most were under $10,000.

Holmes knows his suit is a long shot. But even if it is dismissed, he feels the need to make a statement.

“This only happened because of how I look,” he said. “They can’t do that to innocent people.”

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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