Local News

Wednesday, Dec 10 2008 08:58 PM

Sheriff's sticker controversy comes back to bite department

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    The above photo, which was apparently circulated on the Internet, was apparently a joke within the Sheriff's Department.

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By JASON KOTOWSKI, Californian staff writerjkotowski@bakersfield.com

A joke played by some Kern County Sheriff’s officials several years ago may come back to bite them in court.

Thomas Philip says his civil rights were violated by deputies who used excessive force in his 2003 arrest. The trial began Wednesday in Fresno.

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How do decals play a role in all this? Well, the same year that Philip suffered injuries during the arrest decals were put on two Sheriff’s patrol cars as a joke. They said “We’ll Kick Your Ass” and “We’ll Bite Your Ass.”

Philip is arguing that the decals are evidence that the Sheriff’s Department used excessive force and his civil rights were violated, but Chief Deputy County Counsel Mark Nations said that will be difficult to prove given all of the other evidence of Philip’s behavior that day.

Philip was kicked out of a restaurant off Highway 58 on Nov. 3, 2003 and management called deputies to handle him because he was so out of control, said Nations. When deputies arrived, Philip, who Nations described as a “pretty big guy,” began fighting them.

Jacob M. Weisberg, Philip’s attorney, could not immediately be reached for comment late Wednesday afternoon. Nations, however, gave an account of what happened during the fight.

Philip was actually overpowering one of the deputies when another deputy tried to take the fight out of him by using pepper spray, Nations said.

The deputy, however, ended up mostly dousing his partner with the spray and a crowd of onlookers had to pull the man to safety.

At that point, the deputy with the pepper spray then threatened to release his K9. Philip still refused to cooperate and the K9 was released and bit him on the thigh.

But Philip wasn’t through. He picked up the dog and shook the animal to force it to release him. The problem with this strategy is that K9s are trained to immediately reattach themselves to a suspect if they’re knocked loose, Nations said.

Philip dislodged the dog several times only to have it bite him again, and by the end of the ordeal Philip’s bite wounds were pretty bad, Nations said.

The decal controversy occurred on the watch of former Sheriff Mack Wimbish. He initially denied playing any role in the decals, but eventually admitted his involvement.

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