Jury returns verdict in use of force case

Yesterday a federal jury returned a definitive verdict in favor of U.C. Berkeley Police Officer Brendan Tinney finding that he did not use excessive force against a protester during the November 20, 2009 protests at Wheeler Hall. 

Officer Tinney was defending the metal barricade line on November 20 attempting to control a large crowd.  Earlier in the day, an officer had been seriously injured by protesters who had used a barricade as a weapon.  Concerned that the barricades might be pushed over, Officer Tinney repeatedly warned members of the crowd to remove their hands from the barricades.  Zhivka Valiavicharska, a graduate student in Rhetoric, ignored Officer Tinney’s admonishments several times by placing her hands on the barricade and shaking it. After repeatedly ordering Valiavicharska to remove her hands, Tinney struck the barricade with his baton as a final warning.  When she persisted, Tinney struck her left hand, injuring her pinky finger. 

Valiavicharska sued Tinney, UC Berkeley Police Chief Mitchell Celaya, and Captain Margo Bennett claiming that Tinney’s use of force was excessive.  The court dismissed the claims against Chief Celaya and Captain Bennett before trial.  The jury’s verdict constitutes a clear finding that Officer Tinney’s use of force was, under the circumstances, reasonable and lawful. 

“It is extremely regrettable whenever the Police Department is required to use force, but unfortunately sometimes it becomes necessary,” said Chief Celaya. “ We are gratified that the jury recognized that Officer Tinney acted appropriately under the circumstances.”