Former park ranger sues CHP for excessive force

A former state parks ranger is suing a CHP officer, who she says used excessive force when he arrested her on false charges.
February 13, 2014 8:51:16 PM PST
A former state parks ranger is suing a California Highway Patrol officer, who she says used excessive force when he arrested her on false charges. Those charges were eventually dismissed, but Jenny Donovan was fired from her job because of the arrest and trouble that followed.

The incident happened near the Russian River along Highway 116 in September 2012. They were driving home to Guerneville after attending a wine festival. The video shows CHP Officer J.A. Phillips pulling over a car for a broken light. Then state park ranger Jenny Donovan is in the passenger seat. Her partner Donna is the driver (she doesn't want her full name used.)

The officer talks to the couple. Donovan, who's off duty that night, identifies herself as a peace officer.

Phillips takes Donna to the side of his car and gives her a field sobriety test. She complies with everything but refuses to take a breathalyzer. He tells her he'll have to take her to jail. That's when Donna yells for her partner.

Donovan says she came out of the car, not to interfere with Phillips, but to help him.

"I was trying to say if I could get her to calm down, I can help you out...he just came at me," Donovan said.

Donovan tore a rotator cuff when Phillips threw her down. She simply doesn't understand why he was so violent, especially since he knew she was a cop. But she does have some suspicions.

"Gender or lesbian? It's the only two things I can come up with," Donovan said. "He didn't like the way that I looked or something like that?"

ABC7 News asked Don Cameron, a police trainer and expert on excessive force, to look at the video. He says the officer should have handled it differently.

"I wouldn't say the guy should have used a reverse takedown at the time," Cameron said. "I think there should be a little more talking, especially since she was a peace officer."

The charges of resisting an officer's command and public drunkenness were eventually dismissed, but Donovan was fired from her job, she says because of the arrest. She's appealing her dismissal. The state parks department had no comment because of the pending lawsuit, nor did the CHP.


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