For release on October 6, 2020
Deputy District Attorney
Public and Law Enforcement Integrity Team
PAPD Officer Charged with Unlawful Assault of Man He Was Arresting
A former Palo Alto police officer was charged today with the assault of a man he was arresting two years ago.
Wayne Benitez, 62, who was a sergeant at the time and has since retired, slammed the face of a handcuffed arrestee against the windshield of the arrestee’s car. The officer also filed a false police report.
If convicted of assault under the color of authority and lying on a police report, Benitez would face up to two years in jail.
DA Jeff Rosen said: “Peace officers who use more force than necessary hurt more than the person they are trying to arrest. They damage the deservedly excellent reputations of the vast majority of officers who work every shift to help people. And they strain the bonds with their communities who expect and deserve that police officers will protect and serve them fairly and professionally.”
Reviewed by the DA’s newly-formed Public and Law Enforcement Integrity Team, the incident happened at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park on Feb. 17, 2018. That night, Sgt. Benitez was among a group of officers taking into custody a man on suspicion for driving with a suspended license. Benitez was caught on a security camera striking the man twice as he was being handcuffed and then slamming his face into a car windshield.
After the arrest, Benitez’s body-worn microphone captured the officer saying: “See how quickly they behave once we put our foot down?” Benitez can be heard saying to another officer, “And that’s what we don’t do enough of.”
There was no mention of that force in Benitez’s report about the incident. In fact, he wrote that the only force that was used was to pull the victim from the trailer. “No other force was used,” Benitez wrote. The video and audio did not come to light until the following year.
The victim, 39, was charged with suspicion of driving under the influence, driving with a suspended or revoked license, and resisting arrest. The charges were later dismissed by the DA’s Office.