Ron Settles

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Ron Settles (June 12, 1959 – June 2, 1981) was a California State University, Long Beach and Banning High School[citation needed] football player who was arrested by the Signal Hill Police Department in 1981. The morning after his arrest, he was found severely beaten and hanging in his jail cell. A furor erupted afterwards over the nature of his death, as the police said the death was a suicide. No one was prosecuted for Settles' death,[1] but the city of Signal Hill did pay a large settlement to the family.[2]

The case had long-term impacts on the reputuation of Signal Hill, although a new police chief took steps to reform the police department.[3] The case was an early high-profile case handled by attorney Johnnie Cochran, who represented the family;[4] one of the policemen implicated in the incident was also represented by another noted civil rights attorney, Stephen Yagman.[2][5]

Settles' death was one of several highly controversial deaths of arrestees in the 1970s and 1980s that changed the way police departments deal with prisoners. Many police departments now videotape jail areas, and any time a police officer or correction officer touches a prisoner in a restraining way, a report is required to be written. These measures are intended to decrease the chances of police brutality in prison cells.[citation needed]

Settles' story was told by Dr. Michael Baden on HBO's series Autopsy.[6] Charles Burnett's 1995 film The Glass Shield was based, in part, on the Settles case.[7]


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