Unhoused Emmy-Award Winning Journalist with Disabilities Settles Federal Lawsuit Against the City of Santa Barbara and Individual Officers Over Civil Rights and ADA Violations

Press Release

Unhoused Emmy-Award Winning Journalist with Disabilities Settles Federal Lawsuit Against the City of Santa Barbara and Individual Officers Over Civil Rights and ADA Violations

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(Santa Barbara, CA) - After ten months of litigation, Stephen David Price reached a settlement with the City of Santa Barbara and individual officers over the summary destruction of Price’s property, which included a draft sequel to his published quizbook, scripts and screenplays. Officers destroyed these items without any regard for their value or a meaningful opportunity for Price to reclaim them. This settlement specifies terms to accommodate Price’s disabilities in all future law enforcement-related encounters and to ensure that the total destruction of his property never happens again. The terms for interactions with Price will also appear in a “Study Flag,” or notice, which will appear for Santa Barbara Police Officers any time they pull up Mr. Price’s profile. As agreed upon, Santa Barbara Police Officers must provide adequate time for Price to secure and preserve his possessions, and must communicate with him in a manner that accommodates his disabilities.

Stephen David Price was represented by the law firms of People’s Justice Project and Disability Rights California. This case will remain under the jurisdiction of Judge John F. Walter for three years for enforcement of the settlement terms.

In light of the nation’s discussion on police reform, this settlement highlights the need for alternatives to police intervention, such as utilizing trained medical and mental health professionals instead of police when responding to people with mental health disabilities in the unhoused community. CAHOOTS, (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets), based out of Eugene, Oregon, has been using this model for over 30 years with great success.

In 1993, Price won an Emmy Award for a documentary entitled “Images ‘92.” Price’s career spanned over 16 years, taking him from ABC News in Dallas, Texas, to CBS News working with renowned journalist Dan Rather. He also worked on documentaries that received many prestigious awards and recognition. In 2001, while driving to San Diego County to report on a high school shooting, Price was in a catastrophic car accident where he suffered significant traumatic brain and bodily injuries. As a result of these injuries and the inability to subsequently work, Price’s housing stability along with his health rapidly deteriorated and he found himself living out of his car on the streets of Santa Barbara. His car was eventually towed and impounded for unpaid fines, and since then, Price has lived on the streets. In hopes of finding a path back to his career, he often writes and creates works that he hopes will take him out of poverty.

Surveillance footage in this case showed Price’s drafts and works, along with essential belongings like his bedding, being tossed by Santa Barbara Police Officers into the bed of a truck to be disposed of as trash.

“Many people experiencing homelessness have no choice but to live outside, yet cities throughout the state punish them for being unhoused by ticketing and jailing them under state laws and city ordinances that criminalize life-sustaining activities such as sleeping or sitting down or using cardboard as a bed (littering) or possessing personal property in public,” said Joseph Biko Doherty, co-counsel and attorney with Santa Barbara-based People’s Justice Project.

“Criminalizing and punishing people for experiencing homelessness isn’t just cruel and inhumane, it is ineffective, costly, and oftentimes illegal,” he said. “I hope this case serves as a reminder that no one is above the law and no one is beneath its protections, regardless of housing or disability status."

As the housing crisis worsens and homelessness continues to grow across California, Disability Rights California, who also represented Price, fought to ensure that Price’s rights were protected. Aisha Novasky, attorney for Disability Rights California, stated, “This Study Flag is a start for Santa Barbara to recognize the importance of disability accommodations. It puts all officers who approach Mr. Price on notice of his disabilities and that there is no excuse when they use communication methods that only exacerbate his symptoms. There is also no excuse to throw out his property without recognizing the value it has to Mr. Price. This case, to us, is how you protect your community: by knowing the needs of a person with disabilities and meeting those needs.”

Media Contacts

Melody Pomraning
Disability Rights California
(916) 504-5938



Disability Rights California (DRC) is the agency designated under federal law to protect and advocate for the rights of Californians with disabilities. The mission of drc is to advance the rights, dignity, equal opportunities, and choices for all people with disabilities. For more information visit: https://www.disabilityrightsca.org.

People's Justice Project is a non-profit law firm that protects the civil rights, liberties and dignity of all Central Coast of California residents through the provision of high-quality legal and social services, including (1) civil rights litigation, (2) screening for U.S. citizenship eligibility, applying for U.S. citizenship, and other immigration law services, and (3) criminal defense litigation, including post-conviction services. For more information, visit www.peoplesjusticeproject.org.