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Collinson v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 18, 2013

BRENT COLLINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

C. DARNELL JONES, II, Disrict Judge.

I. Introduction

In this consolidated case, Plaintiff Brent Collinson alleges Defendants violated his civil rights through Philadelphia police officer's use of excessive force on Plaintiff and by the Philadelphia Police Department's implementation of a policy that causes a "systematic failure to train, supervise, and/or discipline police officers" regarding officers' use of force. (Comp. II ¶ 2). Plaintiff claims this policy violates his federal civil rights and that it interferes with his ability to pursue his § 1983 claims. ( Id. at ¶¶ 51, 57, 59). Plaintiff also asserts state law claims of: assault; battery; intentional infliction of emotional distress; interference with state constitutional rights; negligence; gross negligence; and negligent hiring, training, retention, and supervision.[1] ( Id. at ¶ 62). Plaintiff brings these claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, 1988 and the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments. ( Id. at ¶¶ 51, 55, 57, 59, 62).

Plaintiff filed the original Complaint on May 11, 2011 against the City of Philadelphia, police officer John Crichton, ABC, Inc. (1-5), and John and Jane Does (1-5). ("Collinson I") (Compl. I, 2:11-cv-03095-CDJ, Dkt. No. 1). Plaintiff later filed a second Complaint on October 26, 2012 against the City of Philadelphia, the Police Commissioner, and nineteen police officers, including Officer Crichton ("Collinson II"). The two cases were later consolidated.

Plaintiff alleges the following: Officer John Crichton assaulted him, other officers were witnesses to the incident, and the Philadelphia Police Department has a policy in place that effectively withholds important information about the incident from both the Police Department Internal Affairs Bureau and the Plaintiff. (Compl. I; Compl. II). Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. (2:12-cv-06114-CDJ, Doc. 6).

II. Background

a. Factual Background

For purposes of assessing Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, the Court accepts all facts alleged by Plaintiff in his October 26, 2012 Complaint as true (Compl. II, 2:12-cv-06114-CDJ Doc. 1). On September 5, 2009, Plaintiff was released from police custody following an arrest for disorderly conduct and public intoxication. (Compl. II, Ex. B). Plaintiff was outside the police station when Officer Crichton came out and physically assaulted Plaintiff, hitting him in the face and knocking him to the ground, fracturing and dislocating his elbow. (Comp. II ¶¶ 22-24). Defendants characterize the incident differently, claiming that after his release, Plaintiff became unruly, yelling profanities, and sat on the hood of a police car. (Use of Force Report, Compl., Ex. C). Plaintiff then swung a milk crate at the police officers. ( Id. ). Officer Crichton "took down" Plaintiff onto the ground to detain him. ( Id. ). Defendants claim the officer's actions were lawful and proper. (Answer to Pl.'s Am. Compl. ¶ 1).

Plaintiff then told Officer Crichton he was badly injured and Crichton went back into the police station. (Comp. ¶ 25). Plaintiff then called 911. ( Id. at ¶ 26). In the following minutes, police radio received the 911 call and dispatched an officer to respond to the call. ( Id. at ¶¶ 27-28). Defendants Officer Taylor and Officer Collier responded. ( Id. at ¶ 29). Approximately twenty minutes later, Defendant Officer Maiorano reported an "assault on police" by Plaintiff to dispatch. ( Id. at ¶ 30). Defendant Lieutenant Gross then called Police Dispatch to amend dispatch's earlier call, and requested an officer to report to Plaintiff's location to respond to Plaintiff's 911 call. ( Id. at ¶ 31). Plaintiff was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, and possession of an instrument of crime (Pl.'s Opposition to Defs.' Mot. p. 1). Plaintiff pled no contest to disorderly conduct.[2] ( Id. at pp. 1, 13).

Through discovery in the original action, Plaintiff learned there were additional witnesses to the incident, even though Defendants asserted that Officers Crichton and Graner were the only witnesses. (Compl. II ¶¶ 33, 35, 37). During depositions on September 20, 2012, Defendants Lieutenant Gross, Officer Taylor, and Officer Collier stated that they witnessed the incident, but they are not listed in any of the paperwork related to the incident. ( Id. ). Lieutenant Gross indicated that he was not listed as a witness due to the police department's Overtime Management Policy which, in part, states, "[p]latoon commanders will be required to review and initial all arrest and investigative reports, including PARS reports, to ensure that only those officers/investigators who are necessary for the successful outcome of the case are listed." (Compl. II ¶¶ 1, 36, Ex. A). Plaintiff asserts that ensuring a "successful outcome" means that police use the policy to manipulate the system to secure a finding in favor of the City and Police Department. ( Id. at ¶ 1). Plaintiff maintains that this policy undermines the pursuit of his claims because it allows the City and Police Department to withhold the names of witnesses who are potential defendants, simply because the platoon commander (here, Lieutenant Gross) deems those other witnesses not "necessary for the successful outcome of the case." (Compl. II ¶¶ 57, 59).

Plaintiff also asserts that Defendants have been deceptive in the production of documents related to the incident. (Pl.'s Opposition to Defs.' Mot. p. 6). For instance, a Complaint or Incident Report was filed following the incident, which was allegedly filled out and signed by Defendant Officer Collier. (Compl. II, Ex. E). However, in her deposition, Collier states that she did not fill out the report and that the signature of her name on the form is not her signature. (Compl. II at ¶ 38). Furthermore, Defendant Officer Graner attested that he gave a statement to detectives following the incident. Plaintiff requested this statement in discovery, but the City claims it lost Officer Graner's statement. ( Id. at ¶ 39; Pl.'s Opposition to Defs.' Mot. p. 5). The City also claims it cannot find the Detective's file. (Pl.'s Opposition to Defs.' Mot. p. 5). Additionally, the Defendants in the original action did not produce requested documents until more than a year after Plaintiff requested them in discovery. ( Id. ).

b. Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed the original Complaint on May 11, 2011 against the City of Philadelphia, police officer John Crichton, ABC, Inc. (1-5), and John and Jane Does (1-5). (Compl., 2:11-cv-03095-CDJ, Dkt. No. 1). Defendants filed their Answer on June 24, 2011 denying that the incident was improper or unlawful. (Answer ¶ 1). In the Answer, Defendants also presented a number of affirmative defenses, including the assertion that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. ( Id. at pp. 5-6).

Discovery for the original case (Collinson I) began on July 11, 2011. (Pl.'s Opposition to Defs.' Mot. p. 10). Through this discovery, Plaintiff learned of the police department's overtime policy. (Compl. II ¶¶ 1, 36). Because Plaintiff learned of the policy after the discovery deadline, Plaintiff filed this second action against the City of Philadelphia, the Police Commissioner, and nineteen police officers, including Officer Crichton, alleging the policy violates his civil rights because it encourages the police to withhold information and further encourages excessive use of force by police officers (Compl. II, ¶¶ 3-4; Compl. II, p. 7, n.3). ...


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