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Lawson v. City of Coatesville

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 19, 2014

JOSEPH PATRICK LAWSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF COATESVILLE, et. al., Defendants

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For JOSEPH PATRICK LAWSON, Plaintiff: JOHN L. ROLLINS, LEAD ATTORNEY, WEST CHESTER, PA; WILLIAM C. REIL, LEAD ATTORNEY, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

For CITY OF COATESVILLE, A MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT ENTITY, FORMER POLICE CHIEF JULIUS CANALE, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, POLICE OFFICER BRENDEN BOYLE, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, POLICE CORPORAL JEFFREY INGEMIE, INDIVIDUALLY AND HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, Defendants: GARY H. DADAMO, ROBERT G. HANNA, LEAD ATTORNEYS, FRANK J. LAVERY, JR., LAVERY, FAHERTY, PATTERSON, P.C., HARRISBURG, PA.

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MEMORANDUM

ANITA B. BRODY, J.

Plaintiff Joseph Lawson brings suit under 42 U.S.C. § § 1983 and 1985 against the City of Coatesville (" Coatesville" ), former Police Chief Julius Canale, Police Officer Brenden Boyle, and Police Corporal Jeffrey Ingemie.[1] Lawson claims that all defendants (collectively " Defendants" ) violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they arrested and incarcerated Lawson without probable cause. Lawson alleges that Coatesville and Canale violated his constitutional rights by failing to establish and maintain a policy to train and supervise police officers as to the proper exercise of the power to arrest citizens. Lawson also brings Pennsylvania tort claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and civil conspiracy against Canale, Boyle, and Ingemie.[2] Defendants move for summary

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judgment as to all claims. For the reasons stated below, I will grant Defendants' motion in part and deny it in part.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Lawson's Arrest and Incarceration

On October 29, 2010, Jeffrey Middleton, Jr. was robbed by at least two black men[3] in front of the Midway Diner in Coatesville. One of the robbers shoved a hard metal object into Middleton's back and demanded that Middleton empty his pockets. Middleton relinquished $70 and two bottles of prescription pills. Immediately after the robbery, Middleton walked across the street to a gas station and called the police. Officer Boyle, Corporal Ingemie, and several other unidentified officers responded to the scene.

Middleton told Boyle and Ingemie that two of the robbers were still in the area, hanging out together about 100 feet away from where the robbery took place. Middleton pointed across the street to where two people were standing. Boyle and Ingemie walked across the street and made contact with two African-American men--Lawson and another man named Lewis Lee Maxwell. When the officers encountered Lawson, he was talking to Maxwell next to the Midway Diner. The police detained Lawson and Maxwell, while one of the officers placed Middleton in a police car and brought the car around.

The police then conducted a field show-up. As part of the field show-up, the police escorted Lawson and Maxwell toward the police car, one at a time. From inside the police vehicle, Middleton identified two people from approximately 25-50 feet away. Middleton personally knew Maxwell and identified him to the police. Middleton did not recognize the other robber he identified. Middleton did not actually observe the police place the two men into a police car.

After the field show-up, the police arrested Lawson and Maxwell. They also drove Middleton back to the police station for an interview, but did not ask him to identify the suspects again. At the end of Middleton's interview, Ingemie asked Middleton if he was telling the truth and if he was " one hundred percent positive these are the individuals that did it." Pl.'s Ex. O at 14. Middleton stated that he was not making up his story and confirmed " [t]hat's exactly what happened and those are the individuals that did it." Id. After the interview, Ingemie called Assistant District Attorney Bonnie Cox-Shaw, who approved the robbery charges for Lawson and Maxwell.

The next day--October 30, 2010--Boyle filed a Criminal Complaint against Lawson. Boyle's Affidavit of Probable Cause described his encounter with Middleton and Middleton's subsequent field identification of Lawson.[4] That same day, Lawson was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge William D. Kraut. Lawson's preliminary hearing was scheduled for November

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3, 2010, four days later. Subsequently, however, the preliminary hearing was continued five times--twice because Middleton was unavailable, twice by the defense, and once for unknown reasons. During this time, Lawson remained incarcerated at Chester County Prison.

On December 22, 2010, Lawson's preliminary hearing took place before Magisterial District Judge Gregory V. Hines. At the preliminary hearing, Middleton confirmed that Maxwell had robbed him, but denied that Lawson was one of the men that had robbed him. Middleton also denied that Lawson was the second man he had identified. Middleton testified that he identified a second robber for the police, but stated " they picked up Mr. Lawson, not the person that they should have picked up." Preliminary Tr. 9:22-10:2. Middleton then confirmed that " Mr. Lawson was not one of the individuals" who robbed him, and emphasized that he was " 100 percent" sure. Preliminary Tr. 10:3-10. Middleton also stated that " I thought I identified the person that did it, because I saw him, you know what I mean? And I don't know how Mr. Lawson got involved, but apparently he did." Preliminary Tr. 27:12-15. Middleton further claimed that he thought he had identified a " younger man" wearing a white and black jacket while in the police car. Preliminary Tr. 13:23-14:8.

Based on Middleton's exculpatory testimony, Lawson's attorney moved for dismissal of the charges against Lawson. The Commonwealth did not oppose the request, and the judge dismissed the charges.

B. Facts Relevant to Supervisory and Monell Liability

1. Canale's Role and Supervisory Duties

Police Chief Canale had no knowledge of Lawson's arrest until Lawson filed this lawsuit. If a citizen files a complaint regarding an unlawful arrest, that complaint is normally first investigated at the administrative lieutenant level. An administrative lieutenant would oversee an internal investigation to determine whether an actual infraction occurred. If the investigation reveals an infraction, the investigator and the administrative lieutenant would make a recommendation based on the department's disciplinary policy. The chief would then evaluate the internal affairs investigative report and make a disciplinary decision.

2. Training Received by Coatesville Police Officers

Officers in the Coatesville Police Department are initially trained at the Police Academy where they receive state-mandated Act 120 Training. A significant portion of this Act 120 Training focuses on search, seizure, and arrest. Additionally, police officers must successfully complete annual Act 180 training updates that include search and seizure legal updates. Coatesville Police Officers also undergo a one-year field training program, in which they are under the supervision of a senior officer and must learn the policies and procedures of the department.[5] New officers typically make arrests and complete a wide variety of police tasks under the supervision of a field training officer who acknowledges whether the performance was acceptable. The field training officers

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document successfully completed tasks and keep a field training jacket for each officer.

Boyle received his Act 120 Training in Delaware County. The program was five-and-a-half months long--with approximately 700 hours of classes--and included training on arrests and the Fourth Amendment. Boyle has also completed his annual Act 180 updates--which include search and seizure training--each year since he started working for Coatesville in 2009. Boyle participated in Coatesville's field training program, but did not receive additional search and seizure training from the Coatesville Police Department.

Ingemie also received Act 120 Training and Act 180 updates that covered search and seizure requirements. He also received search and seizure training from the Coatesville police department as a part of his field training.

3. Coatesville Police Department Policies

Prior to Lawson's arrest, Coatesville had policies in place on " Arrest Warrants," " Corruption and Misconduct, Employee's Responsibility to Report," and " Complaints Against Police." [6] Coatesville also had a " Disciplinary Code" penalizing corruption, illegal activity, and mishandling of investigations, among other things.

Coatesville's " Arrest Warrants" policy defines probable cause and states that " [n]o arrest warrant shall be issued but upon probable cause." The " Arrest Warrants" policy further provides that " [w]arrantless arrests and searches are permitted where exigent circumstances exist" and provides factors for officers to consider in making a warrantless arrest.

Coatesville's " Corruption and Misconduct, Employee's Responsibility to Report" policy (" Misconduct Policy" ) states that it is " everyone's responsibility to immediately report" corruption, misconduct, and other improper acts. It further provides that " [a]ll members are required to immediately contact the Police Chief with any information about corruption, misconduct, or other similar conditions." The Misconduct Policy cites to Pennsylvania's Whistleblower Law and states that employees may not be discharged, threatened, discriminated against, or retaliated against for whistleblowing.

Coatesville's " Complaints Against Police" policy (" Complaints Policy" ) provides citizens with the opportunity to submit a formal complaint. It also sets forth the procedure for investigating allegations and for communicating the disposition of the complaint to the complainant. The Complaints Policy further provides that

[s]upervisors, at each level of command, have a duty and responsibility to monitor the integrity and discipline of subordinates in a manner that preserve and protect the public's trust in the department. The public image of the agency is determined by the quality of the complaint/internal affairs process in responding to allegations of misconduct by the department employees. Supervisors shall appropriately inquire into any information that comes to their attention concerning misfeasance, malfeasance, and nonfeasance of department employees.

Lastly, Coatesville's " Disciplinary Code" provides penalties for the following charges:

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o Failure to report to the Police Chief knowledge of corruption within the Department, including but not limited to any illegal act committed by a member of the Department
o Knowingly and willfully making a false entry in any Departmental report or record
o Failure to properly supervise subordinates; or to prefer disciplinary charges; or to take appropriate disciplinary action
o Failure to conduct proper, thorough, and complete investigation or failure to thoroughly search for, collect, preserve and identify evidence of persons, property and locations in any arrest or investigation
o Failure to follow Departmental procedures for the handling of evidence.

4. Complaints Against Police Officers

According to Coatesville's incident reports, only eight complaints against police officers were made between 2008 and 2013. Two of these complaints were made in 2008, one was made in 2009, and four were made in 2010. The incident reports do not ...


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