free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The defendants argue, however, that their actions were proper because they had probable cause to arrest Mr. Boyd.
When police officers have probable cause to believe that a person has committed a felony, they may make a warrantless arrest in a public place. United States v. Watson, 423 U.S. 411, 423-24, 46 L. Ed. 2d 598, 608-09, 96 S. Ct. 820 (1976); Gramenos v. Jewel Companies, Inc., 797 F.2d 432, 440-41 (7th Cir. 1986), cert. denied 481 U.S. 1028, 95 L. Ed. 2d 525, 107 S. Ct. 1952 (1987). Since Mr. Boyd's warrantless arrest took place on a public street corner, the remaining issue is whether Officers Parisi and Angarone had probable cause to believe that he had committed a felony.
Probable cause is a matter of degree, which varies with both the need for prompt action and the quality of the information that is available to police. Gramenos v. Jewel, supra, 797 F.2d at 438. In this case, there is no dispute that a serious crime, the sexual assault of a 12-year-old, had taken place. Thus, the need for prompt action on the part of the police is apparent. In addition, when an officer receives information from a person who he or she reasonably believes is telling the truth, the officer has probable cause. For example, the Supreme Court has upheld, in the context of a search incident to arrest, a police officer's mistaken arrest made in good faith. Hill v. California, 401 U.S. 797, 801-04, 28 L. Ed. 2d 484, 488-490, 91 S. Ct. 1106 (1971). See also Brown v. Patterson, 823 F.2d 167, 169 (7th Cir.), cert. denied 484 U.S. 855, 98 L. Ed. 2d 117, 108 S. Ct. 162 (1987) (police officer who arrests the wrong person in executing an arrest warrant does not violate the Fourth Amendment unless the officer acts unreasonably).
In this case, the Chicago police took reasonable steps to ascertain the identity of the alleged rapist. When they learned his name, his badge number, and that he worked for the CTA, the officers immediately contacted his supervisor at the CTA garage where he worked. Based on the information the police gave him, the supervisor directed the police to the plaintiff's bus route in Evanston. Finally, the plaintiff identified himself to the officers as "Boyd." At that point, Officers Angarone and Parisi had information that Jimmy Boyd, a CTA bus driver working out of the North Park garage, had been identified by a 12-year-old victim and her mother as the 12-year-old's rapist. Mr. Boyd matched all available information except for his badge number, which Officers Parisi and Angarone did not check. Mr. Boyd argues that the officers could have realized their mistake immediately had they checked his badge number. However, probable cause requires only that a police officer exercise judgment and assess probabilities in particular factual contexts. Gramenos v. Jewel, supra, 797 F.2d at 438-39. Based on the need for prompt action and the specificity and reliability of the information available to them, Officers Angarone and Parisi had probable cause to arrest Mr. Boyd when they stopped him at Sherman and Davis, and they were not required to further check details such as his badge number. See Gero v. Henault, 740 F.2d 78, 84-85 (1st Cir. 1984), cert. denied 469 U.S. 1191, 83 L. Ed. 2d 970, 105 S. Ct. 965 (1985) (where there is probable cause for arrest, the only question is whether it was reasonable for the arresting officers to believe that the person arrested was the one sought). Accordingly, I recommend that the defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted as to Mr. Boyd's claim that his warrantless arrest violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.
Mr. Boyd's complaint also alleges that Officers Parisi and Angarone used excessive force in arresting him and in transporting him to the 23rd District police headquarters. The officers contend that they are entitled to qualified immunity on Mr. Boyd's excessive force claim, and thus should be granted summary judgment. I agree.
Qualified immunity is an affirmative defense that shields government officials who perform discretionary functions from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known. Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 828, 73 L. Ed. 2d 396, 410, 102 S. Ct. 2727 (1982). For a right to be "clearly established" for purposes of determining qualified immunity, the "contours of the right must be sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right." Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640, 107 S. Ct. 3034, 3039, 97 L. Ed. 2d 523 (1987). In other words, an official is not protected by qualified immunity where, in light of pre-existing law, the unlawfulness of his or her actions is apparent. Id. Whether Officers Parisi and Angarone are entitled to qualified immunity for their actions in arresting Mr. Boyd is a question of law for the court to decide, Whitt v. Smith, 832 F.2d 451, 453 (7th Cir. 1987), although a defendant is not entitled to summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity if there are disputed factual issues on which the question of immunity turns. Green v. Carlson, 826 F.2d 647, 650 (7th Cir. 1987).
At the time Mr. Boyd was arrested in 1987, a Section 1983 claim based on the excessive use of force during an otherwise lawful arrest was governed by a Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process standard. Gumz v. Morrissette, 772 F.2d 1395, 1399-1400 (7th Cir. 1985), cert. denied 475 U.S. 1123, 90 L. Ed. 2d 189, 106 S. Ct. 1644 (1986). According to the standard set forth by the Seventh Circuit at that time, the use of force by a police officer was unconstitutional if it:
"1) caused severe injuries, 2) was grossly disproportionate to the need for action under the circumstances, and 3) was inspired by malice rather than merely careless or unwise excess of zeal so that it amounted to an abuse of official power that shocks the conscience."