individual's Fourth Amendment interests'" against the countervailing governmental interests at stake. . . Our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has long recognized that the right to make an arrest or an investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat thereof to effect it.
Graham, at 1871 (citations omitted). The test, in short, is one of "objective reasonableness," to be determined from the totality of the circumstances. O'Toole v. Kalmar, 1990 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1934, slip op. at 7 (N.D. Ill. 1990). Because the governing test is objective, excessive force claims are "susceptible to summary judgment determinations . . . fewer cases should require a full-blown trial for resolution." Id.
While Smith's description of his encounter with the Joliet police officers is drastically different from theirs, the court must take Smith's account as true for the purpose of defendant's motion for summary judgment. The extent of physical contact between Smith and the police officers, according to Smith's deposition testimony and his answers to interrogatories, was as follows: one of the officers (1) "snatched" Smith from the car, at which time Smith's head struck the frame of the car (2) "slung" Smith up against the car (3) told Smith to put his hands on the roof of the car (4) put a gun behind his head (5) "jammed" Smith's chest against the roof of the car, and (6) pushed the gun against Smith's ribs. Smith Dep., 37-46, 56.
This scenario does not rise to the level of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Having observed Smith's repeated, futile efforts to enter the car, the police officers could reasonably have suspected drugs, alcohol, or illegal entry. It would have been reasonable for them to approach Smith with caution, as they would any suspected felon, and keep him at bay with threats of force or the actual use of mild force. That is precisely what they did, even as Smith describes it. As the Seventh Circuit admonished in Lester v. City of Chicago, 830 F.2d 706, 712 (7th Cir. 1987), "not every injury involving a state official sets forth a constitutional claim . . . not every push and shove an officer makes during an arrest will subject the officer to § 1983 liability. The power to arrest carries with it the power to use some force to make an arrest."
Smith's injuries also suggest that the officers did not use excessive force. Smith testified that his chest "bothered [him] for a long time" and that he had "a lot of nightmares since this incident, bad ass dreams and stuff." Smith Dep., pp.67-69. Without minimizing whatever trauma Smith may have experienced, the court notes that his injuries were minimal. Far from being subjected to "actual torture," to borrow Smith's description (Response, p.2), the evidence shows that Smith was dealt with reasonably under the circumstances. Like another court in this district, "[t]his court certainly does not condone the use of any force beyond that which is necessary to the performance of a police officer's duties." Nelson v. City of Elmhurst, 691 F. Supp. 122, 126 (N.D. Ill. 1988). In this case, however, there is no evidence suggesting that the officers used excessive force in detaining August Smith.
Neither is there evidence of an unconstitutional policy or custom practiced by the City of Joliet. Smith sets out a laundry list of incidents dating back to 1963, but it contains nothing more than unsubstantiated, conclusory allegations. Plaintiff's "evidence" consists solely of accounts describing these alleged incidents, without supporting affidavits, deposition testimony, or other competent evidence. He does offer a handful of police reports, but these do not in any way suggest the use of excessive force by Joliet police officers. He does not indicate how many thousands of arrests took place over the 25-year period. In short, Smith has brought no competent evidence revealing a policy or practice on the part of the City of Joliet that violates the Constitution.
For the foregoing reasons, defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted.
JOHN A. NORDBERG
United States District Judge
DATED: February 5, 1991