anyone other than Wolf applied any force to Trout during the arrest; Trout himself testified that Wolf was the only Defendant to use force during the arrest.
Trout argues that the mere presence of Frega, Heinrich and Steinman at the scene gave rise to their liability, because they acted with deliberate indifference for Trout's welfare. However, beyond this unsupported argument, Trout has demonstrated no causal link between those three officers and the complained of force.
As such, even if that force was excessive, there is no genuine issue of material fact as to those officers. Presence is not enough. The mere presence of the three officers, without more, does not constitute their requisite § 1983 personal involvement in any constitutional violation which may have occurred. See Apostal v. City of Crystal Lake, 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17407, No. 94 C 50068, 1995 WL 692680, at *6 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 22, 1995).
Assuming arguendo that all officers were linked to the alleged violation, all are nevertheless entitled to qualified immunity. Whether Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity is a question of law. Jones by Jones v. Webb, 45 F.3d 178 (7th Cir. 1995). The doctrine of qualified immunity shields government officials from civil liability when they perform discretionary functions to the extent that their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known. Lanigan v. Village of E. Hazel Crest, 913 F. Supp. 1202 (N.D. Ill. 1996) (citation omitted). In determining whether the rights were clearly established at the time of the alleged violation, courts must ask "whether the law was clear in relation to the specific facts" confronting the officers when they acted. Green v. Carlson, 826 F.2d 647, 649 (7th Cir. 1987).
Inquiry within the "excessive force" context requires the court to determine whether police officers' actions were objectively reasonable, in light of facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. Lanigan v. Village of E. Hazel Crest, 913 F. Supp. 1202 (N.D. Ill. 1996). Courts determine whether a particular amount of force is reasonable by considering the setting in which it was administered rather than hindsight. Sledd v. Lindsay, 864 F. Supp. 819, 827 (N.D. Ill. 1994). "The calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments--in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving--about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation." Id. Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge's chambers, subjects defendants to § 1983 liability for excessive force. Lester v. City of Chicago, 830 F.2d 706, 712 (7th Cir. 1987).
Claims of violations during arrests are properly analyzed under the Fourth Amendment. Lanigan, 913 F. Supp. at 1207. While examining a claim of use of excessive force, the United States Supreme Court recently held that "because the Fourth Amendment provides an explicit textual source of constitutional protection against this sort of physically intrusive governmental conduct, that Amendment, not the more generalized notice of 'substantive due process,' must be the guide for analyzing [claims of excessive force]." Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 109 S. Ct. 1865, 1871, 104 L. Ed. 2d 443 (1989).
The Fourth Amendment covers claims for excessive force under a reasonableness standard by balancing "the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual's Fourth Amendment interests" against the governmental interests at stake. United States v. Place, 462 U.S. 696, 703, 77 L. Ed. 2d 110, 103 S. Ct. 2637 (1983). Plaintiffs have the burden of showing that the right allegedly violated was clearly established for purposes of denying an officer qualified immunity from a claim under § 1983. Sledd, 864 F. Supp. at 827. Plaintiffs must show that reasonable officers, confronted with the same facts at the same time, would have known that they were violating constitutional rights. Schertz v. Waupaca County, 875 F.2d 578, 583 (7th Cir. 1989). This requires plaintiffs to offer either closely analogous cases, or to evidence that the officer's conduct so patently violates a constitutional right that reasonable officers would have known of the violation without guidance from the courts. Id.
Although many cases hold that handcuffing is a reasonable restraint, neither the court nor the parties have found cases stating that it is unreasonable. See Soares v. State of Conn., 8 F.3d 917 (2d Cir. 1993) (stating that handcuffing is reasonable in many, if not most, arrest situations, even where the arrestee does not attempt to resist or flee). The decision to handcuff, and the choice of method to use in doing so, is discretionary. Id. Officers consider many factors when making that decision: the severity of the crime, whether the suspect poses a threat to the officer or others, and whether the arrestee attempts to flee. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 104 L. Ed. 2d 443, 109 S. Ct. 1865 (1989).
In determining whether qualified immunity applies to officers executing warrants, courts should not require officers to err on the side of caution out of fear of being sued. Sledd, 864 F. Supp. at 827. "Obviously, police officers must use some physical force in handcuffing an arrestee. Likewise, in order to be effective, the handcuffs must be tight enough to prevent the arrestee's hands from slipping out." Apostal, 1995 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17407, *17, 1995 WL 692680 at *5 (granting summary judgment in favor of officers where court found that officers acted reasonably in handcuffing and pushing plaintiff at time of his cooperative arrest pursuant to a warrant; plaintiff failed to show that injuries were caused by handcuffing and pushing). Officers need not apply the least amount of force necessary, rather, they need to apply a reasonable amount of force. Id. (citation omitted). See also, Platek v. Village of Lisle, 1994 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11436, No. 92 C 7479, 1994 WL 444787 (N.D. Ill. Aug. 14, 1994) (determining that wrist grabbing and arm twisting, which caused bruises during handcuffing, was not excessive).
In the instant case, given the totality of the circumstances, the court finds that the officers acted reasonably. Wolf was aware that Trout had allegedly harassed Trout's girlfriend. Wolf knew of at least one violent domestic disturbance between Trout and that girlfriend. Trout was four inches taller and approximately one-hundred pounds heavier than Wolf. Trout had been weight-lifting immediately before the arrest. Although Trout may have protested about an injury, his wrist showed no observable signs of prior injury. Considering all these factors, Wolf made the discretionary decision to handcuff Trout. There is no evidence that in doing so, Wolf failed to exercise proper procedure. (Indeed, Trout has not even shown that any injury resulted.)
Neither the parties nor the court located analogous case law holding that handcuffing alone is unreasonable. Even if all facts presented by Trout are true,
the court finds that Wolf's actions were reasonable in light of clearly established case law, as was the presence of his codefendants at the scene. Thus, Wolf and his codefendants are entitled to qualified immunity. Since a reasonable officer in Defendants' situation would have believed the conduct lawful in light of clearly established law and information available to him at the time. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 252, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986).
For the foregoing reasons, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
CHARLES RONALD NORGLE, SR., Judge
United States District Court
JUDGMENT IN A CIVIL CASE
Decision by Court. This action came to a hearing before the Court. The issues have been heard and a decision has been rendered.
IT IS ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that summary judgment is granted in favor of defendants JOSEPH FREGA, JOSEPH HEINRICH, ROBERT STEINMAN, and JEFFREY WOLF and against plaintiff, JAY M. TROUT.
May 2, 1996