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SCOTT v. CITY OF CHICAGO

February 4, 2004.

ABE SCOTT, et al., Plaintiffs, v., CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SUZANNE CONLON, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Abe Scott and his wife, Shirley Scott (collectively, "plaintiffs"), sue Chicago Police Officers Frederick Hasenfang, David Monies, and Brian O'Leary (collectively, "defendant police officers") and the City of Chicago ("the city") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, plaintiffs allege that the officers conducted a warrantless search of their residence in violation of the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments (Count I). Count I also alleges that the officers' misconduct was part of the city's policy or custom of failing to properly train or discipline officers. Count II alleges the officers conspired to deprive plaintiffs of their constitutional rights. The officers and the city jointly move for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

BACKGROUND

  All facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted. On the evening of February 9, 2002, plaintiffs planned to attend a party at a friend's house in Chicago Heights. Pl's Facts at ¶ 6. Earlier that year, plaintiffs purchased a home alarm system from ADT Security Services, equipping every door with a contact sensor and the interior hallway with a motion detector. Id. at ¶¶ 2-3. The alarm system could be controlled from both a wall unit and a remote control; the Page 2 remote control contained a manually activated panic button. Id. Before leaving for the party, plaintiffs armed the system. However, on the way out of the house, Shirley Scott tripped the burglar alarm. Id. at ¶ 8. Plaintiffs were already outside when they realized the alarm was going off. In a hurry to leave for the parry, Shirley Scott attempted to turn the alarm off with the remote control, instead of returning to use the inside control pad. In doing so, she accidentally activated the panic alarm instead of pressing the off button. Id. at ¶¶ 8-9. Unaware of the mistake, plaintiffs left for the party.

  The alarm alerted ADT. Id. Pursuant to plaintiffs' prior instructions, ADT contacted Shirley Scott's son, Darion Knight. Id. Knight, in turn, called Shirley Scott to inform her that the alarm was going off. Id. Shirley Scott immediately contacted ADT to report that it was a false alarm and that she must have triggered the panic alarm by mistake. Id. at ¶ 9. In the meantime, ADT contacted the Chicago Police Department at 8:34 p.m. and advised that a panic alarm had been triggered at plaintiffs' residence. Id at ¶ 11. At 9:03 p.m., the police dispatcher contacted Officer Hasenfang and advised him to respond to the panic alarm at plaintiffs* home. Id. at ¶ 12. The dispatcher advised Officer Hasenfang that the call "had a lot of time on it," meaning that a substantial amount of time had elapsed since the 911 center initially fielded the alarm call. Id. Officer Hasenfang finished his dinner and proceeded to plaintiffs' residence. Id. at ¶¶ 15-16. He did not activate his siren or MARS lights. Id. at ¶ 19. He arrived at plaintiffs' home about 15-20 minutes after receiving the call from dispatch. Id at ¶ 21.

  Once Officer Hasenfang arrived at plaintiffs' residence, he surveyed the scene. He did not observe any activity in the vicinity of plaintiffs' home. Id. at ¶ 22. Nor did he note any noises or movements suggesting someone was in the house. Id, He heard the alarm ringing. Id. Page 3 Officer Hasenfang testified at his deposition that in his experience, panic alarms often turned out to be false alarms. Id. at ¶ 23. Nevertheless, Officer Hasenfang proceeded to investigate. He noticed that a rear screen door was damaged and unsecured. Id. at ¶ 24; Hasenfang Dep. at ¶ 18. Behind the damaged screen door was a sliding glass door. Officer Hasenfang noticed scratches around the door's lock. Id. The parties dispute whether the door was open. Cf. Hasenfang Dep. at ¶ 18 (door was approximately six inches open), with Pl's Facts at ¶ 4 (alarm cannot activate if a door is open).*fn1 Officer Hasenfang did not enter plaintiffs' home at that time. At 9:19 p.m., he retreated to the garage and called for back-up. He advised the dispatcher that he had "an open door on this panic alarm and nobody's answering," Id, at ¶ 25.

  Between 9:24 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Officers O' Leary, Montes, Simpson, Tunney and Sergeants Robinson and Flores advised the dispatcher they would assist Officer Hasenfang. All officers arrived at plaintiffs' residence about the same time. Sgt. Robinson arrived last, around 9:32 p.m. Id. at ¶ 29. Hasenfang explained the situation to the other officers and they determined to enter plaintiffs' home. Id. at ¶¶ 30, 34. While other officers entered plaintiffs' home through the rear door, Officer Tunney stood watch outside the home for any intruders trying to escape. Id. at ¶ 34, Upon entry, the officers fanned out to search the premises. Id. Hasenfang was first and searched the master bedroom. Id. Officer Simpson and Sergeants Robinson and Flores noticed that the house was in disarray and that the hvac floor covers had been removed. Id. at ¶ 37. After establishing that the home was secure, the officers gathered in Page 4 plaintiffs' family room. Hasenfang emerged from the master bedroom carrying three guns that he discovered laying on the bed. Id. at ¶ 38. Officers Simpson and Tunney and Sergeants Robinson and Flores left shortly thereafter; Officers Hasenfang, Monies and O'Leary remained. Id. at ¶ 39.

  At 9:47 p.m., the police dispatcher informed the remaining officers that plaintiffs' relative would arrive in 20 minutes. Id. at ¶ 41. When John Moore, Shirley Scott's brother, arrived, he saw only one police car parked down the block. Id. at ¶¶ 42-44. Moore waited outside for five minutes, and then rang plaintiffs' door bell. Id. Two white police officers answered the door, and took Moore to the back of the house. Id. As the officers showed Moore the rear door and explained that they suspected burglars had entered there, Moore noticed that the house was in total disarray and that the hvac vents had been removed. Id. at ¶ 44. Returning to the family room, Moore saw the officers examine plaintiffs' firearms on the dining room table. Hasenfang 11/18/03 Dep. at p. 55. When the officers inquired whether the firearms were registered, Moore responded that they were not Id. Moore never saw a third officer in the home. Pl's Facts at ¶ 45.

  Another police officer then arrived. Id, The two officers left Moore and went outside to talk to the arriving officer. Id. By 10:13 p.m., Officers Monies and O'Leary had left plaintiffs' home and were on then-way to the 8th District station to inventory the firearms discovered inside plaintiffs' home. Id at ¶ 47. Meanwhile, Hasenfang completed a police report and gave it to Moore. Id. at ¶ 49.

  Shirley Scott returned home alone around 11:00 p.m., while Abe Scott remained at the party. Id. at ¶ 50, No police were present. Moore was still in the bedroom because every time Page 5 he tried to leave the room he triggered the motion sensor and set off the alarm. Id. Abe Scott arrived around 3:00 a.m. Id. at ¶ 51. He discovered that $750 in cash he had given his wife for the mortgage payment was missing from the bedroom along with his wife's jewelry. Id. Two mink coats were missing from a closet; the closet door had been run off its tracks.

  For purposes of their Monell claim, plaintiffs also introduce evidence relating to the Police Department's disciplinary histories and polices as well as the officers' individual disciplinary histories. Each of the defendant police officers has been the subject of multiple civilian complaints. Officer Hasenfang has been the subject of 22 civilian complaints in the last 12 years. Id. at ¶ 62. Officer Monies had 19 civilian complaints in 10 years and Officer O'Leary had 21 civilian complaints in 7 years. Id. None of these complaints were sustained. Id.

  Plaintiffs introduce multiple studies and reports on the Chicago Police Department, including the 1997 Report of the Commission on Police Integrity ("the Webb Report") and Internal Affairs Division Biennial Reports from 1993 through 2000. The Webb Report discusses potential changes in officer field training. Id. at ¶ 55. The biennial reports record the complaints civilians have lodged against the Chicago Police Department. Id. at ¶¶ 56-60. Plaintiffs submit the testimony of Lt. Thomas Tranckitello, an Internal Affairs superintendent, which discusses the process of filing and investigating civilian complaints against Chicago police officers. Id. at ¶ 61. Defendants submit the city's official policies regarding disciplinary procedures, as well as statistics detailing the number of incidents individual officers were involved in from 1993-2001. Def's Facts at ¶¶ 21-33. Defendants also submit reports detailing the disciplinary activity carried out by the Office of Professional Standards and the Internal Affairs Division from 1993 — 2001. Id. at ¶ 27. Plaintiffs concede the accuracy of these policies and both sets of data. However, Page 6 plaintiffs contend their evidence demonstrates that the city has adopted a widespread custom in which officers understand that their unlawful acts will not be subject to disciplinary measures.

  DISCUSSION

  The gravamen of plaintiffs' complaint is that the defendant police officers illegally entered their home. According to plaintiffs, this unlawful entry led to the seizure of plaintiffs' firearms as well as the theft of cash, jewelry and the mink coats from the master bedroom. Plaintiffs further contend that the theft was caused by ...


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