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Smith v. North Chicago Police Officer Raymond Hartmann

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

September 30, 2014

CHARLES SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
NORTH CHICAGO POLICE OFFICER RAYMOND HARTMANN, NORTH CHICAGO POLICE OFFICER WILLIAM BOGDALA, THE CITY OF NORTH CHICAGO, MAYOR LEON ROCKINGHAM, JR., and former NORTH CHICAGO CHIEF OF POLICE MICHAEL NEWSOME, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT M. DOW, Jr., District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant Mayor Leon Rockingham, Jr.'s motion to dismiss [44] Plaintiff's second amended complaint ("SAC") [39]. The Court denies Defendant's motion for the reasons set forth below.

I. Background[1]

Plaintiff alleges that Officers Hartmann and William Bogdala violated his constitutional rights by using excessive force against him. More specifically, according to Plaintiff's complaint, on December 12, 2011, the two officers entered Plaintiff's hotel room and arrested him in connection with a burglary investigation. Plaintiff ran toward the hotel stairwell to escape with his hands cuffed behind his back, but Hartmann tackled him, brought him to the ground, and subdued him. "[W]ithout justification, " Officer Hartmann then "slammed Plaintiff's face and head into the flooring of the landing in the stairwell, " fracturing his orbital socket and causing permanent vision loss as well as brain injuries. SAC at ¶ 19. Throughout the incident, Officer Bogdala "failed to intervene and in fact encouraged [Hartmann's] use of excessive force." Id. at ¶ 20.

Plaintiff sues Officer Hartmann for use of excessive force in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Officer Bogdala for failing to intervene in violation of § 1983; the City of North Chicago for carrying out a policy of police brutality in violation of Monell v. Dep't. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); the two officers and the City of North Chicago for battery, assault and negligence; and, most relevant here, Mayor Rockingham and the Chief of Police for violating § 1983 in their individual and official capacities (Count V).

In Count V of the first amended complaint ("FAC"), Plaintiff alleged that Mayor Rockingham-supervisor of the police department and final policy maker under the City of North Chicago Code of Ordinances-knew about a pattern of police brutality and failed to stop it. Police brutality in North Chicago was so rampant that, according to the FAC, officers filed 88 "use of force forms" reporting injuries of arrestees between approximately 2006 and 2011. One of these complaints allegedly accused Officer Hartmann of "viciously slam[ing] the face of Dennis Carcamo into the ground and the side of his squad car." Plaintiff further alleged that the NAACP lobbied the police department to issue a "Memorandum of Understanding Between the City of North Chicago and Minority Coalition, " which outlined nine steps to increase transparency in the complaint process, seven of which Rockingham failed to implement. According to Plaintiff, Mayor Rockingham directed human resources to reveal the names of officers filing confidential complaints regarding the misconduct of fellow officers. He allegedly approved and condoned the police force's use of excessive force by "[c]ontinually allowing" it; "[r]efusing to take corrective actions"; "[a]ctively concealing police misconduct"; and "[d]eterring individual officers from reporting misconduct." FAC at ¶ 83. Mayor Rockingham additionally "established a practice" of allowing excessive force and "fostered a climate" that facilitated physical abuse of arrestees. Id. at ¶¶ 86, 88. This policy "directly caused" Plaintiff's constitutional injury at the hands of Officers Hartmann and Bogdala. Id. at ¶ 18.

The Court dismissed Count V of the FAC as to Mayor Rockingham for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(6). Specifically, the Court found that the claim against Mayor Rockingham in his individual capacity failed because the allegations failed to allege his personal involvement with Plaintiff's particular injuries.[2] "In order for a supervisor to be liable, they must be personally responsible for the deprivation of the constitutional right.'" Matthews v. City of East St. Louis, 675 F.3d 703, 708 (7th Cir. 2012) (quoting Chavez v. Illinois State Police, 251 F.3d 612, 651 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting Gentry v. Duckworth, 65 F.3d 555, 561 (7th Cir. 1995))). "To show personal involvement, the supervisor must know about the conduct and facilitate it, approve it, condone it, or turn a blind eye for fear of what they might see." Matthews, 675 F.3d at 708 (quoting Jones v. City of Chicago, 856 F.2d 985, 992-93 (7th Cir. 1988)). The FAC failed to allege that Mayor Rockingham knew of Officer Hartmann, let alone his prior face-smashing incident with Dennis Carcamo. Further, Mayor Rockingham's alleged actions were too attenuated from Plaintiff's injury to state a claim for supervisory liability. As for the FAC's allegations that Rockingham "established a practice" and "fostered a climate" of excessive force, the Court found these allegations to be a Monell claim dressed up as a claim against the mayor in his individual capacity. The Court accordingly granted Plaintiff 28 days to amend the FAC with additional factual allegations of Mayor Rockingham's personal involvement with Plaintiff's injuries.

Plaintiff subsequently filed the SAC, alleging several new events, all of which occurred prior to Plaintiff's arrest. Most relevant here, Mayor Rockingham allegedly learned that a woman named Sharon Jackson had filed an excessive force complaint, accusing Officer Bogdala of punching her in the face and breaking her eye socket. Id. at ¶ 78. Also before Plaintiff's arrest, Assistant Chief of Operations Crystal Phillips allegedly "notified Mayor Rockingham of the excessive and unlawful use of force by the City of North Chicago police officers, including her belief that the behavior of City of North Chicago police officers, including Defendant Officers, was inappropriate and likely to lead to future complaints of excessive and unlawful use of force." Id. at ¶ 76. Due to numerous complaints of excessive force, Chief of Police Michael Newsome recommended firing Officer Bogdala, but, upon learning of this recommendation, Mayor Rockingham "recommended and informed Chief of Police Newsome not to fire" him. Id. at ¶ 82. In 2008, Officer Bogdala was consequently given a "last chance' three-year agreement to continue working as a police officer for the City of North Chicago with the knowledge and approval of Mayor Rockingham." Id. at ¶ 83.

Defendants now seek dismissal of Plaintiffs' complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that the SAC still fails to allege personal involvement and that, alternatively, Mayor Rockingham is entitled to qualified immunity.

II. Motion to Dismiss Legal Standard

The purpose of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss is not to decide the merits of the case; a Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of the complaint. Gibson v. City of Chi., 910 F.2d 1510, 1520 (7th Cir. 1990). As previously noted, reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court takes as true all factual allegations in Plaintiffs' complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in their favor. Killingsworth, 507 F.3d at 618. To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the claim first must comply with Rule 8(a) by providing "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" (Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)), such that the defendant is given "fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Second, the factual allegations in the claim must be sufficient to raise the possibility of relief above the "speculative level, " assuming that all of the allegations in the complaint are true. E.E.O.C. v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "A pleading that offers labels and conclusions' or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). However, "[s]pecific facts are not necessary; the statement need only give the defendant fair notice of what the * * * claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (ellipsis in original). The Court reads the complaint and assesses its plausibility as a whole. See Atkins v. City of Chi., 631 F.3d 823, 832 (7th Cir. 2011); cf. Scott v. City of Chi., 195 F.3d 950, 952 (7th Cir. 1999) ("Whether a complaint provides notice, however, is determined by looking at the complaint as a whole.").

III. Analysis

A. Personal Involvement

"In order for a supervisor to be liable, they must be personally responsible for the deprivation of the constitutional right." Matthews, 675 F.3d at 708 (7th Cir. 2012). Gross negligence is insufficient. Rather, "supervisors must know about the conduct and facilitate it, approve it, condone it, or turn a blind eye for fear of what they might see. They must in other words act either ...


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