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Taylor v. City of Chicago

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

January 8, 2020

Robert A. Taylor, Plaintiff,
City of Chicago, Defendant.



         Chicago police officers detained Robert Taylor because an investigative alert in the system said there was probable cause to arrest Taylor. But the alert should have been canceled months earlier-he had been acquitted of the charge that led to the alert and there was no basis to detain him. Taylor seeks to hold the City of Chicago liable for his detention under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, but the City's policies or practices were not directly responsible for a constitutional violation here. On this record, Taylor's seizure was a one-time administrative failure to follow a constitutional policy. The City's motion for summary judgment is granted, and Taylor's motion is denied.

         I. Legal Standard

         A party moving for summary judgment must show there is no genuine dispute about any material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The moving party must demonstrate that, after construing all facts and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmovant, Laborers' Pension Fund v. W.R. Weis Co., Inc., 879 F.3d 760, 766 (7th Cir. 2018), a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Or, the moving party must show that the nonmoving party has failed to establish an essential element of his claim and could not carry his burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). These standards apply equally to cross-motions for summary judgment. Blow v. Bijora, Inc., 855 F.3d 793, 797 (7th Cir. 2017). When evaluating cross-motions, I consider evidence from both to ensure there is no material dispute. Torry v. City of Chicago, 932 F.3d 579, 584 (7th Cir. 2019).

         II. Background

         Plaintiff Robert Taylor sued individual officers involved in the search of his apartment, his arrest on gun charges, and his later detention after his acquittal. [94].[1]He also sued the City of Chicago. Id. I bifurcated the individual and municipal claims. [87]. The individual officers moved for summary judgment, and I granted their motion in part. [231].

         As described in the first opinion and order, a confidential informant told Chicago police officer Ricky Hughes that Taylor, a convicted felon, had a gun in his apartment. Id. at 1. Hughes procured a warrant to search Taylor and the apartment located at 645 West 62nd Street, Apartment 1S. Id. But the address of Taylor's apartment, and the one that police actually searched, was 643 West 62nd Street, Apartment 1N. Id. After officers searched the apartment and found a gun, an investigative alert based on probable cause was issued for Taylor. Id. He was arrested in June 2011, held in custody for several months, and tried for the crime of unlawful use of a weapon. Id. The judge made note of the incorrect address on the search warrant, quashed the arrest, and found Taylor not guilty. Id.

         A few months later, in December 2011, police officers detained Taylor again, acting on the same investigative alert as before, and it took over an hour to clear up the confusion and release him. Id.; [301] ¶ 28.

         There was probable cause for the search warrant, and it was valid because it was obtained and executed in good faith despite its use of the wrong address. [231]. There was probable cause to arrest Taylor in June 2011, and Taylor could not establish every element of his malicious prosecution claim. Id. Consequently, I granted summary judgment in favor of all the individual defendants, except for one count against Detective Joshua Weitzman because a genuine dispute existed as to his responsibility for canceling the investigative alert, which led to Taylor's second arrest in December 2011. Id. at 23-24.

         The parties then turned to the bifurcated claims against the City of Chicago and filed cross-motions for summary judgment. [287]; [290].[2] The core remaining claim is about the Chicago Police Department's investigative alert policy. Before investigative alerts, the CPD implemented a “stop order” policy. [300] ¶¶ 4, 9. A “stop order” alerted officers that 1) an investigating unit wanted to talk to a specific individual if that individual happened to be arrested or 2) an arrest warrant was on file for a particular individual. Id. ¶¶ 10-11. The computer record of the arrest warrant automatically expired within a week. Id. ¶ 12.

         The stop-order policy was replaced by an “investigative alert” policy in March 2001. Id. ¶ 9.[3] The policy that was in effect at the time of Taylor's arrest allowed two types of investigative alerts: one with probable cause to arrest and one without. [301] ¶ 11. The alert for Taylor was the former. [300] ¶¶ 35-36. Incorporating a probable-cause determination into the alert system reduced the CPD's need to obtain arrest warrants from judges. Id. ¶¶ 17-18. The alerts went into a criminal history records system that police officers used to run background checks. Id. ¶ 14. The policy required officers to take any individual with a probable cause alert into custody. Id. ¶ 16. An alert could only be entered by a Bureau of Investigative Services member[4] that was responsible “for follow-up investigation” and had to be approved by a BIS supervisor. Id. ¶ 14. The BIS member and supervisor were not, however, required to be involved in the investigation or have any first-hand information about the probable-cause determination. Id. ¶ 15.

         Initially, investigative alerts automatically expired in six months. Id. ¶ 8. This policy changed to an auditing process. Id. Instead of automatically expiring, investigative alerts would be audited every 28 days to purge alerts no longer needed. Id. ¶¶ 8, 19.[5] It was the responsibility of any BIS sergeant or above to ensure investigative alert requests were “updated or canceled as necessary” and that investigative alert files were audited every 28 days to ensure the requests on file were canceled when the subject had been apprehended or the alert was no longer needed. Id. ¶ 20; [301] ¶ 13. BIS detectives were also required to notify supervisors when an investigative alert needed to be updated or canceled. [301] ¶ 15.

         In 2011, at the time of Taylor's arrest, thousands of investigative alerts were inputted into the system. Id. ¶ 17. The parties dispute whether any audits took place that year, [300] ¶ 21, but there were no records of any audit completed in 2011, no written criteria for performing audits, and no records demonstrating lieutenants were held accountable for conducting audits. Id. The department had started discussing better recordkeeping practices, like maintaining electronic, instead of paper, records. Id. ¶ 23. As of March 2019, there were hundreds, if not thousands, of open investigative alerts still in filing cabinets. Id. ¶ 26.

         In Taylor's case, Detective Weitzman was the BIS member who inputted the investigative alert. Id. ¶ 35. While Weitzman did not have first-hand knowledge of Officer Hughes's probable-cause determination and was not involved in the investigation, Weitzman concluded there was probable cause to arrest because Taylor was a convicted felon, he was named in a search warrant, and a gun had been recovered from his apartment. Id. ¶¶ 33, 36. The alert was approved by a BIS supervisor, whom Weitzman did not know and also was not involved in Taylor's case. Id. ¶¶ 37-38. Weitzman's responsibility to cancel the alert is a matter of some dispute, see [231] at 24, but there is evidence that after Taylor was acquitted in November 2011, it was Weitzman's responsibility to cancel the alert. [300] ¶ 40; [301] ¶ 23. ...

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