CONSTITUTIONAL LAW

Municipal Policy and Custom • Directive 22

Whitehead v. City of Philadelphia, PICS Case No. 14-0382 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 19, 2014) Rice, M.J. (5 pages).

Plaintiff failed to raise any genuine issues of material fact concerning whether a municipal policy or custom violated her constitutional rights. Summary judgment granted.

Police responded to a dispute between plaintiff and her neighbor. Plaintiff, allegedly injured by police, filed a complaint against city, alleging that police used excessive force, falsely arrested and imprisoned her, and assaulted her. She claimed that city violated her rights under 42 U.S.C. §1983 and failed to investigate, train, supervise, and or discipline its police officers by “adopting a policy of failing to disclose the identity of all police witness [sic] to an incident” (i.e., the code of silence).

City moved for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff failed to properly plead and or produce evidence of the required elements of her action, including any failure to train, any policy or custom showing deliberate indifference and or any constitutional harm caused by any alleged policy or custom. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted the motion.

Plaintiff failed to raise any genuine issues of material fact concerning whether a municipal policy or custom violated her constitutional rights. She also failed to explain how the policy at issue caused any violation of her constitutional rights.

Plaintiff argued that she failed to identify witnesses and additional defendants to her claim because of city’s “blue code” policy, or the code of silence among police officers. According to plaintiff, this policy “prohibits police from intervening or providing truthful information against constitutional violations and other unlawful misconduct committed by their fellow officers.” The policy in questions requires platoon commanders to “review and initial all arrest and investigate reports,” and “ensure that only those officers who are necessary for the successful outcome of the case are listed.” Standard operating procedure (SOP) clarifies that the purpose of this policy is to ensure that “only those officers necessary for the prosecution will be subpoenaed to court.”

Plaintiff failed to identify a constitutional right that is violated by the policy. There is no constitutional right to a police investigation. Even a negligent police investigation cannot serve as the basis for a constitutional claim.

Plaintiff also alleged city’s failure to investigate, train, supervise and or discipline Philadelphia police officers. The policy and SOP, however, do not govern investigating, training, supervising and or disciplining. City pointed to the police department’s actual policy regarding proper use of force (Directive 22). Plaintiff offered no evidence on the adoption or enforcement of Directive 22. Thus, her claim failed to allege any “direct causal link between a municipal policy or custom and the alleged constitutional deprivation.” Plaintiff pled no causal link between the policy and or SOP and her alleged injuries, and failed to show a causal link with any other policy, including Directive 22.