Some East Haven cops may be reprehensible people, but it's not the police department's policy to be reprehensible.
This isn't a po-tay-to/po-tah-to distinction; there's a $900,000 difference between policy and coincidence, according to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
A jury awarded Emma Jones $900,000 in damages after her son, Malik, was trailed by a police cruiser and later shot to death at close range by East Haven officer Robert Flodquist, reports Thomson Reuters News and Insight. Malik, a 21-year-old African American male, was unarmed, and the cops' actions were widely considered to be racial profiling.
Wednesday, the Second Circuit reversed the judgment.
Emma Jones claimed that the East Haven cops engaged in racial profiling when they followed Malik, and that East Haven's "custom, policy, or usage of deliberate indifference to the rights of black people caused the killing of her son in violation of the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments." At trial, the jury found the Town liable. On appeal, East Haven argued that the trial evidence was legally insufficient to demonstrate a custom, policy, or usage of deliberate indifference which caused Jones's death.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.
Under the standards set in Monell v. Department of Social Services, a municipality can be held liable in a civil rights claims if the deprivation of the plaintiff's rights under federal law is caused by a governmental custom, policy, or usage. It is not enough, however, for a plaintiff to merely to identify conduct properly attributable to the municipality; she must also demonstrate that, through its deliberate conduct, the municipality was the 'moving force' behind the injury.
Here, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals found that, while the evidence "unquestionably showed instances of reprehensible and at times illegal and unconstitutional conduct by individual officers of the EHPD," it did not prove that Malik's death was attributable to a deliberate East Haven policy.
The appellate court's decision doesn't mean that East Haven was innocent; only that Emma Jones failed to present evidence of an improper governmental custom, policy, or usage.
- Jones v. Town of East Haven (FindLaw's CaseLaw)
- Connecticut Town Ruled Not Liable in Fatal 1997 Shooting (Reuters)
- Is Philly's 'Stop and Frisk' Racial Profiling? (FindLaw's Blotter)