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Halcomb v. City of Sacramento

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 20, 2016

ARLIE HALCOMB, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF SACRAMENTO; JUSTIN BROWN, PAUL FONG, ANDREW LEAL, and Does 1 to 50, inclusive, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          MORRISON C. ENGLAND JR. UNITED STATES DISTRTCT JUDGE.

         Through the present lawsuit, Plaintiff Arlie Halcomb ("Plaintiff") alleges eleven claims against Defendant City of Sacramento and three of its police officers, Defendants Justin Brown, Paul Fong and Andrew Leal. Each claim stems from actions taken by Defendants in attempting to serve a felony bench warrant on August 8, 2014. Plaintiff's operative pleading, the Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") includes two claims brought against the City of Sacramento for municipal liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Fourth Claim charges the City with constitutional violations predicated on an unlawful policy, custom or practice and the Fifth Claim alleges a failure to adequately train or supervise its police officers. Defendant City ("Defendant") now moves to dismiss both of those claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)[1] for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.[2] For the reasons set forth below, that Motion is DENIED.[3]

         BACKGROUND[4]

         According to his SAC, Plaintiff was awakened by his fiancée, Christina Bernal, at about midnight on August 8, 2014. Ms. Bernal told Plaintiff that someone was trying to break into their second floor apartment. When Plaintiff went to the front window and drew the curtain back, he saw several persons attempting to wrench the window from its track. Ultimately, those persons identified themselves as police officers and claimed they had a warrant. After officers threatened to kick in the front door, Plaintiff opened it and was taken into custody. According to Plaintiff, in the process of being handcuffed he was roughly "grabbed" by the officers who proceeded to twist his right arm and shoulder behind his back and up to his neck. Plaintiff claims he was then thrown onto his couch with such force that the center support was broken.

         When the officers asked for "Rosa Davalos, " Plaintiff claims he told them that Ms. Davalos lived in the neighboring unit as clearly labeled on the mailbox.[5] Despite being informed that the officers had entered the wrong residence, Plaintiff claimed they remained at his apartment for almost an hour and ran identification checks for warrants on both Plaintiff and his fiancée.

         As indicated above, Plaintiff claims that the City's indiscriminate policy permitting officers to conduct an identification check on anyone with whom police officers come into contact violates the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution through 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff further contends that Defendant's policy permitting warrants to be served at outdated addresses points to similar violations, as does Defendant's failure to train its officers to avoid such practices.

         In moving for dismissal of Plaintiff's municipal liability claims, Defendant alleges Plaintiff has failed to identify facts pointing to any constitutional deprivation. The SAC nonetheless makes the following allegations in its Fourth Claim which charges Defendant with maintaining a policy, custom or practice permitting its police officers to both run warrant checks on any encountered individual and to allow attempted service of warrants at demonstrably wrong addresses:

42. Defendant CITY OF SACRAMENTO maintained and/or acquiesced to a policy, custom or practice permitting its police officers to (1) conduct a warrant check on every person questioned, detained, and/or arrested, where identifying information was obtained by police officers from the person contacted; and (2) conduct [??] attempted services of warrants at addresses without the requisite "reason to believe" (i.e., probable cause) that the suspect was located at the address where the warrant was served.
43. Defendants BROWN AND FONG have testified, under oath, that they acted pursuant to the above-described policy, custom or practice in connection with the instant matter, as well as numerous other incidents in the course of their careers as police officers employed by CITY OF SACRAMENTO. Specifically, Defendants Brown and Fong testified that 1) they conduct warrant searches on nearly every single person they receive identifying information from; and (2) that they have attempted to serve warrants at incorrect/outdated addresses in the past. Defendant BROWN testified that he assumes, without any personal "reason to believe, " that the information obtained by another police officer attempting to serve an arrest warrant is correct and lawful. Defendant BROWN testified that he is aware of and has personally been involved in several attempts to serve warrants that were conducted at the incorrect/outdated addresses. Defendant FONG testified that he relies on address information obtained from various and sometimes unknown sources for the purpose of obtaining arrest warrant service addresses. Defendant FONG testified that there is no policy or guideline as to the staleness of address information on which he relies when obtaining addresses for service of arrest warrants. Defendant FONG testified that he is aware of and has personally been involved in several attempts to serve warrants that were conducted at the incorrect/outdated addresses.
44. Defendant CITY OF SACRAMENTO was deliberately indifferent to the existence of the policy, custom, or practice described above.
45. Defendant CITY OF SACRAMENTO's policy, custom or practice was the moving force behind constitutional violations experienced by Plaintiff herein, because it (1) caused the unreasonably prolonged arrest/detention of Plaintiff; and (2) caused Defendants BROWN, FONG, and LEAL to attempt service of the Davalos arrest warrant at an address that they did not have a "reason to believe" Davalos was located at.

         Pl.'s SAC, ECF No. 36, ¶¶ 42-45.

         Additionally, Plaintiff Fifth Claim alleges a failure to adequately train or supervise against the City, making the following additional averments:

47. Defendant CITY OF SACRAMENTO failed to adequately train or supervise its police officers with regard to (1) when it is lawful to question, detain, and/or arrest a suspect for the purpose of conducting a warrant check; and (2) how to obtain information constituting "reason to believe" (i.e., probable cause) that a ...

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