Jones v. Town of East Haven
Isolated acts of excessive force may be insufficient to establish a municipal policy of deliberate indifference to the rights of African Americans. In 1997, Officer Robert Flodquist reported to a dispatcher that he was following an Oldsmobile that made a U-turn and proceeded to speed away. East Haven police officers followed the Oldsmobile onto Interstate 95 and into New Haven and then blocked the Oldsmobile, which stopped. Flodquist approached with his weapon drawn. The driver of the Oldsmobile, Malik Jones, shifted into reverse. Officer Flodquist claimed that Jones attempted to strike him with his motor vehicle, and he killed Jones in self-defense. Jones' mother claimed that Jones placed the motor vehicle in reverse because Flodquist started to shoot. Jones' mother sued, alleging the officers and the municipality violated 42 Unites States Code §1983. At trial, Police Chief James Criscuolo testified that there were no formal complaints about racial profiling between May 1993 and July 1998 and that he circulated a memo, after he heard that off-duty officers wore an offensive shirt, captioned "Boyz on the Hood," which showed white officers holding white suspects on the hood of a police car. Shane Gray testified that in 1991 he leapt out of a motor vehicle at a police block and that Officer Flodquist struck him with his police cruiser and shot at him. Donald Jackman testified that after he bit an East Haven officer in 1996, an officer said "You're lucky you're not a n----- because you'd be f------ dead." Patricia Snowden testified that in 2000 East Haven police officers punched her and called her a "n-----" and a "b----." A jury concluded that the municipality violated Malik Jones' civil rights. The municipality appealed. The plaintiff's evidence showed only two or three instances over several years in which officers allegedly abused the rights of African Americans. Although the plaintiff established instances of reprehensible conduct, the plaintiff failed to establish a widespread pattern of abusive police conduct against African Americans, or that supervisors failed to take any corrective action. The 2nd Circuit remanded with instructions to grant judgment to the municipality.