United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. MCCONNELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff in this case, Charm Howie, seeks to hold the City
of Providence liable for the alleged misconduct of three
Providence Police officers through a theory of municipal
liability. The Defendant City of Providence has moved for
judgment on the pleadings, asking the Court to dismiss Counts
One through Five. ECF No. 17. Defendant's motion is
DENIED for the following reasons.
Court begins with a recitation of the necessary facts pleaded
by Mr. Howie in the light most favorable to him. The Court
accepts as true all well-pleaded facts from Mr, Howie's
Complaint (ECF No. 1) and draws all reasonable inferences in
his favor. Doe v. Brown Univ., 896 F.3d. 127, 130
(1st Cir. 2018) (quoting Kando v. R.I. State Bd of
Elections, 880 F.3d 53, 58 (1st Cir. 2018)). Further,
the Court" supplement[s] those facts by reference to
documents incorporated in the pleadings."
Kando, 880 F.3d at 56 (quoting Jardin De Las
Catalinas Ltd. P'Ship v. Joyner, 766 F.3d. 127, 130
(1st Cir. 2014)).
Howie attended the Providence Police Training Academy in
2014, Defendants Matthew Sheridan and Michael Place were also
attending the Academy that year. ECF No. 1 at 3. During his
time at the Police Academy, Defendants often made comments to
Mr. Howie, criticizing him and showing they did not want Mr.
Howie there, telling him, "you need to quit."
Id. at 3. Following a "feedback session"
wherein Officer Sheridan told him to "get out of
here," Mr. Howie was dismissed from the Academy by
Providence Police Major Francisco Colon with little
explanation other than that it was not "working
out." Id. at 4. Mr. Howie obtained other
employment and had no further contact with the Defendants
until the incident in question. Id.
year later, Mr. Howie was driving home and passed two parked
Providence Police vehicles that he recognized belonged to
Officers Sheridan and Place. Mr. Howie made eye contact with
Officer Place, nodded, and then saw Officer Sheridan running
to get into his car. Mr. Howie saw Officer Sheridan turn his
car around, and both Officers began following Mr. Howie in
their vehicles. Id. at 4-5. Mr. Howie continued
driving with no sign that Officers Place and Sheridan
intended for him to pull over. He admits he was driving with
a headlight out. Id. There were other police cars
with flashing lights in front of a house down the street from
Mr. Howie's home, and upon passing those lights, Officers
Place and Sheridan put on theirs. Believing the officers were
responding to the situation down the street, Mr. Howie
continued a short way to his home and parked in his driveway.
Id. Mr. Howie exited his vehicle and walked to the
front of his home, where Officers Sheridan and Place were
parked at the end of his driveway. Id. at 5-6.
Place and Sheridan approached Mr. Howie. Officer Sheridan
began swearing at Mr. Howie and told him that his headlight
was out. Mr. Howie acknowledged that his headlight was out
and that the police might ticket him. He asked the officers
not to swear below the window where his children were
sleeping. Id. Mr. Howie turned around slowly and
Officer Sheridan told him, "I know you; you're all
set." Id. At this point, Officers Sheridan and
Place continued to make comments to Mr. Howie and discuss the
possibility of him receiving a ticket for the headlight until
Defendant Patrick Potter arrived. Id. Officer Potter
was the supervisor of Officers Sheridan and Place.
Id. at 2. When Officer Potter arrived, he told
Officer Sheridan to "put [Mr. Howie] on the car,"
at which point Officer Sheridan pushed Mr. Howie against the
car and patted him down, maintaining physical contact for an
extended period while Officer Potter searched Mr. Howie's
car, without consent. Id. at 7. There was no
indication that the officers suspected that Mr. Howie was
armed and dangerous at any time before or during the search.
Sheridan and Place brought Mr. Howie to one of the police
vehicles and put him inside. Id. After Mr. Howie
fielded yet another series of verbal insults from Officer
Sheridan, Officer Sheridan lunged at Mr. Howie and tried to
choke him. Officers Place and Potter stood back and watched
until Officer Potter noticed a neighbor watching and told
Officer Sheridan to calm down. Id. at 8. Officer
Potter told Mr. Howie to stop looking at him
"violently" and asked Mr. Howie what he wanted to
do next. Mr. Howie indicated he wanted to speak to a
supervisor, and Officer Potter told him that he was the
supervisor. Id. Mr. Howie tried to discuss the
situation, but Officer Potter swore at him and told Officer
Sheridan to arrest Mr. Howie. Officer Sheridan told Mr.
Howie, "I was just going to give you a ticket, but my
boss told me I have to arrest you." Id.
Throughout this encounter, Officers Sheridan and Place both
made calls to other former classmates at the Academy who had
known Mr. Howie. Id. at 9. Ultimately, Mr. Howie was
arrested and brought to the police station, where he was
processed and released. Id. at 8.
Mr. Howie's arrest, he was charged with two traffic
violations and disorderly conduct, a municipal violation.
Id. at 9. When Mr. Howie refused to plead guilty to
the municipal charge, the City refiled the case in Rhode
Island District Court, charging him with disorderly conduct,
R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-45-l(a)(1), and added charges of
simple assault, R.I. Gen. Laws § 11-5-3 and resisting
arrest, R.I. Gen. Laws § 12-7-10. Id. at 9.
Over sixteen months, Mr. Howie appeared in court twenty
times. Id. Mr. Howie was found not guilty on all
and importantly to the matter at issue in the City's
motion, Mr. Howie alleges that the Providence Police
Department received 200 civilian contacts in 2015, ail of
which were reviewed by the Chief of Police. Id. at
10. Seventy-five of these contacts became formal complaints,
and the City sustained just seven of these. Of those seven,
only one officer received discipline beyond a written
Howie asserted nine Counts in his complaint. Counts One,
Three, and Five allege violations of the Fourth, Fifth, and
Fourteenth Amendments actionable under 42 U.S.C. §1983.
Counts Two and Four allege violations of the Rhode Island
Constitution. These five Counts are alleged against all
Defendants. Counts Six, Seven, Eight, and Nine are common law
torts alleged only against the Defendant Officers. Both the
Defendant Officers and Defendant City of Providence have
filed answers. ECF No. 3 and 9. Defendant City of Providence
filed this Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. ECF No. 14.
It later amended the motion. ECF No. 17. Mr. Howie objects
(ECF No. 16) to the motion, to which the City replied. ECF.
No. 18. Mr. Howie filed a sur-reply. ECF No. 19.