United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
WILLIAM E. SMITH, CHIEF JUDGE.
Joshua Robinson has filed a ten-count amended complaint
asserting various claims against the City of Providence and
several of its police officers. See generally
Compl., ECF No. 58. The complaint charges illegality on the
part of these Defendants for their respective roles in an
alleged beating and subsequent prosecution of Robinson.
Id. ¶¶ 1-2. All that is at issue now,
though, is the City's motion to dismiss count ten of the
complaint. See generally Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No.
61. This motion is DENIED.
count ten, Robinson maintains that the City violated 42
U.S.C. § 1983 by creating a culture supportive of police
misconduct by routinely failing to adequately discipline
misbehaving officers. Compl. ¶¶ 115-17. This
culture, Robinson says, contributed to his injuries.
Id. This culture, moreover, according to Robinson,
is the result of a civilian-complaint procedure that is
ineffectual by design - intentionally frustrating
investigation of citizens' concerns - which results in a
miniscule number of sustained complaints every year.
Id. ¶¶ 76- 85, 115-17.
has much work to do in order to get this claim to trial.
See e.g., Hocking v. City of Roseville, No.
Civ. S-06-0316 RRB EFB, 2008 WL 1808250, at *7 (E.D. Cal.
Apr. 22, 2008) (granting summary judgment for municipality on
similar claim where plaintiffs “did not present any
expert testimony demonstrating that the City is responsible
for creating or maintaining a policy whereby civilian
complaints are meaningless. Nor did [p]laintiffs present any
other evidence demonstrating that the investigations into
citizen complaints against police officers in general, or
[defendant officers] in particular, were cursory, inadequate
this early stage of the litigation - where the Court takes
his averments as true and makes all reasonable inferences in
his favor, Gargano v. Liberty Int'l Underwriters,
Inc., 572 F.3d 45, 48 (1st Cir. 2009) - his claim in
count ten must be said to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted. See, e.g., Beck v. City of
Pittsburgh, 89 F.3d 966, 973-76 (3d Cir. 1996)
(reversing judgment as a matter of law where, inter alia,
citizen-complaint procedures were “structured to
curtail disciplinary action and stifle investigations into
the credibility of the City's police officers”);
Douglas v. City of Springfield, C.A. No.
14-30210-MAP, 2017 WL 123422, at *10 (D. Mass. Jan. 12, 2017)
(“If a jury concluded that Springfield's
[citizen-complaint] process was ineffective or weak, it could
further conclude that a resulting failure to take appropriate
action in response to complaints of excessive force might
lead Springfield's officers to believe such conduct would
be tolerated.”). “Tolerance of unconstitutional
conduct, ” the First Circuit has agreed, “is
tantamount to encouragement of such conduct and is therefore
a basis for municipal liability.” Foley v. City of
Lowell, 948 F.2d 10, 14- 15 (1st Cir. 1991) (quoting
Skibo v. City of New York, 109 F.R.D. 58, 65
(E.D.N.Y. 1985)); accord Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915
F.2d 845, 851 (3d Cir. 1990) (“[I]t is logical to
assume that continued official tolerance of repeated
misconduct facilitates similar unlawful actions in the
Court recently said as much about an identical claim in
another case. See Howie v. City of Providence ex rel.
Lombardi, C.A. No. 17-604-JJM-LDA, 2019 WL 320497, at *3
(D.R.I. Jan. 24, 2019) (McConnell, J.) (denying motion for
judgment on the pleadings where plaintiff alleged “that
the City has cultivated an environment in which Providence
Police officers are undeterred from misconduct because of the
City's lack of discipline, training, and/or
City's motion to dismiss, ECF No. 61, is DENIED for the
foregoing reasons. Also for the foregoing reasons, the Court
modifies Magistrate Judge Lincoln D. Almond's order, ECF
No. 39, regarding the City's discovery obligations.
Without the benefit of Robinson's amended complaint,
Magistrate Judge Almond limited the responses the City was
required to give to two of Robinson's interrogatories.
Mem. & Order 4-5. But because answers to these
interrogatories - numbers six and ten - are relevant to the
cognizable claim in count ten, the City shall now fully
respond to them. See Groark v. Timek, 989 F.Supp.2d
378, 394 (D.N.J. 2013) (“[T]he requested
[citizen-complaint] files are fair game for discovery ...