his department provides to all deputies, including defendant VanThof. See Affidavits of John J. Perrone, Jr., Lawrence W. Feasel, Anthony M. Ciaccia, Jr., Cornelius J. Flood, III, and Robert J. Squires (Docket # 18). "The simple recitation that there was a failure to train municipal employees does not suffice to allege that a municipal custom or policy caused the plaintiff's injury." Dwares v. City of New York, 985 F.2d at 100. Lewis has done nothing more than make unsupported allegations, hence, his failure to train argument must fail. Neighbour v. Covert, 68 F.3d 1508, 1512 (2d Cir. 1995), cert. denied, U.S. , 134 L. Ed. 2d 214, 116 S. Ct. 1267 (1996)(mere allegations of failure to train is insufficient to establish a municipal policy or custom).
2. Deliberate Indifference to False Arrests : A § 1983 plaintiff may also establish a municipal policy or custom by showing that the supervisor, alerted to the possibility of unconstitutional arrests by his subordinates, exhibited deliberate indifference. However, the fact that Meloni was in a high position of authority is an insufficient basis for imposing personal liability. Al-Jundi v. Estate of Rockefeller, 885 F.2d 1060, 1065 (2d Cir. 1989); McKinnon v. Patterson, 568 F.2d 930, 934 (2d Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1087, 55 L. Ed. 2d 792, 98 S. Ct. 1282 (1978). Further, mere negligence is insufficient for Meloni to incur § 1983 liability for damages. Wise v. New York City Police Dept., 928 F. Supp. 355, 368 (S.D.N.Y. 1996). "Supervisory liability may be imposed when an official has actual or constructive notice of unconstitutional practices and demonstrates gross negligence or deliberate indifference by failing to act." Meriwether v. Coughlin, 879 F.2d 1037, 1048 (2d Cir. 1989)(emphasis supplied).
In seeking summary judgment, Meloni avers that he had no direct or supervisory involvement in the events involving the investigation, arrest, or prosecution of Lewis. Affidavit of Sheriff Andrew P. Meloni at PP5-6. Meloni also states that he does not tolerate or acquiesce in his subordinates violating the constitutional rights of any suspect. Id. at P2. Supporting Sheriff Meloni's assertions are the affidavits of other high-level members of his department. (Docket # 18). These affidavits detail the disciplinary procedures utilized by the Monroe County Sheriff Department in handling allegations of misconduct and the training deputies receive to avoid engaging in misconduct.
Lewis responds to this aspect of Meloni's motion by claiming that a question of fact exists as to whether the Sheriff tolerates unconstitutional arrests. The only support Lewis submits for this claim are copies of claims and complaints filed by individuals against one or more sheriff deputies for the years 1987, 1988, 1990 and 1991. See exhibit "L" annexed to the affidavit of Jeffrey Wicks. (Of the seventeen "claims" constituting exhibit "L", one was filed in 1986, one in 1987, five in 1988, eight in 1989 and 2 in 1990.)
I do not believe that an issue of fact as to an alleged policy of deliberate indifference to allegations of unconstitutional arrests can been created simply by attaching copies of seventeen claims made against the Sheriff over a five year period. The fact that a law enforcement agency with county-wide jurisdiction has had prior claims of false arrest made against a few individual officers does not, standing alone, demonstrate "deliberate indifference" or "gross negligence" on the part of the head of the law enforcement agency. Mendoza v. City of Rome N.Y., 872 F. Supp. 1110, 1119 (N.D.N.Y. 1994)("Mere fact that Notices of Claim were filed does not constitute evidence of violation of Constitutional rights"); Burnette v. Ciolino, 750 F. Supp. 1562, 1564 (M.D. Fla. 1990)(five separate shootings in five years did not establish custom or policy that unreasonable force would be tolerated by Sheriff); Ramos v. City of Chicago, 707 F. Supp. 345, 347 (N.D. Ill. 1989) (civil rights complaint against city dismissed because allegations of six unrelated incidents of police brutality over ten-year period insufficient to establish municipal policy of custom). While it is true that "an obvious need [to protect against constitutional violations] may be demonstrated through proof of repeated claims of civil rights violations; deliberate indifference may be inferred if the complaints are followed by no meaningful attempt on the part of the municipality to investigate or forestall further incidents." Vann v. City of New York, 72 F.3d 1040, 1049 (2d Cir. 1995)(emphasis supplied)(summary judgment in excessive force case inappropriate where, in addition to successive complaints, plaintiff presented proof that supervisors paid virtually no attention to repeat complaints against police officers). See Sarus v. Rotundo, 831 F.2d 397, 401-402 (2d Cir. 1987)(denial of police chief's judgment n.o.v. motion reversed where city had procedure to discipline misconduct and plaintiff presented no proof of inadequate supervision); Fiacco v. City of Rensselaer N.Y., 783 F.2d 319, 328 (2d Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 922, 94 L. Ed. 2d 698, 107 S. Ct. 1384 (1987)(evidence that municipality had notice of, but repeatedly failed to make any meaningful investigation into charges of police misconduct sufficient to sustain § 1983 liability); Batista v. Rodriguez, 702 F.2d 393, 399 (2d Cir. 1983) (denial of city's judgment n.o.v. motion reversed where, although there was some evidence of prior civil rights violations, there was no evidence that defendants knew of the prior incidents or were aware of a policy tolerating such violations).
This case was commenced in September 1993 and discovery was not closed until May, 1996 (Docket # 16). Yet, the record before me is remarkable for the lack of material facts with respect to the potential liability of Sheriff Meloni. Lewis has presented no evidence of a civil rights complaint that was not properly investigated, nor any instance where discipline should have been, but was not meted out by the Sheriff. Lewis has not cited a single inadequacy in the Sheriff's rules governing discipline of deputies or a defect in the rules governing the use of informants. Lewis has failed to develop any evidence to indicate Sheriff Meloni knew anything negative about VanThof, but failed to act, or even that there was anything negative about VanThof that the Sheriff could have known about. Finally, and most significantly, Lewis has proffered no evidence, direct or circumstantial, of any policy or custom endorsed, adopted or tolerated by Sheriff Meloni which condones deliberate indifference to an individual's civil rights. Put simply, despite ample opportunity to unearth facts in support of his allegations against Sheriff Meloni, Lewis has come up empty. See Williams v. Garrett, 722 F. Supp. 254, 259 (W.D. Va. 1989)(summary judgment in favor of administrative officers granted where plaintiff failed to present proof of supervisor's "continued inaction in the face of documented widespread abuses"); Washington Square Post 1212 v. City of New York, 720 F. Supp. at 345-46 (S.D.N.Y. 1989) (summary judgment in favor of police commissioner granted where no evidence of "widespread abuse" by police officers nor any evidence indicating commissioner supported or encouraged a "pattern of constitutional violations"); Skorupski v. Suffolk County, 652 F. Supp. 690, 695-696 (E.D.N.Y. 1987)(summary judgment in favor of municipal defendants granted where, after extensive discovery, plaintiffs presented no evidence of non-supervision amounting to deliberate indifference). Under these circumstances, summary judgment in favor of Sheriff Meloni is appropriate and therefore is granted.
For the reasons set forth herein, defendant VanThof's motion for summary judgment (Docket # 26) is denied. Defendant Meloni's motion for summary judgment (Docket # 18) is granted. Counsel for plaintiff and defendant VanThof shall appear in chambers for a final pre-trial conference on December 17, 1996 at 3:00 p.m..
JONATHAN W. FELDMAN
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
DATED: December 4th, 1996
Rochester, New York