to her his disdain for her and for what she had done.
This sign of lack of support from the precinct command was apparently quickly followed by a series of incidents indicating that plaintiff was going to encounter overt hostility at her new precinct equivalent to what she had met at the first precinct. As noted, the interference with her radio unquestionably added to her sense of vulnerability on the streets, an exacerbation of what would otherwise be an unavoidable professional hazard. Similarly, I view her receipt of the anonymously mailed copy of the Ward memorandum as also significantly disconcerting, since it suggested again that routine safety procedures were to be disregarded in her case.
I also view the manner in which the Department handled its investigations of these incidents as adding to plaintiff's feeling of insecurity. I note that the investigators never identified any of the wrongdoers or, of course, took any action against them, and never informed plaintiff of the outcome of their efforts. This uncertainty undoubtedly contributed to plaintiff's sense of lack of support and vulnerability within the precinct.
Apart from these specific incidents, the longer-term refusal of fellow officers to work with plaintiff and the evident failure of the precinct command to deal with this situation certainly added further to the routine and daily pressures that are presumably a normal part of a police officer's duties. Moreover, the absence of any effective remedial path for these problems again appears likely to have been a fertile source of psychological distress.
Over time I observe a pattern in which plaintiff became increasingly discouraged and thus ventured only on an occasional basis to seek help from the Department, and those occasional forays appear to have been uniformly futile. This too seems likely to have contributed to a deterioration of plaintiff's state of mind.
Having noted these sources of long-term stress in the actions of defendants that unquestionably violated plaintiff's First Amendment rights, I must take into account various other sources of strain that cannot fairly be attributed to defendants' misconduct. In the 1990s plaintiff has plainly suffered from a variety of personal difficulties. Notably, she witnessed the collapse of her marriage and the attendant difficulties of raising two children on her own, including particularly problems in arranging for appropriate child care. In addition she apparently suffered from some health problems, which contributed to her frequent absences from work. Indeed, in one instance she was involved in a serious traffic accident that apparently left her in some pain, and led to her filing a lawsuit against the other driver.
Related to these difficulties, plaintiff experienced the frustration of being unable to obtain assignment to the Community Policing Program, which she apparently viewed as particularly attractive for purposes of meeting her family responsibilities. For reasons already explained, these difficulties are not attributable to any misconduct by defendants, but they all unquestionably contributed substantially to the emotional distress suffered by plaintiff during the period at issue.
In a similar vein, I note that plaintiff appears to have been genuinely aggrieved at the pattern of her post assignments over a period of years. This too undoubtedly contributed to her state of mind in the early 1990s, and yet, as previously observed, I am unable to find that those assignments reflected any retaliatory animus. Thus, again, to the extent that plaintiff's distress was occasioned by her unhappiness with her postings and her assumption that they were motivated by hostility to her, I cannot order her compensated.
Having conducted this tour d'horizon, I am still left with the task of converting compensable stress into a dollar figure. In doing so I must acknowledge the degree of arbitrariness that this exercise unavoidably entails. In this case that imprecision is compounded by the fact that plaintiff never sought professional help to deal with her undoubted psychological problems even though such assistance was recommended by the Department. Although she testified that she could not afford the expense of such treatment, I question whether such help was financially unavailable.
Our best judgment is that the bulk of the stress that is attributable to misconduct by defendants was suffered during the period from February 1988 until April 1994, when the precinct graffiti was erased.
Nonetheless, some of the injury was presumably suffered subsequently. I therefore assess damages for a period ending in February 1995.
Although the stresses varied from year to year, they may be assessed in the rough amount of $ 15,000 per year from February 1988 through February 1992, and $ 10,000 per year from February 1992 through February 1995. See, e.g., Probst v. Reno, 917 F. Supp. 554, 561-62 (N.D. Ill. 1995). This yields a total of $ 90,000.00 in compensatory damages against the City for the entire range of emotional distress suffered by plaintiff from all of the wrongful conduct by police personnel, both known and unknown.
I still must assess damages against Inspector Girimonte and Sergeant McDermott. For reasons noted, I view Girimonte as culpable to a degree based on his failure to fulfill his responsibilities as the Commander of the precinct to correct a situation of which he plainly had notice. He did not assume command at the 90th Precinct until November 1991, and thus had responsibility only for the last three and one-half years of the relevant period. Moreover, as noted, the bulk of the most egregious misconduct occurred before that time. Again, although our apportionment of plaintiff's compensable injuries to this defendant requires some degree of arbitrariness, I conclude that he should be deemed liable for $ 10,000.00 of plaintiff's total losses, with his liability deemed to be joint and several with that of the City to the extent of that sum.
As for Sergeant McDermott, I have still less information since he did not testify. Thus I am limited to the information provided by plaintiff, which chiefly consisted of her account of how the sergeant gave short shrift to her complaint about her reassignments on the basis that she was a "rat."
Although I infer that this expression reflects a mindset that was prepared to tolerate much of the ostracism of plaintiff to which she testified, I nonetheless have no information as to the length of Sergeant McDermott's tenure at the precinct, much less the degree to which he may have been personally responsible in some meaningful way for plaintiff's plight when he was there. Given these limitations, I conclude that Sergeant McDermott's liability should be limited to $ 5,000.00, for which he is to be jointly and severally liable with the City.
For the reasons stated, I conclude that plaintiff has established that certain of the defendants violated her First Amendment right to report police corruption, and that they did so by a pattern of retaliation that continued from early 1988 until at least the spring of 1994. I further conclude that plaintiff has established that she suffered emotional distress as a consequence of those violations, and that judgment should therefore be entered in her favor and against the City of New York in the amount of $ 90,000.00, and that defendants Albert Girimonte and James McDermott shall be held liable to plaintiff, jointly and severally with the City, in the respective amounts of $ 10,000.00 and $ 5,000.00. The complaint will be dismissed against the other defendants.
Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988, plaintiff's counsel may apply for an award of attorney's fees within thirty days.
Dated: New York, New York
August 5, 1997
MICHAEL H. DOLINGER
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE