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POLITE v. TOWN OF CLARKSTOWN

November 6, 2000

WILLIAM POLITE, ALEXANDER PRICE, PETER BUXTON AND CIPRIAM LYNCH, PLAINTIFFS,
V.
THE TOWN OF CLARKSTOWN, TOWN OF CLARKSTOWN POLICE DEPARTMENT, OFFICER MICHAEL DOYLE, INDIVIDUALLY, AND JOHN DOES AND JANE DOES, POLICE OFFICERS, WHOSE NAMES ARE PRESENTLY UNKNOWN AND WITHIN THE KNOWLEDGE OF RESPONDENTS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS POLICE OFFICERS OF THE TOWN OF CLARKSTOWN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McMAHON, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT AS TO DEFENDANT TOWN OF CLARKSTOWN

Plaintiffs William Polite, Alexander Price, Peter Buxton and Cipriam Lynch allege that Clarkstown Police Officers stopped their car, physically abused them and used racial epithets, in violation of their civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. They bring their claims against the Town of Clarkstown ("the Town"), the Town of Clarkstown Police Department ("the Police"), Officer Michael Doyle in his individual capacity, and certain John and Jane Does, officers of the Clarkstown Police Department who are unknown.

In an order dated August 6, 1999, I granted defendant Doyle's motion to dismiss on the grounds of inadequate service. On that same date, I granted defendant Town of Clarkstown Police Department's motion for summary judgment on the grounds that municipal departments of New York State — such as the Clarkstown Police Department — are not amenable to suit, and no claims can lie directly against them.

I denied a motion for summary judgment to the Town of Clarkstown because it was premature to dismiss the complaint on Monell grounds (or on any grounds) at the pre-discovery stage.

For the reasons stated below, I now grant the Town of Clarkstown's renewed motion for summary judgment.

FACTS PERTINENT TO THE MOTION

On a motion for summary judgment the Court views the facts most favorably to the non-moving party — in this case, the plaintiffs.

On June 22, 1997, at approximately 10:00 p.m., two off-duty volunteer ambulance personnel related over the ambulance frequency to the Clarkstown Police Department dispatch that their vehicle "was almost carjacked," and that the suspect vehicle was a maroon Plymouth Voyager, with license plate number "New York R89-4LY." The ambulance personnel indicated that the suspect vehicle was occupied by at least three black males, and that one of the black males was wearing a white tank top.

The ambulance personnel followed the car from the site of the incident at Smith Street and Route 59 in Nanuet, New York, to the vicinity of Second Avenue, Spring Valley, New York.

The dispatcher broadcast the incident as a larceny attempt, a possible attempted carjacking, and described the suspects as four black males in a maroon Plymouth Voyager, with license plate number "R894LY." Officer Fred Parent received the call, and observed a car of that description heading southbound in Bethune Boulevard in Spring Valley. Officer Parent activated his lights to initiate a car stop.

The plaintiffs saw the lights, but thought the officer was attempting to pass rather than to pull them over. Not realizing that the police intended for them to pull over, Plaintiff William Polite continued to drive on Bethue Boulevard. After he turned onto Clinton Street with police following, Polite pulled over.

Peter Buxton was in the passenger seat; Price was in the next row of van seats; and Lynch was in the back. Officer Parent directed Polite to throw the car keys out the window, which he did.

The plaintiffs contend that many officers made racial threats and threats of violence during the period subsequent to the stop. The police officers allegedly called them "niggers," and placed handguns and rifles to their heads and threatened to pull the trigger. Defendants have ...


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