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Ethier v. City of Cohoes

April 18, 2006

GARY ETHIER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF COHOES, NEW YORK, JAMES WARD, PATRICK ABRAMS, AND JEFFREY GUZY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas J. McAVOY Senior United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

Plaintiff Gary Ethier commenced the instant action against Defendantsclaiming violations of his civil rights in connection with his employment as a police officer for the City of Cohoes, New York. Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 seeking dismissal of the Complaint in its entirety.

I. FACTS

Plaintiff was a police officer with the City of Cohoes, New York. During his first few years with the Cohoes Police Department ("CPD") (1991-1993) , Plaintiff was trained and/or supervised by Defendants James Ward ("Ward") and Patrick Abrams ("Abrams"). On August 21, 1995, Plaintiff drove his police vehicle onto a curb and sidewalk, nearly striking a pedestrian with the vehicle. As a result of this incident, Plaintiff was the subject of an internal investigation by the CPD. Plaintiff ultimately pleaded guilty to violating Cohoes Police Department General Order 0012-95 entitled "Rules of Conduct" and agreed to undergo a psychological evaluation, undertake remedial instruction on the operation of a police vehicle, and take any tests deemed necessary by the psychologist.

On February 24, 1997, Plaintiff arrested Patrick O'Donnell. After the arrest, but before Plaintiff transported O'Donnell to the police station, O'Donnell suffered injuries to his head and face. There also was damage to the rear window of a police vehicle. As a result of this incident, Plaintiff was the subject of an internal investigation.

On January 8, 1998, while Plaintiff was in pursuit of Richard Maynard, Mr. Maynard's body struck the ground and/or a retaining wall on multiple occasions before Plaintiff placed Maynard under arrest, causing Maynard to suffer injury to his face. As a result of this incident, Plaintiff was the subject of an internal investigation. This investigation resulted in Plaintiff's pleading guilty in April 1998 to violating Cohoes Police Department General Order 92-5 ("Off Duty Arrests"). As a result of this guilty plea, Plaintiff agreed that he would receive a letter of reprimand and thirty day suspension without pay, which suspension was to be held in abeyance for one year unless Plaintiff was found guilty of violating Cohoes Police Department General Order 92-5 or 0019-48 ("Physical Force") as a result of the January 8, 1998 incident involving the arrest of Maynard.

On September 25, 1998, Plaintiff placed John Gaston upon or against a police vehicle while attempting to arrest him. During the course of the arrest, Gaston suffered injury to his face and body and there was damage to the police vehicle, including a dented fender and cracked windshield. This incident resulted in an internal investigation.

In 1998, there were discussions in the CPD regarding Plaintiff's participation in the D.A.R.E. program with the Cohoes City School District. School District officials advised Defendants that if Plaintiff was permitted to participate in the D.A.R.E. program, the school would drop the program.*fn1

On February 3, 1999, Plaintiff effected a traffic stop of Eric Sawyer. Plaintiff kicked and struck Sawyer before restraining Sawyer, causing injury to Sawyer's face. This conduct resulted in another internal investigation.

On February 16, 1999, Plaintiff physically restrained Eugene Aquilina and pushed Nicole Brown while attempting to arrest Aquilina. Brown lodged a civil complaint against Plaintiff alleging excessive force and misconduct. This incident also was the subject of an internal investigation.

On March 5, 1999, Plaintiff physically restrained and maced Kyle Durocher while attempting to arrest him. Durocher filed a civil complaint against Plaintiff alleging excessive force and misconduct. This incident was the subject of an internal investigation.

On March 12, 1999, Plaintiff stopped a vehicle suspected of violating the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law. According to Plaintiff, he smelled alcohol and believed the driver to be driving under the influence of alcohol. The driver of the vehicle was Defendant City of Cohoes Corporate Counsel, John Doherty. Plaintiff contends that he administered sobriety tests and an alco-sensor test to Doherty, all of which he failed. Plaintiff further contends that Sergeant Kubik, who was at the scene, spoke with Defendant Ward who advised that Plaintiff was to bring Doherty to the police station where he was to be released to someone who had not been drinking. When Plaintiff returned to the police station with Doherty, a taxi was called for Doherty and he was released. Plaintiff was neither reprimanded nor charged with respect to his conduct on March 12, 1999.

On March 17, 1999, Plaintiff was involved in a heated verbal exchange with CPD Detective Thomas Ross and his spouse at Mac's Tavern and Restaurant. By memorandum dated March 26, 1999, Plaintiff was advised that an internal investigation was being conducted with respect to the March 17 incident.

A meeting was conducted with CPD Chief Heslin, Defendant Ward, Lieutenant Ross, and Plaintiff concerning the March 17, 1999 incident. During the meeting, Plaintiff made a remark concerning Ross' wife, after which Ward ended the meeting and escorted Plaintiff out of the CPD.*fn2

On or about March 22, 1999, Ward assigned Plaintiff to formal training. The formal training consisted of Plaintiff's being assigned to Sergeant Kubik when Kubik was working. When Kubik was not working, Plaintiff was to perform inside duties and not leave the police station without a supervisor. Plaintiff also was prohibited from assuming the duties of a tour supervisor. It was also ordered that ...


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