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Only those deficiencies in police training policies that result from policymaker fault of at least the degree of deliberate indifference to or reckless disregard for the constitutional rights of persons within police force jurisdiction can give rise to municipal liability; mere negligence on the part of policymakers is not sufficient. Subject to this fault requirement, training policy deficiencies for which municipal liability may be imposed include not only express authorizations of specific unconstitutional conduct, but tacit authorizations, and failures adequately to prohibit or discourage readily foreseeable conduct in light of known exigencies of police duty.
Henry Spell, admittedly inebriated on alcohol and quaaludes, was stopped by Officer McDaniel while driving an automobile in the City of Fayetteville. After talking with Spell and finding a quantity of quaaludes in his automobile, McDaniel arrested him along with a passenger in Spell's automobile, handcuffed the two of them and took them in a patrol car to the police station. There Spell was subjected to various sobriety tests, including a breathalyzer test, and was formally charged with driving while impaired and with the possession of quaaludes. Just after Spell completed the breathalyzer test and was returned, still handcuffed and inebriated, to McDaniel's direct custody, McDaniel, possibly angered by Spell's failure to respond to his questioning, and in any event without any physical provocation, brutally assaulted Spell. When Spell warded off a blow toward his head by raising his arms, McDaniel seized his handcuffed arms, pulled them down and violently kneed Spell in the groin. The blow to Spell's groin ruptured one of his testicles, necessitating its surgical removal. This resulted in irreversible sterility and of course in considerable associated pain and suffering. Spell then brought this § 1983 action naming as defendants McDaniel, the City of Fayetteville, the City Manager, the City Chief of Police, the Director of the police department's Internal Affairs Division and two police department command sergeants. After an 18-day trial, the jury returned verdicts finding McDaniel, in his individual capacity, and the City in its municipal capacity, jointly and severally liable. It awarded $ 1,000 in compensatory damages, and declined to award the punitive damages sought against McDaniel. Spell then moved to set aside the $ 1,000 compensatory award as inadequate and for a new trial on the compensatory damages issue alone, which was granted. On the re-trial of the damages issue, the district court awarded Spell attorney fees and costs totalling $ 335,942.57. Joint and several judgments against McDaniel and the City were then entered on the damage and fee awards.
Were the evidence on record sufficient to support the jury verdict imposing municipal liability on either deficient training policy or condoned custom or usage theories?
Spell pleaded that at the time of McDaniel's assault upon him the various city officials named as defendants, "jointly and severally," had the legal "duty . . . for [sic] establishing, enforcing, directing, supervising and controlling policies, customs, practices, usages, and procedures to be used by police officials" of the City, so that their "edicts and/or acts" might "fairly be said to represent the official policy" of the City; that acting within that "duty" these named officials had by various acts of omission and commission "foster[ed] and encourage[d] an atmosphere of lawlessness, anarchy, repression and a repetitive policy, custom and practice of aggressive, abusive, and assaultive behavior and procedures toward individual detainees and arrestees which [on the date of McDaniel's assault on Spell] represented the policy, practice, custom, usage and procedure" of the City, and that McDaniel's assault upon Spell was "in furtherance of . . . the practice, custom and procedure" of the City. As indicated, Spell’s evidence substantially tracked these essential allegations. Though that evidence was of course disputed in many details by the defendants' countering evidence, much of it was undisputed and that which was disputed was not made manifestly incredible or implausible by anything in the record. Assuming the credibility of the most critical oral testimony adduced by Spell and assessing the total evidence in its most favorable light, there emerged a picture of a police department whose members were either positively encouraged by training and deliberate cover-up to engage in uses of excessive force of the very type charged to McDaniel; or were tacitly encouraged to continue self-developed practices of this type by the deliberate failure of responsible municipal officials to exercise discipline or corrective supervision to halt the widespread, known practices; or were encouraged or authorized by both in combination.