Johnson v. City of Indianapolis

Decision Date30 November 2022
Docket Number1:21-cv-00907-TWP-DLP
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Indiana
Annemarie Alonso


Gabrielle Emilia Olshemski


Jessica A. Wegg


Jonathan Charles Little


Anthony W. Overholt


Brandon E. Beeler


Kiely C Keesler


Mathew Rayman



Hon. Tanya Walton Pratt, Chief Judge United States District Court

This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants the City of Indianapolis ("the City"), and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department ("IMPD") officers Kolin Kinder, Jessica Forsyth, and Richard Reeves, (collectively "the Officers"), (the Officers and the City, collectively, "Defendants") (Filing No. 57). Plaintiff Homer Johnson's ("Johnson") Amended Complaint alleges: (1) a Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments excessive force claim against the Officers pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) a Monell claim against the City; and (3) a state law claim against all Defendants for equitable relief pursuant to Article 1, § 11 of the Indiana Constitution (Filing No. 43). For the reasons set forth below, the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.


The following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but, as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the facts are presented in the light most favorable to Johnson as the non-moving party. See Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

A. IMPD's Use of Force Policies

IMPD's General Order 1.30, titled "Use of Force - Principles," (the "Use of Force Policy") "provides [IMPD] officers with guidelines for the reasonable use of force." (Filing No. 58-12 at 4-5.) The Use of Force Policy "authorizes reasonable force to accomplish lawful objectives," and provides that "[o]fficers may use reasonable force if the officer reasonably believes the force is necessary given the totality of the circumstances." Id. at 5. Pursuant to the Use of Force Policy, "[m]edical assistance shall be obtained as soon as practical for any person who, as a result of an officer's use of force, has sustained visible injury or serious bodily injury, or who has expressed a complaint of injury or continuing pain." Id.

IMPD's General Order 1.31 governs the investigation and reporting procedure regarding use of force incidents. Id. General Order 1.31 requires officers to notify a supervisor, as soon as practical, if a use of force resulted in or was alleged to cause serious bodily injury, injury, or a complaint of pain. Id. at 5-7. General Order 1.31 also requires officers to document all uses of force that exceed un-resisted handcuffing. Id. at 7. If an officer's use of force exceeds unresisted handcuffing, General Order 1.31 requires a supervisor to conduct a preliminary investigation. Id. at 8. The supervisor must document any relevant evidence during their investigation and attempt to interview the involved officer(s), suspect(s), and witnesses. Id. Supervisors are also required to provide a disposition of whether the involved officer(s) complied with IMPD's policies. Id. The supervisor is required to enter comments regarding the results of their investigation, reason for their disposition, and whether they recommended further action be taken. Id.

General Order 1.31, requires that IMPD maintains records for all use of force incidents that led to or allegedly caused serious bodily injury, injury, or complaint of pain. Id. at 9. Records regarding use of force incidents are maintained by the Performance and Policy Division. Id. An trends that could indicate training needs, equipment upgrades, or policy modifications. Id.

IMPD Sergeant Stephen Griffith ("Sgt. Griffith") works with the Commission for the Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (“CALEA”) to ensure that IMPD's directives meet and exceed national standards for best practices in law enforcement. Id. at 1. His duties include generating data reports and on demand reports about department discipline and trends, and deficiencies in IMPD's policies or practices that led to serious bodily injury from excessive force. Id. at 16. Between 2014 and 2019, out of nearly 7,000 uses of force documented by IMPD, there were eleven incidents where IMPD determined that officers used unreasonable force of which four involved use of a taser, two involved the use of a firearm being discharged at a moving vehicle, and five involved the use of unreasonable physical force on a suspect. Id. at 16-17. In all incidents but one, the officer who used unreasonable force was disciplined for not complying with IMPD's General Orders. Id. Discipline was not imposed in the last circumstance because IMPD missed the 60-day deadline. Id.

B. IMPD's Bias-Free Policing Policy

General Order 1.2 governs IMPD's policy against bias-based profiling and discrimination Id. at 10. The policy identifies biased policing as "[t]he inappropriate consideration of specified characteristics in carrying out duties." Id. Specific characteristics are defined to include "[r]ace, national origin, citizenship, religion, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, socioeconomic status, gender identity, or sexual orientation in relation to making law enforcement decisions." Id. IMPD officers may only consider the specified characteristics "when credible, timely intelligence relevant to the locality link the person or people with a specified characteristic to a specific unlawful incident, scheme, or criminal pattern." Id. The policy requires officers to complete annual training in "bias-free policing, including the legal and psychological aspects of it and the content of this policy," and all supervisors are responsible for ensuring that officers are familiar with this policy. Id. at 10; 39. Complaints of alleged biased policing must be investigated, and those found to be in violation of the policy are subject to discipline. Id. at 11. All complaints, including disposition record are maintained in accordance with General Order 3.16, and the Internal Affairs section prepares an annual summary report to be disseminated to the Chief of Police, the Deputy Chief of the Performance and Policy Division, and to all division commanders. Id. at 10-11.

C. IMPD's Training Policies

Recruit officers are required to complete six months of training at IMPD's Training Academy (the "Academy") where they learn about IMPD's directives, receive approximately 60 hours of descalation training, receive approximately 60 hours of training on search and seizure, complete hundreds of hours of training regarding the use of force, and complete an 8-hour course called "fair and impartial policing". (Filing No. 58-11 at 2.) Recruit officers are also required to participate in Blue Team-use of force reporting program-training where they learn about general orders governing the use of force, appropriate uses of force, and proper application of IMPD-approved force techniques and bias-free policing. Id. at 3. After graduating from the Academy, the officers are then placed on a one-year probation period and required to complete the IMPD Field Training Officer program where veteran officers assist the probationary officers apply the lessons learned at the Academy. Id. Upon completing field training, the probationary officer's records are reviewed by district commanders and the Director of Training to provide the Chief of Police with a recommendation on whether to retain or terminate the officer. Id. at 4. Once retained as an officer, IMPD requires that they complete, at minimum, sixteen hours of in-service training on the use of firearms and force each year. Id. Here, Defendants' records show-and Johnson does not dispute-that the three Officers were current with all IMPD and state-required training. Id. at 4, 7-45.

D. The August 9, 2019 Incident

On August 9, 2019, Johnson (a Black man in his 60's) attended a family barbeque for 4 or 5 hours during which he drank one beer. (Filing No. 66-1 at 4). After the barbeque, his son drove him to ex-wife's house as he would sleep in her garage a couple of times per month. Id. at 3. He fell asleep on the couch inside the garage. Id. at 5. Johnson's ex-wife reported a burglary in progress at her residence and the Officers responded to the scene around midnight where they observed the garage entry door ajar, a lock broken or damaged, and an individual asleep inside who they later identified as Johnson (Filing No. 58-4 at 9-14; Filing No. 66-1 at 5; Filing No. 66-2 at 6-10). The Officers report they announced themselves multiple times without any response and, once in the garage, they observed Johnson face down on the ground asleep with his arms under his waist, chest, and belly area (Filing No. 58-6 at 11; Filing No. 66-3 at 5; Filing No. 66-4 at 3).

Johnson who is a heavy sleeper, never heard the Officers make any announcements that they were law enforcement officers. (Filing No. 66-1 at 8). Johnson's first memory is "… I was being held and pushed and I was in one spot and I ended up all of the way on the other side of my garage." (Filing No. 66-1 at 7-8). He was in fear of his life because he "didn't know who or what was going on so he just kept screaming and screaming." Id. The Officers threw Johnson on the floor from the couch, held him down by applying pressure to his neck...

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