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Lonker v. Chambers

United States District Court, D. Kansas

May 4, 2017

Brooklyn Lonker, Plaintiffs,
Darren Chambers, in his individual capacity and in his official capacity as Sumner County Sheriff, Defendants.


          John W. Lungstrum United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Brooklyn Lonker asserts claims against defendant Sheriff Darren Chambers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that former Deputy Sheriff Jared Lyden violated her rights under the First and Fourth Amendments of the United States Constitution after she was detained and handcuffed in a patrol car following a traffic stop. Plaintiff asserts that defendant Sheriff Chambers, individually and in his official capacity as Sheriff, was deliberately indifferent to plaintiff in failing to properly train and supervise Deputy Lyden. This matter is presently before the court on defendant Darren Chambers' motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's claims (doc. 83). As will be explained, while the court has concerns about the conduct of Deputy Lyden and, more specifically, the manner in which he carried out his role in this traffic stop, the court finds that plaintiff has failed to present evidence from which a reasonable jury could find Sheriff Chambers liable for any constitutional violations which plaintiff contends occurred. The motion, then, is granted.

         I. Facts

         The following facts are uncontroverted or related in the light most favorable to plaintiff as the nonmoving party.[1] Deputy Sheriff Jared Lyden began his employment with the Sumner County Sheriff's Department in January 2012. Because he was already a certified law enforcement officer at that time, he was assigned to a field training officer, Sergeant Campbell, in the Sheriff's Department. That training concluded on March 11, 2012. At that time, Sheriff Chambers recommended that Deputy Lyden obtain mental health counseling based on concerns that Deputy Lyden “was very aggressive on the job, making unnecessary arrests, [and] stopping . . . residents and writing tickets that put him at odds with agency protocols, procedures and culture within the department.” Deputy Lyden's first mental health consultation was held on March 14, 2012. That meeting lasted roughly 30 minutes and the counselor, after the meeting, made certain “initial” recommendations to the Sheriff's Department. The initial recommendations included having Deputy Lyden complete 3 to 5 days of additional field training with a “seasoned” deputy in the department and scheduling a follow-up session with the counselor. Consistent with those recommendations, Deputy Lyden was assigned to Sergeant Wylie, a field training officer. Sergeant Wylie completed field training reports for March 15, 2012; March 16, 2012; and March 17, 2012. Plaintiff does not dispute that Sergeant Wylie's training was received well by Deputy Lyden and that Sergeant Wylie perceived that Deputy Lyden was improving with his guidance. A follow-up session was scheduled and held on March 26, 2012. That meeting lasted approximately 10 minutes. The consultation report identified the following final recommendations:

1. Jared will likely need continued mentoring, and should be monitored to gauge progress.
2. If this arrangement is not possible or practical, then re-assignment to a more controlled supervised position might be considered if one exists.

         Sheriff Chambers testified that he did not do anything “specifically” to follow up on that recommendation and that he did not provide any “additional” mentoring or monitoring to Deputy Lyden beyond what is normally provided to deputies over the course of their employment. In that regard, the evidence demonstrates that the Sheriff's Office provided routine training and supervision to all deputies through the review of written reports submitted by each deputy and through regular monitoring by supervisors.

         The record contains no evidence of any specific incidents of Deputy Lyden making unnecessary or over-zealous arrests or detentions until January 2014. At that time, Deputy Lyden testified in a suppression hearing before a Sumner County District Judge. According to plaintiff, Deputy Lyden testified at that hearing about a DUI traffic stop that he had conducted and the district judge, after viewing the dash cam recording, found that Deputy Lyden's description of events did not comport with the recording. Deputy Lyden testified in this case that, during the suppression hearing, the district judge determined that Deputy Lyden lacked probable cause to administer a field sobriety test.

         The facts giving rise to this case occurred the following month, in February 2014. Officer Jeff Cole of the Conway Springs, Kansas police department was patrolling just north of the city limits around 12:30am on February 16, 2014. A vehicle passed Officer Cole's patrol car and the driver of the vehicle failed to dim the vehicle's high-beam headlights. Officer Cole confirmed through radar that the vehicle was traveling 37 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour zone. Officer Cole turned his patrol car around and stopped the vehicle because the driver was speeding and failed to dim the high-beam headlights.[2] In addition to the driver, later identified as Haley Rau, two passengers were in the vehicle. One passenger, Kylie Boswell, was riding in the front passenger seat and the other passenger, plaintiff Brooklyn Lonker, was riding in the rear of the vehicle. All three occupants of the vehicle were female high-school students returning from a bonfire party that they had attended together just south of Conway Springs. All three occupants of the vehicle were minors under the age of 21.

         As Officer Cole approached the vehicle, Ms. Rau rolled her window down. Officer Cole testified that he immediately smelled a strong odor of alcohol coming from inside the vehicle. Plaintiff testified that it was “surprising” to her that Officer Cole could smell alcohol because she had only had one drink, she did not believe that Ms. Boswell had consumed more than that, and she believed that the smell of the bonfire would be “overwhelming” because they had sat by it for nearly 45 minutes.[3] Ms. Boswell testified that she was “sure” that she smelled “like bonfire.” Officer Cole asked Ms. Rau for her driver's license and advised her that she was traveling over the speed limit and had left her high-beam lights on. Ms. Rau told Officer Cole that she did not have her license but she provided her name and birthdate, which revealed she was 16 years of age. Officer Cole confirmed with dispatch that Ms. Rau had a valid driver's license and had no warrants. He testified that he then asked for identification from the two passengers because they were minors and there was an odor of alcohol. Ms. Boswell did not have her license but identified herself by name and birthdate, which revealed that she was 17 years of age. Similarly, plaintiff identified herself by name and birthdate, which revealed that she was 18 years of age.

         Officer Cole advised the occupants of the car that he could smell alcohol and he asked whether anyone had consumed alcohol that evening. Ms. Rau advised him that she had consumed “one or two sips” of alcohol before the girls had left her house for the bonfire party. Officer Cole asked Ms. Rau to exit the vehicle to perform a field sobriety test. She then consented to a preliminary breath test (PBT). Because the Conway Springs police department did not have PBT equipment, Officer Cole advised Ms. Rau that he was going “to radio and ask for one.” Officer Cole then asked for assistance from the Sumner County Sheriff's Office. While the record is not entirely clear, it appears that Deputy Lyden was the closest on-duty deputy with a PBT meter. The Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) log shows that Deputy Lyden was contacted at 12:50am. At that time, he was working on the opposite side of the county- approximately a 45-minute drive from Officer Cole's location. It is undisputed that Deputy Lyden arrived at Officer Cole's location at 1:37am, as evidenced by the CAD log.

         When Deputy Lyden arrived at the scene, he did not activate his emergency lights. Deputy Lyden knew that if he did not activate his emergency lights, his dash camera could not save the recording of the stop. Plaintiff suggests that Deputy Lyden's conduct in this regard was intentional because, just one month prior, a Sumner County district judge had concluded in the context of a suppression hearing that Deputy Lyden's testimony contradicted what was shown on the dash cam recording. When Deputy Lyden arrived on the scene, [4] Officer Cole advised him that the driver had admitted to drinking and that Officer Cole smelled alcohol coming from inside the vehicle. Deputy Lyden heard Ms. Rau tell Officer Cole, in response to a question from Officer Cole, that all three of the occupants had been at a party and that all three of the occupants had been drinking alcohol that evening.[5] Deputy Lyden then administered the PBT to Ms. Rau which yielded a result of .000. At that point, Officer Cole asked Deputy Lyden to speak to the passengers because, according to his testimony, he could smell alcohol coming from both plaintiff and Ms. Boswell. Officer Cole testified that Deputy Lyden told him that he, too, could smell alcohol coming from both plaintiff and Ms. Boswell.

         After administering the PBT to Ms. Rau, Deputy Lyden approached the front passenger window and addressed both plaintiff and Ms. Boswell. He advised them that he could smell the odor of alcohol. When Deputy Lyden began directing questions to Ms. Boswell, plaintiff spoke up and said, “We're not going to answer questions.” Deputy Lyden warned plaintiff that he would arrest her for interfering with an investigation. After repeated attempts to elicit information (or an admission) from plaintiff and Ms. Boswell about whether they had been consuming alcohol, Deputy Lyden instructed plaintiff and Ms. Boswell to exit the vehicle. They complied and stood at the rear of the vehicle. Deputy Lyden testified that he could smell alcohol when plaintiff and Ms. Boswell were standing side by side and, knowing that they were under the age of 21, believed that they had been unlawfully drinking. When plaintiff and Ms. Boswell were standing outside the vehicle, plaintiff continued to refuse to answer Deputy Lyden's questions about whether and how much alcohol she had consumed and continued to advise Ms. Boswell not to answer any questions. Both plaintiff and Ms. Boswell refused to submit to a PBT when Deputy Lyden asked for their consent to administer a PBT. Ultimately, Deputy Lyden placed handcuffs on plaintiff and put her in the back of his patrol car. Defendant asserts that plaintiff was placed in handcuffs in the patrol car because plaintiff continued to interrupt Deputy Lyden's efforts to communicate with Ms. Boswell and that she was impeding his investigation. Plaintiff asserts that she never interrupted Deputy Lyden and only told him that they were not required to answer any questions; that they would not answer questions without an attorney present; and that they were not required to submit to a PBT. In any event, plaintiff does not dispute that she was handcuffed and placed in the patrol car no later than 1:56am-less than 20 minutes after Deputy Lyden arrived on the scene. Plaintiff testified that Deputy Lyden, after plaintiff was placed in the patrol car, “yelled” at plaintiff and said to her, “You just need to admit to it, or I'm going to take you in” and that if he took her to jail that she “didn't even want to know what those people would do to” her. When Ms. Boswell again refused to consent to the PBT, she was placed in Officer Cole's vehicle to keep the minors separated and out of the cold weather.

         Officer Cole contacted Marla Loehr, Ms. Boswell's mother, because she was the registered owner of the vehicle that Ms. Rau had been driving. The officers advised Ms. Loehr that they could smell alcohol on Ms. Boswell and plaintiff and that, because Ms. Boswell was underage, their practice was to ask a parent to come and pick them up. At 2:00am, Ms. Loehr contacted her sister to come and pick her up so that they could then travel to the scene.[6] Ms. Loehr arrived at the scene at 2:45am. Ms. Loehr consented to a search of the vehicle. The officers seized three open containers from the vehicle-a can of Natural Light beer that still had beer in it; a bottle with a Bacardi label on it; and a clear tumbler that contained alcohol. Knowing that her mother was going to require her to take the PBT anyway, Ms. Boswell asserted that the alcohol belonged to her. Ms. Loehr told her daughter to consent to the PBT, which yielded ...

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