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Stuart v. Town of Framingham

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 20, 2018

VINCENT E. STUART, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF FRAMINGHAM and BRIAN SIMONEAU, Assistant to the Chief of Police of the Town of Framingham, Individually, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Indira Talwani United States District Judge.

         Pending before this court is Defendants City of Framingham and Brian Simoneau's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings as to Counts I & II Pursuant to Rule 12(c) [#27]. Defendants move to dismiss Counts I and II of Plaintiff Vincent Stuart's First Amended Complaint [#20] for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is DENIED.

         I. Factual Background as Alleged by Plaintiff

         In 2000, Plaintiff began working as a police officer at the Framingham Police Department (“FPD”). First. Am. Compl. ¶ 12. He was promoted to Police Sergeant in 2008, and to Police Lieutenant in 2014. Id. Prior to his suspension, Plaintiff was the Commanding Officer of the FPD's Weapons Training Unit for roughly 3.5 years. Id. ¶ 14. He was also the FPD's SWAT Team Leader, Tactical Operations Commander, liaison to the Massachusetts State Police STOP Team, and Shift Commander of the evening shift. Id. ¶¶ 13, 15-16.

         Defendant Simoneau joined the FPD as a dispatcher in the 1990s. Id. ¶ 23. During his time as a dispatcher, Simoneau also attended the Massachusetts School of Law, passed the bar, and opened a private law practice. Id. ¶ 25. At some time in the 1990s, Simoneau was given the honorific title of “Special Police Officer” by former FPD Chief of Police Brent Larrabee. Id. ¶ 24. Under former FPD Chief of Police Steven Carl, Simoneau became the Assistant to the Chief and provided administrative assistance. Id. ¶ 27.

         Plaintiff alleges that in 2013, around the time Chief Kenneth Ferguson became chief of the FPD, Simoneau's role and authority greatly increased. Id. ¶ 28. According to Plaintiff, Chief Ferguson gave Simoneau a gun (after a one-week basic firearms course for reserve officers), uniform, citation book, and police cruiser. Id. ¶ 29. Plaintiff raised concerns regarding Simoneau to Chief Ferguson on several occasions prior to April 2015. Id. ¶ 47. Around April 2015, Plaintiff informed Chief Ferguson that Simoneau had been conducting motor vehicle stops, responding to police calls, and appearing at active crime scenes, all without adequate screening, training, and experience, and that these actions were endangering the general public, compromising police investigations, and opening the FPD to significant legal liability. Id. ¶ 46. The specific instances which Plaintiff contends led to his April 2015 report included, but were not limited to:

1) Plaintiff alleges that on October 5, 2014, while driving his personal vehicle, Simoneau allegedly conducted a motor vehicle stop in which he allowed both occupants to exit the vehicle, allowed the passenger to walk away, and allowed the driver to return to the vehicle and spend several minutes looking for his license, “thereby committing multiple officer safety violations.” Simoneau did not ask dispatch to send a marked unit, and he could not issue a citation because he did not have his citation book with him. Afterwards, back at the police station, Simoneau asked for the driver's record and learned that the driver had 26 entries including OUI and numerous drug offenses. Id. ¶ 48.
2) Plaintiff alleges that on November 11, 2014, while in his police cruiser, Simoneau allegedly stopped a vehicle for an illegal U-turn and issued a warning citation. Id.

         Plaintiff alleges that Chief Ferguson stated that he would maintain the status quo and told Plaintiff to ignore Simoneau. Id. ¶ 49. Plaintiff continued to raise concerns to Chief Ferguson over the ensuing month. Id. ¶ 50. Plaintiff alleges that the specific instances which led to these further complaints included:

1) On April 22, 2015, Simoneau allegedly responded to a police call and interfered with an active crime scene involving a reported breaking and entering, in which two individuals who were possibly armed fled the scene. A perimeter was set up and tracking dogs deployed. Without informing anyone that he was in the area, Simoneau allegedly drove past or through the perimeter in his cruiser with blue lights at least 6-7 times. Id. ¶ 50.
2) On May 1, 2015, a radio call went out to Area A cars to respond to a fight on Hollis Street. Simoneau, without identifying himself, allegedly used the police radio to ask for clarification regarding the call and stated that there was “nothing showing yet” and advised units to “slow down, it's a simple domestic.” Simoneau drove to the call location and when other officers arrived, Simoneau was standing outside of his vehicle, his gun visible while his badge was not. Id.

         Chief Ferguson allegedly told Plaintiff to ignore Simoneau. Id. ¶ 51.

         After multiple attempts to convince Chief Ferguson of the seriousness of the situation, Plaintiff brought his concerns to his union, the Framingham Police Superior Officers Association (“FPSOA”). Id. ¶ 52. In early June 2015, the FPSOA Executive Board sent a letter to Chief Ferguson detailing specific allegations regarding Simoneau's actions as a “Special Officer.” Id. ¶ 53 & Ex. A [#1-3]. The letter continued:

The incident in Tulsa[, ] Oklahoma[, ] in April, where a Part time Deputy[] shot and killed an individual was 100% preventable. Those that allowed him to operate as a “part-time” officer did so, knowing that he was not trained or qualified. Having that individual on the road has resulted in the death of one individual and long term law suits to come. The supervisors on that agency had ...

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