United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR
Dennis Saylor, IV United States District Judge.
an action for alleged whistleblower retaliation. Plaintiff
Robert Smith was employed as a special police officer in the
town of West Bridgewater for more than thirteen years. He
contends that he was suspended and then removed from his
position in retaliation after he reported to the police chief
that his sergeant was giving special treatment to a town
selectman, who was also a close friend of the sergeant. The
individual defendants and the Town of West Bridgewater
contend that he was not reappointed because of his record of
insubordination, and have filed separate motions for summary
judgment as to all the remaining claims against them.
Smith did not have a property interest in his continued
employment as a special police officer, the individual
defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted
as to his due-process claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. That
is the only federal claim asserted in this matter. The Court
will decline to exercise its discretion to retain
supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law
claims, and therefore will remand the case to Plymouth County
following facts are undisputed unless otherwise indicated.
Smith was appointed as a Special Police Officer
(“SPO”) for the West Bridgewater Police
Department (“WPD”) on October 30, 2002. (Ind.
Defs. SMF Ex. 3). He previously served as a sergeant in the
WPD before retiring in 2002. (Id. Ex. 4 at
46:18-47:15, 60:10-12). Smith's last day of employment
was on May 5, 2016. (Id. Ex. 4 at 34:10-35:9).
Town of West Bridgewater (“Town”) employed Smith
through the WPD. (Ind. Defs. SMF Ex. 3).
Lawrence is a selectman for the Town, who has served
continuously since 2006. (Ind. Defs. SMF Ex. 7 at
Clark is a former WPD police officer. (Ind. Defs. SMF Ex. 20
at 10:7-9). He began his employment in 1986, and was made
Chief of Police in 2004. (Id. Ex. 20 at 10:7-9,
15:20-24). He retired in July 2016. (Id. Ex. 20 at
R. Flaherty, Jr. is the current WPD Chief of Police,
appointed on March 9, 2016. (Ind. Defs. SMF Ex. 5 at 5:3-7).
Werner is a sergeant with the WPD. (Ind. Defs. SMF Ex. 13 at
9:13-15). He joined the WPD in 1996 and was promoted to
sergeant in August 2005. (Id. Ex. 13 at 6:3-8,
Officer Monteiro Encounters Lawrence
retired from the WPD force in 2002, and soon after was
appointed to the position of SPO with WPD. (Ind. Defs. SMF
Ex. 3, Ex. 4 at 60:10-12). According to Smith, on April 12,
2015, WPD Officer Matthew Monteiro asked to speak with him at
the WPD station. (Ind. Defs. SMF Ex. 4 at 203:23-204:14).
Monteiro told him that he recently pulled over Lawrence for
several driving violations, including an expired inspection
sticker, driving without his license in his possession, and
attaching license plates to an incorrect vehicle.
(Id. Ex. 4 at 204:22-205:14; see Id. Ex. 11
at 9:1-10:21, 16:16-17:1, 32:23-33:4). Smith testified that
Monteiro was upset because Werner had told him to release
Lawrence with no further police action and not to enter the
stop in the logbook. (Ind. Defs. SMF Ex. 4 at 205:4-206:15).
testified that he recognized Lawrence's name when he
stopped him and knew that he was a selectman. (Ind. Defs. SMF
Ex. 11 at 11:16-12:3, 14:10-22). As a relatively new officer
who had served just 14 months, he called Werner, his
superior, to ask advice on how to proceed. (Id. Ex.
11 at 11:15-12:19). After the call, Monteiro released Lawrence
with a verbal warning and did not enter the incident into the
official police log. (Id. Ex. 11 at
19:12-18). He could not remember whether he had
yelled at Lawrence during the stop. (Id. Ex. 11 at
19:24-20:15, 41:17-42:19). At some point, Monteiro learned
that another officer had noticed a problem with
Lawrence's plates approximately two weeks before Monteiro
stopped him, but he could not remember when he learned that.
(Id. Ex. 11 at 35:1-36:4; see Id. Ex. 13 at
46:4-48:11; id. Ex. 7 at 31:5-12).
testified that he did not specifically tell Monteiro how to
proceed during the motor-vehicle stop, but only informed him
that he had discretion to release Lawrence with a warning.
(Ind. Defs. SMF Ex. 13 at 28:9-29:21). According to Werner,
officers also have discretion as to whether motor-vehicle
stops are logged into the WPD system. (Id. Ex. 13 at
38:5-41:23). Werner testified that at the time he spoke to
Monteiro on the phone he did not know that another officer,
Officer Winkler, had previously noticed that there was an
issue with Lawrence's plates. (Id. Ex. 13 at
45:22-46:7). At some point, however, he learned that Winkler
had seen Lawrence's car parked in the parking lot of the
Town Hall and noticed that the plates were registered to a
different vehicle. (Id. Ex. 13 at 46:4-48:12).
Werner also testified that he and Lawrence had been close
personal friends for many years, although they had recently
grown a little bit distant. (Id. Ex. 13 at 10:6-18).
In recounting a conversation with Lawrence sometime after
Monteiro pulled him over, Werner stated that Lawrence was
upset over being lectured by the officer during the stop.
(Id. Ex. 13 at 32:9-33:8).
testified that he apologized to Monteiro and told him that
Winkler had told him to take care of the registration issue
weeks ago. (Ind. Defs. SMF Ex. 7 at 31:5-12). He said
Monteiro yelled at him and told him he should be ashamed of
himself. (Id. Ex. 7 at 31:14-16, 32:19-33:1). He
testified that he was “pretty shaken at the way [he]
was talked to” and that four or five days later he
contacted the police station to say that “if I ever
heard an officer talk to anybody the way he was talking to
me, other than someone that has committed a violent crime, I
would be really not happy as a selectman.”
(Id. Ex. 7 at 40:5-17).
April 22, 2015, Smith was assigned by WPD to perform detail
work in West Bridgewater. (Ind. Defs. SMF Ex. 4 at
211:13-212:1). During his shift, Smith saw Lawrence near
the playground area of the Howard School and his car parked
in the parking lot nearby. (Id. Ex. 4 at 213:5-19).
Lawrence approached him and asked how he was enjoying his
retirement. (Id. Ex. 4 at 214:4-24). Smith responded
by asking Lawrence if he had taken care of his car
registration, and he said that he had. (Id. Ex. 4 at
215:1-8). After Lawrence had left, Smith called the WPD
unrecorded dispatch line from his cell phone to request that
they run Lawrence's plates through their system.
(Id. Ex. 4 at 216:1-217:3). The desk officer on the
line ran the plates and told Smith they were active.
(Id. Ex. 4 at 217:2-3).
to defendants, at the time of the call from Smith, WPD had a
policy that SPOs were not to engage in law enforcement
activities (such as calling in license plates) while working
a detail. (Ind. Defs. SMF Ex. 6). This stated policy was set
forth in a memorandum that was issued by WPD Chief of Police
Anderson in 1992. (Id.). Smith testified that he had
heard of the memorandum at the time of the call on April 22,
2015, but had never actually seen it and believed it did not
constitute official policy. (Ind. Defs. SMF Ex. 4 at
117:2-24, 119:11-17, 126:1-9). According to Smith, the
memorandum was referred to as the “Tuck Rule, ”
and was written to apply only to a former officer named Phil
Tuck, who pulled over multiple cars while working private
details, leading the private companies involved to complain
that he was not doing the job that they hired him to do.
(Id. Ex. 4 at 126:6-128:11). Werner testified that
SPOs have made arrests while on detail despite the
memorandum. (Id. Ex. 13 at 15:24-16:19). Monteiro
also testified that officers working a detail have previously
called into WPD dispatch to run plates, that he is not aware
of any rule or policy against it, and that he had never heard
of anyone getting suspended for doing that. (Id. Ex.
11 at 39:10-40:5).
overheard Smith's call into the WPD to run Lawrence's
plates while he was working near the dispatch center. (Ind.
Defs. SMF Ex. 13 at 59:1-12). He testified that he found the
call unusual because SPOs do not normally call in plates.
(Id. Ex. 13 at 59:22-60:6). Werner testified that he
discussed the matter with Flaherty, who told him to speak
with Smith and remind him that SPOs are not issued citation