United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
VIELKA M. LIPPE and CHRISTOPHER LIPPE, individually, and as husband and wife, Plaintiffs,
CHRISTOPHER HOWARD, an individual and in his official capacity as a Police Officer for the City of Oklahoma City; and THE CITY OF OKLAHOMA CITY, a municipal corporation, Defendants.
TIMOTHY D. DeGIUSTI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are Defendant City of Oklahoma City's
Objections to Plaintiffs' Expert Witness Reports of John
A. Cocklin and Jason Bass and Use of Said Experts [Doc. No.
96], and Defendant Christopher Howard's Motion to Exclude
the Expert Report and Testimony of Plaintiffs' Expert
John Cocklin and Brief in Support [Doc. No. 97]. Plaintiffs
have responded [Doc. Nos. 102, 104], and Defendants have
replied [Doc. Nos. 108, 111]. The matter is fully briefed and
have filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law for
injuries allegedly suffered during an encounter with
Defendant Christopher Howard (“Howard”), a police
officer for the City of Oklahoma City (the
“City”). Plaintiffs have sued the City and
Howard. The First Amended Complaint asserts four claims
against Howard individually: 1) a § 1983 claim for
unlawful seizure and excessive use of force; 2) intentional
infliction of emotional distress and outrageous conduct; 3)
intentional violations of Plaintiffs' state
constitutional rights; and 4) negligence. [Doc. No. 13]. It
also asserts a failure to train or supervise claim and a
negligence claim against the City. In support of these
claims, Plaintiffs retained John Cocklin and Jason Bass as
expert witnesses to testify about police policies,
procedures, training and use of force.
2002 until his retirement from government service in 2014,
Mr. Cocklin was the chief investigator for the New Jersey
Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“NJ
ABC”), which investigates alleged violations of the New
Jersey Alcoholic Beverage Control Act. See
Cocklin's Résumé [Doc. No. 97-1 at 2]. As
chief investigator, Mr. Cocklin supervised detectives and
civilian investigators. Cocklin's Dep. [Doc. No. 97-2 at
22]. From 1980 until 2002, Mr. Cocklin was a detective with
the Division of Criminal Justice for the New Jersey Attorney
General's Office (“NJDCJ”) where he served in
different supervisory roles, including chief of detectives.
Cocklin's Résumé [Doc. No. 97-1 at 3-4].
Admittedly, the only time Mr. Cocklin has served as a
uniformed police officer was between 1977 and 1979.
Id. at 5; see also Cocklin's Dep. [Doc.
No. 97-2 at 25]. However, as a NJDCJ detective for 22 years,
he held statewide police and special deputy sheriff powers
and authority. Cocklin's Dep. [Doc. No. 97-2 at 24].
2014, Mr. Cocklin has worked as an expert witness, first on
his own and more recently as a salaried employee with Robson
Forensic. Cocklin's Résumé [Doc. No. 97-1
at 1]; see also Cocklin's Dep. [Doc. No. 97-2 at
3-10]. Mr. Cocklin has testified as an expert witness in only
three cases, all of which were dram shop cases involving
alleged violations of alcoholic beverage regulations.
Cocklin's Dep. [Doc. No. 97-2 at 4-7, 15-16]. Mr. Cocklin
has no prior experience serving as an expert witness in use
of force cases. He has written no peer-reviewed literature
that relates to use of force.
Cocklin's expert report in this case was “peer
reviewed” by two of his colleagues at Robson Forensic.
Cocklin's Dep. [Doc. No. 97-2 at 10-14]. One peer
reviewer specializes in toxicology while the other
specializes in “police service” cases.
Id. at 10-14.
Cocklin has served as a New Jersey Police Training Commission
certified instructor for 25 years. Cocklin's
Résumé [Doc. No. 97-1 at 4]. He has provided
instruction in more than 50 basic police training courses,
including firearms training. Id. He has additional
certifications as a firearms instructor, rangemaster and
sub-gun instructor. Id.
chief investigator of the N.J. ABC, Cocklin created, designed
and implemented the N.J. ABC's Last Drink
Initiative and the first statewide investigation of
alcoholic beverage substitution by bars and restaurants.
Id. at 2. In addition, he was a member of the N.J.
ABC's executive staff and participated in the review,
modification and enactment of administrative regulations for
the alcoholic beverage industry. Id.
was a commanding member of the New Jersey Attorney
General's Police Shooting Response Team. Id. at
3. The team established statewide protocols for the
investigation of police involved shootings and other uses of
deadly force. Id. In his role as deputy chief of
detectives, he also oversaw the NJDCJ's Internal Affairs
Unit and the Prosecutor's Supervisory Bureau for four
years. Id. This role required Cocklin to supervise
and review all criminal and non-criminal professional
misconduct, use of force and code of ethics violations
involving NJDCJ personnel and all county prosecutor offices
in New Jersey. Id.
Cocklin intends to offer the following opinions concerning
Howard's actions on February 1, 2014:
1. Howard, while off duty, in plain clothes and without his
police badge created a dangerous situation when he took
police action against Mrs. Lippe. Howard should have known
that no objectively reasonable person under the same
circumstances as Mrs. Lippe would have known he was a police
2. Howard illegally detained, constructively arrested and
injured Mrs. Lippe and caused damage to her vehicle.
3. A similarly trained and objectively reasonable police
officer under the same circumstances would have determined he
lacked reasonable suspicion to detain or probable cause to
4. Howard used prohibited police tactics when he placed
himself in front of a motor vehicle in an attempt to detain
Mrs. Lippe. Further, Howard used excessive and deadly force
against Mrs. Lippe. Howard's actions violated the
standard of care outlined in the OCPD policies and procedures
and was contrary to Oklahoma law and national model policies
for off duty police conduct.
Cocklin's Report [Doc. No. 97-3 at 19].
and the City's objections to Mr. Cocklin's testimony
are based on the content of Mr. Cocklin's expert report
and his deposition testimony. Howard and the City contend
that Mr. Cocklin has offered opinions on matters that he is
not qualified to address and that his opinions on police
procedure and use of force are not reliable.
Bass worked for the Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office from
August 2000 until his resignation in April 2015. See
Bass' Résumé [Doc. No. 96-6 at 1]; see
also [Doc. No. 96-4]. Prior to his resignation, Mr. Bass
had achieved the rank of Corporal and his Advanced Peace
Officer certification. Bass' Résumé [Doc.
No. 96-6 at 1]; Bass' Report [Doc. No. 96-2 at 1]. As a
Corporal Detective, Bass supervised criminal investigations,
trained subordinates in proper police procedure, and
developed and implemented departmental policies and
procedures. Bass' Résumé [Doc. No. 96-6 at
Bass was also assigned to the Special Investigations Unit
(“SIU”) of the Oklahoma County Sheriff's
Office as a supervisor detective. Bass' Report [Doc. No.
96-2 at 1]; Bass' Résumé [Doc. No. 96-6 at
2]. The SIU is responsible for investigating administrative
and criminal allegations that involve Sheriff's Office
personnel. Id. This includes allegations of staff
misconduct and assaults both on and off duty. Id. In
addition, Mr. Bass assisted in the development of the
Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office Policy and
Procedures Manual. Bass' Report [Doc. No. 96-2 at
Bass' résumé indicates he was the sole
administrator for the Oklahoma County Detention Center's
inmate phone recording system. Bass' Résumé
[Doc. No. 96-6 at 2]. In this capacity, Bass was charged with
investigating criminal cases involving inmates. Id.
Additionally, it appears Mr. Bass worked as a paid consultant
for Telmate, an inmate communications firm. Id. at
1. Mr. Bass trained law enforcement and jail staff across the
country on the company's software. Id.
Bass' report indicates he has submitted expert reports in
two state cases. Bass' Report [Doc. No. 96-2 at 1].
Neither case appeared to involve the use of force by a police
officer. One involved charges of robbery with a dangerous
weapon, first-degree burglary and kidnapping. The other
included charges for possession of child pornography and
downloading obscene materials. Thus, it appears Mr. Bass has
no prior experience serving as ...