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Smith v. Oklahoma City Police Department

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

June 28, 2018

KEITH L'SHAWN SMITH, Plaintiff,
v.
OKLAHOMA CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendant.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          CHARLES B. GOODWIN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Keith L'Shawn Smith, appearing pro se and proceeding in forma pauperis, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging excessive force in connection with an encounter with two Oklahoma City Police Department ("OCPD") officers. See Compl. (Doc. No. 1). United States District Judge David L. Russell has referred this matter to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for initial proceedings consistent with 28 U.S.C. § 636. Upon review of Plaintiff's Complaint, the undersigned recommends that its claims be dismissed without prejudice to refiling.

         I. Standard of Review and the Court's Screening Obligation

         The Court is obligated to conduct an initial review of Plaintiffs Complaint to identify its cognizable claims and to dismiss the pleading, or any portion thereof, that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A(b)(1); Doc. No. 16. A pro se litigant's complaint must be liberally construed. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). The broad construction accorded to the pro se litigant's allegations does not, however, "relieve the plaintiff of the burden of alleging sufficient facts on which a recognized legal claim could be based." Hall v. Bellmon, 935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991).

         A complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted when it lacks factual allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (footnote and citation omitted). In evaluating whether a plaintiff has stated a valid claim, the Court "accept[s] as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and view[s] them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Burnett v. Mortg. Elec. Registration Sys., Inc., 706 F.3d 1231, 1235 (10th Cir. 2013). Bare legal conclusions in a complaint are not entitled to the assumption of truth; "they must be supported by factual allegations" to state a claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         II. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Plaintiff asserts that on August 12th, [1] he was arrested by two OCPD officers at a mall in Oklahoma City for trespassing. See Compl. at 6. According to Plaintiff, the officers failed to allow him to "peaceably comply" with their demands before pepper-spraying him and applying pressure to his head. Id. Plaintiff alleges that the officers "heaved" him headfirst into their patrol vehicle and "smashed" his teeth into the door jam, breaking two teeth in the process. Id. at 7. Plaintiff asserts that he "sustained severe physical damage, primarily dental damage, and emotional damage" and that he "was not charged with any crime as a result of this matter." Id.

         Ill Discussion

         While Plaintiff's allegations would likely be sufficient to state a claim against the two officers who were involved in the incident, Plaintiff sues only OCPD in this lawsuit. See Compl. at 1, 6. Police departments, however, "are not legally suable entities" on § 1983 claims. Lindsey v. Thomson, 275 Fed.Appx. 744, 747 (10th Cir. 2007); accord Ketchum v. Albuquerque Police Dep't, No. 91-2200, 1992 WL 51481, at *2(10thCir. Mar. 12, 1992) ("Police departments ... are not suable entities under § 1983, because they lack legal identities apart from the municipality."). Accordingly, Plaintiffs claims against Defendant OCPD should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See, e.g., Wright v. Okla. Cty. Sheriffs Office, No. CIV-18-165-R, R. & R. of Apr. 24, 2018, adopted, Order of June 8, 2018; Martinez v. Okla. City Police Dep't, No. CIV-16-1351-M, 2017 WL 1283695, at *2 (W.D. Okla. Jan. 6, 2017) (R. & R.), adopted, 2017 WL 1283908 (W.D. Okla. Apr. 5, 2017).

         RECOMMENDATION

         Accordingly, the undersigned recommends that Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. No. 1) be dismissed without prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. See 15 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), 1915A(b)(1).

         NOTICE OF RIGHT TO OBJECT

         Plaintiff is advised of his right to file an objection to this Report and Recommendation with the Clerk of this Court by July 19, 2018, in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72. Plaintiff is further advised that failure to timely object to this Report and Recommendation waives the right to appellate review of both factual and legal issues contained herein. See Moore v United States, 950 F.2d 656, 659 (10th Cir. 1991).

         This Report and Recommendation disposes of all issues referred to the undersigned ...


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