Sean Beck was a police officer for the City of Zanesville, Ohio. In March 2005, he inquired about the possibility of establishing a canine unit in the Police Department. The Department authorized Beck to start a canine program. Beck raised the money to purchase the dog and trained the dog himself. He spent 1,017 overtime hours training and caring for the dog. Beck spent his own funds caring for the dog.
Beck later sued the Department, alleging that he was owed more than $50,000 for his overtime hours relating to the dog. The Department moved to dismiss the lawsuit, citing the fact that it was not a proper defendant in the lawsuit.
A federal court agreed with the Department. The Court found:
“There is no question that the Police Department of the City of Zanesville is not a juridical entity subject to suit under Ohio law. Rather, the Police Department is a subdivision of a municipal corporation, the City of Zanesville, which is subject to suit. A police department lacks the capacity to be sued because it is an administrative vehicle by which the City operates and performs its functions. Consequently, the Department’s motion to be dismissed as a party will be granted.”
The City’s victory was a temporary one; the Court gave Beck the opportunity to change his complaint to name the City of Zanesville as a defendant.
Beck v. Zanesville Police Department, 2011 WL 1226014 (S.D. Ohio 2011).