Failure To Train And Sexual Misconduct

Joshua Mozeleski is a Chicopee, Massachusetts police officer. On the night of November 9, 2007, Yolanda Claudio was acting as the designated driver during celebrations for her cousin’s birthday. After she dropped her cousin off at the end of the night, she noticed Joshua Mozeleski, whom she did not know, in a nearby parked police cruiser. Mozeleski subsequently drove off and Claudio left a short time later.

Mozeleski circled around and followed Claudio’s car, eventually pulling her over without justification. Mozeleski, who was in uniform, checked Claudio’s license and told her that it had been suspended for failure to pay a citation. He informed Claudio that he was supposed to arrest her for driving with a suspended license but that she was “too cute” for him to do so. He suggested that he would not arrest Claudio if she had sex with him.

After Claudio rebuffed his advances, Mozeleski stated again that she was “too cute” and “innocent” to arrest. He obtained her telephone number by insisting that he needed it to make sure she got home safely. Mozeleski then kissed Claudio’s lips and touched her upper arm without her consent.

Afterward, Claudio drove home where she received a call from Mozeleski in which he asked whether he had detected lip gloss on her lips. He also told Claudio that she owed him a big favor. Mozeleski left a voicemail message on Claudio’s answering machine three days later; the record does not reveal the content of that message.

Claudio filed a complaint against Mozeleski with the Department. The investigation resulted in the termination of Mozeleski’s employment with the City. Claudio sued the City under the Civil Rights Act, alleging that the City was liable for failing to adequately train Mozeleski.

The Massachusetts Court of Appeals disagreed, and dismissed the lawsuit. The Court found that “the risk that a police officer would engage in sexual abuse of a member of the public and attempt to extort sexual favors is not more obvious than the risk that a police officer would assault and batter a member of the public and threaten to arrest the sole observer of the incident. Neither, standing alone, can form the basis for finding a municipality to be deliberately indifferent to the rights of the public for failing to train its officers against the relevant risk. When misdeeds relate to such basic norms of human conduct, in the ordinary case a municipal policymaker need not expend precious resources on training or supervision but can instead rely on the common sense of her employees.”

The Court also found persuasive the lack of a history of problems in the Department, and the Department’s reaction to Claudio’s complaint: “Here, there had been no previous complaints regarding sexual misconduct or harassment by Mozeleski. In fact, there had only been one complaint regarding any form of sexual misconduct by a member of the City’s police force in the last 32 years. That complaint occurred in the 1980s and the officer was cleared of the charge. The City’s failure to implement training regarding sexual misconduct or harassment of the public based on the incident did not amount to deliberate indifference.

“Finally, the City acted promptly and conducted a thorough investigation of Mozeleski’s misconduct. When the Police Chief determined that Mozeleski had taken the actions of which Claudio accused him, he imposed the maximum sanction that he was legally allowed to impose, a five-day suspension. The matter was then referred to the mayor, who was lawfully entitled to fire police officers. After a hearing on Claudio’s accusation, the mayor terminated Mozeleski’s employment with the City. This remedial action does not show deliberate indifference to the rights of the public.”

Claudio v. City of Chicopee, 2012 WL 1109196 (Mass. App. Ct. 2012).