Court: United States District Court for the Northern District of New York
Case Name: Montanez v. City of Syracuse
Citation: 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 152674
The plaintiff brought this sexual assault action against the defendant city. The plaintiff alleged that a police officer employed by the city reported to her residence upon responding to a 911 call and directed her to engage in sexual activities with him. The defendant moved to preclude the testimony of the plaintiff’s police expert witness under Rules 702, 703, and 704 of the Federal Rules of Evidence.
The Police Expert
The police expert witness served with the New York City Housing Police and the New York City Police Department before retiring as a Captain after 15 years of service. The expert served as a commanding officer in the office of legal matters before going on to work as an integrity control officer in the legal bureau as well as the license division at the NYPD. Prior to his retirement, the police expert worked in the special prosecutor’s office, which prosecuted officers accused of serious corruption and misconduct. The police expert obtained a law degree in 2000, practicing as a criminal defense attorney for 19 years. The expert was a member of the American Association of Law Enforcement Professionals, the Fraternal Order of Police, and the Captain’s Endowment Association.
The defendant moved to exclude the plaintiff’s police expert witness on the grounds that his experience in police matters was ‘stale.’ The defendants claimed that the expert was no longer qualified to opine on such matters because almost 20 years had passed since his retirement from the police force. Furthermore, the defendant claimed the police expert unfairly opined on rumors regarding said officer’s alleged sexual misconduct with other women in the past.
The court found the police expert to be suitably qualified to testify on the proper conduct of police officers, having served in the force for 15 years and five years specifically in police investigative and disciplinary proceedings. The court believed the defendant’s apprehensions about the expert’s experience being stale could be addressed during cross-examination, noting that “disputes as to the strength of [an expert’s] credentials, faults in his use of different etiology as a methodology, or lack of textual authority for his opinion, go to the weight, not the admissibility, of his testimony,” citing McCullock v. H.B. Fuller Co.
Furthermore, the court asserted that the police expert witness based his report on his personal experience researching police misconduct, administering disciplinary techniques, and prescribing punishments in cases of police wrongdoing. The expert also conducted an audit of the NYPD procedural manual and reviewed reports and statements created regarding the present case to form his opinion.
The court believed that the police expert’s opinion should not be rendered unreliable simply because he did not follow the traditional scientific methodology subject to peer-review. His methods were “nevertheless based on data—including personal experience…review of police manuals and other primary sources…’ of a type reasonably relied on by experts in various disciplines of social science,'” citing Vasquez v. City of New York.
However, the court limited the extent to which the police expert could proffer his opinion by allowing him to only testify about how the defendant’s police response compared to conduct in other departments. The court precluded the police expert from testifying on how departmental misconduct allowed the police officer in question to continue his own misconduct. The expert was also precluded from testifying on rumors regarding said officer’s sexual misconduct with other women in the past.
The defendant’s motion to preclude the expert opinion of the plaintiff’s police expert witness was granted in part and denied in part.