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Croland v. Camille

United States District Court, N.D. Georgia, Atlanta Division

January 3, 2019




         This is a civil rights case. It arises from Plaintiff Caroline Croland's arrest by Defendant Stephenson Camille-a police officer with the City of Atlanta (“City”)-on June 1, 2014, while Ms. Croland was volunteering for an organization that provides food to the homeless in Woodruff Park. Ms. Croland was cited for violating a City ordinance that makes it unlawful to attempt to incite a riot. According to Ms. Croland, she was arrested without probable cause and in retaliation for a previous incident when Ms. Croland filmed Officer Camille as he detained and searched an unknown man. Ms. Croland sues Officer Camille under federal law for violations of her First and Fourth Amendment rights and for related claims under Georgia law. The case comes before the Court now on Officer Camille's Motion for Summary Judgment [87] and Ms. Croland's Partial Motion for Summary Judgment [89]. After reviewing the record, the Court enters the following Order.


         Ms. Croland volunteers her time to two organizations. (Pl.'s SOF, Dkt. [89-1] ¶ 1.) First, she is a long-standing member of the group “Food Not Bombs, ” which serves homeless people by preparing and distributing meals to them. (Id.) As a Food Not Bombs volunteer, Ms. Croland prepared and distributed meals to homeless men and women in Woodruff Park on most Sunday afternoons. Ms. Croland is also an active member of Cop Watch of East Atlanta (“Cop Watch”), which is a watchdog group focused on increasing police accountability and preventing police brutality by filming police officers in public. (Id.)

         On May 15, 2014, Ms. Croland and other Cop Watch volunteers witnessed Officer Camille as he and another City police officer detained three African-American men in Woodruff Park. (Pl.'s Resp. To Def.'s SOF, Dkt. [99] ¶ 25.)[1] Ms. Croland filmed Officer Camille as he detained and searched one of those men. (Id.)

         A week later, on June 1, 2014, Officer Camille returned to Woodruff Park where Food Not Bombs volunteers were distributing meals to the homeless. (Pl.'s SOF, Dkt. [89-1] ¶ 3.) For over an hour, Officer Camille patrolled the park. (Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s SOF, Dkt. [100-1] ¶ 4.) Much of Officer Camille's activity during that time was captured on videos submitted into evidence. (Pre-Arrest Video, Dkt. [87-4]; Arrest Video, Dkt. [87-5]; Video attached to Aff. of Vincent Castillenti (“Castillenti Video”), Dkt. [85-1]; see also Mclean Video, Dkt. [87-6].) Those videos show the following:

         Officer Camille stationed himself by the Woodruff Park pavilion, near a table that the Food Not Bombs volunteers had set up to assemble and distribute meals. (Pre-Arrest Video, Dkt. [87-4] at 00:28.) He repeatedly took a list of radio codes, City ordinances, and state laws from his pocket, studied it, and then returned it to his pocket. (Id. at 2:10-3:15; Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s SOF, Dkt. [100-1] ¶ 4.) A volunteer then asked Officer Camille to leave the park because there was no apparent reason for his presence and he was making those gathered for the meal feel “nervous” and “unsafe.” (Pre-Arrest Video, Dkt. [87-4] at 3:15-5:40.) Officer Camille responded that he chose not to leave because he was in a public park. (Id. at 3:15-4:08, 4:54-4:58.) Rather than patrolling elsewhere, Officer Camille positioned himself closer to the Food Not Bombs table. (Id. at 4:27-4:45.) There, he propped himself against a post and tried largely to ignore persistent and sometimes insulting comments from volunteers, which went on for approximately 8 minutes. (Id. at 4:45, 5:00-13:05.) At one point, Officer Camille idly looked at his phone, and at another he offered his badge number. (Id. at 7:40-8:50, 11:50-12:00.)

         Office Camille then moved away from the volunteers, but he remained in the vicinity of the Food Not Bombs table. (Id. at 13:05-26:22.) In all, Officer Camille surveilled the area for well over an hour. (Def.'s SOF, Dkt. [87-1] ¶ 6; Pl.'s SOF, Dkt. [89-1] ¶ 4.) During this time, several park ambassadors were in Woodruff Park and raised no concerns about the volunteers' actions or any other activities in the park. (Pl.'s SOF, Dkt. [89-1] ¶ 5.)

         Around 4:30 p.m., Ms. Croland, standing near Officer Camille, began expressing that she was “so angry” that they were unable to share a meal with people on Sunday “without state harassment.” (Arrest Video, Dkt. [87-5] at 00:08-00:33; Def.'s SOF, Dkt. [87-1] ¶ 16.) Officer Camille turned his back to Ms. Croland, and as he began walking away, Ms. Croland repeatedly asked him, “Why?” in an increasingly louder tone. (Arrest Video, Dkt. [87-5] at 00:30-00:37.) Ms. Croland then shouted, “Answer me!” (Id. at 00:38.)

         At that point, Officer Camille immediately turned around, approached Ms. Croland, and arrested her.[2] (Id. at 00:38-1:11.) He told Ms. Croland that she was being arrested for “disorderly conduct in the park.” (Id. at 00:49.) Officer Camille charged Ms. Croland with violating City Ordinance § 106-81, which makes it unlawful to cause, provoke, or engage in a fight or riotous conduct. (Dkt. [87-10]; Dkt. [87-12] at 2.) Ms. Croland was later transported to the Atlanta City Detention Center and held over night before being released on bond. (Def.'s SOF, Dkt. [87-1] ¶ 24.)


         In her Amended Complaint [22], Ms. Croland sets forth three counts against Officer Camille: violation of her First and Fourth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Counts I and II); and battery, false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution under Georgia state law (Count III).[3]Officer Camille moves for summary judgment on all three counts. Plaintiff moves for summary judgment only as to her claims under § 1983. The Court sets out the applicable legal standard before considering the parties' motions on the merits.

         I.Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 requires that summary judgment be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” “The moving party bears ‘the initial responsibility of informing the . . . court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.'” Hickson Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co., 357 F.3d 1256, 1259 (11th Cir. 2004) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). Where the moving party makes such a showing, the burden shifts to the non-movant, who must go beyond the pleadings and present affirmative evidence to show that a genuine issue of material fact does exist. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 257 (1986).

         The applicable substantive law identifies which facts are material. Id. at 248. A fact is not material if a dispute over that fact will not affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. An issue is genuine when the evidence is such that a ...

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