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Copeland v. Philadelphia Police Department

filed: March 7, 1988.

JAMES B. COPELAND, APPELLANT
v.
THE PHILADELPHIA POLICE DEPARTMENT, AND KEVIN TUCKER, SUED IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS POLICE COMMISSIONER FOR THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, AND WILLIAM REED, SUED IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS STAFF INSPECTOR FOR THE INTERNAL AFFAIRS BUREAU OF THE PHILADELPHIA POLICE DEPARTMENT



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Civil No. 86-2114, E.D. Pa.

Seitz, Hutchinson and Aldisert, Circuit Judges.

Author: Seitz

Opinion OF THE COURT

SEITZ, Circuit Judge.

Appellant James Copeland appeals from the order of the district court granting summary judgment to defendants on all of Copeland's federal claims. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291 (1982).

I.

We proceed to narrate the undisputed facts of record. In March 1985, Copeland, a Philadelphia policeman, had been found to be off his beat in the company of a fellow officer, who was alleged to be selling drugs and who was dismissed for the use of illegal drugs. Copeland submitted to a urinalysis following this incident, and the results were negative. He was, however, suspended from the Philadelphia Police Department ("the department") for fifteen days because on three occasions he had been off his beat while reporting otherwise in his patrol log and once he had used his private vehicle on his beat without permission.

In October 1985, Copeland was accused by his former girlfriend Marion Brickhouse, also a police officer, of having used illegal drugs in her presence. She leveled the accusation following a heated altercation with Copeland. She made the accusation to Captain Willie Williams, Copeland's commanding officer.

In response to Brickhouse's allegation, an investigation was launched by Staff Inspector William Reed of the Internal Affairs Bureau of the department. Reed had also conducted the investigation that resulted in Copeland's previous suspension. During the first two months of the investigation no further evidence implicating Copeland in drug use was uncovered; none of the police officers interviewed indicated that they had any reason to believe that Copeland used drugs. Furthermore, Brickhouse retracted her allegation and also denied having accused Copeland. Based on this evidence, in December 1985, Copeland was ordered to submit to a urinalysis.

Copeland's urine sample was delivered to a private testing laboratory, where it was placed in an unlocked refrigerator. Three tests performed over a period of one month indicated the presence of cannabinoids (i.e., marijuana or hashish) in Copeland's urine, at levels of 75, 35, and 25 ng/ml, respectively. The laboratory report, delivered to the department, stated that these levels were "too high to be consistent with passive inhalation."*fn1

Based on these results, on January 22, 1986, Copeland was interviewed by Inspector Reed, who orally informed Copeland that he tested positive. Copeland denied using marijuana. When pressed for an explanation, Copeland offered the possibility that the positive test results were caused by passive inhalation of marijuana; Copeland stated that during the weekend immediately preceding his submitting to the urinalysis he had worked as a security guard in a Philadelphia hotel where the hallways were filled with marijuana smoke.

At the conclusion of his interview with Reed, Copeland was suspended with intent to dismiss. On January 30, 1986, Copeland received a Notice of Intention to Dismiss. Effective February 9, 1986, Copeland was discharged from the department.*fn2

Copeland filed this action in the district court in April 1986, seeking reinstatement, back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and a declaratory judgment that his constitutional rights and statutory rights had been violated. He named as defendants the City of Philadelphia, Police Commissioner Kevin Tucker, and Staff Inspector William Reed (collectively "the city"). The district court granted the city's motion for summary judgment on all the federal claims and allowed the pendent state law claims to be withdrawn. The district court's decision was apparently based on the conclusion that no constitutional or statutory violations had been proved and that the individual defendants were entitled to the benefit of qualified immunity because of their good faith. This appeal followed.

II.

We are ordinarily required to address the validity of the qualified immunity defense as an initial matter, but, because the qualified immunity defense is not available to a municipality, Hynson v. City of Chester, 827 F.2d 932, 934 (3d Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 1007, 108 S. Ct. 702, 98 L. Ed. 2d 653, 56 U.S.L.W. 3460 (U.S. 1988), and protects government officials only from civil liability in damages, id., we must, in any event, reach the merits of Copeland's claims. Therefore, we put aside the issue of the applicability of the qualified immunity defense based on the facts of this case.

On appeal, Copeland contends that factual disputes made the granting of summary judgment improper as to his claims that the city violated his federal constitutional and statutory rights in the following respects: unreasonable search and seizure; lack of procedural due process; denial of substantive due process; denial of equal protection; invasion of the liberty interest in his reputation; and failure to accord him the benefit of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("the Act"). See 29 U.S.C. § 794 (1982). We will address these issues seriatim.

Because the district court granted the city's motion for summary judgment, our review is plenary. Goodman v. Mead Johnson & Co., 534 F.2d 566, 573 (3d Cir. 1976), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 1038, 50 L. Ed. 2d 748, 97 S. Ct. 732 (1977).

A. Unreasonable Search and Seizure

Copeland contends that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to the city on his claim that the city violated his right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure as guaranteed by the fourth and fourteenth amendments by ordering him to submit to a urinalysis.*fn3 Copeland argues that the grant of summary judgment was inappropriate because factual disputes exist as to the propriety of the search and because ...


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