Bonenberger v. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff's motion for equitable relief [# 101 ] is granted in part. Defendants will be enjoined from any illegal use of race when transferring or assigning officers. Defendants will also be or dered to comply with St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department policies related to the reporting of discrimination complaints to the Board of Police Commissioners. Lt. Michael Muxo, Lt. Col. Reggie Harris, and the current Chief of Police will be or dered to undergo anti-discrimination training for at least one session lasting three hours during each of calendar years 2014, 2015, and 2016. All other equitable relief is denied. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all other pending motions are denied as moot. A separate judgment in accordance with this Memorandum and Order is entered this same date. Signed by District Judge Catherine D. Perry on April 29, 2014. (BRP)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
ST. LOUIS METROPOLITAN
POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al.
Case No. 4:12CV21 CDP
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This motion for equitable relief is before me following a jury verdict in favor
of St. Louis police officer David Bonenberger on his claims that he was subjected
to racial discrimination when he was refused the position of Assistant Director of
the St. Louis Police Academy. The jury awarded Bonenberger $620,000 in actual
and punitive damages. Bonenberger now asks that I order six items of equitable
relief, including an injunction against further discrimination, the requirement that
command staff undertake anti-discrimination training, and an order that the
Department follow its own internal discrimination complaint reporting
requirements. I will grant the above remedies, because they are tailored to the
harm suffered by Bonenberger and will help limit further discrimination within the
Department. I will not order that Bonenberger be transferred to the position he was
denied, in part because the transfer would hurt an innocent party and will likely
disrupt the Academy’s function. Nor will I order equitable relief relative to the
interviewing process, because the discrimination here was alleged to occur outside
of that process. Finally, because the case has already received sufficient publicity,
I will not require the dissemination of my judgment within the Department.
David Bonenberger brought suit claiming that he was not given the position
of Assistant Director of the St. Louis Police Academy because of his race. None of
the applicants for the position possessed the minimum qualifications, and
Bonenberger was not granted an interview. The position ultimately went to an
applicant of a different race who also was not interviewed.
Bonenberger sued the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the
members of the Board of Police Commissioners in their official capacities,
Academy Director Lt. Michael Muxo, Lt. Col. Reggie Harris, and former Chief of
Police Daniel Isom, alleging race discrimination. He also alleged Muxo and
Harris, Muxo’s commanding officer, conspired to discriminate against him. The
jury found in favor of Bonenberger on his race discrimination and conspiracy
claims. It awarded him actual damages of $200,000 and punitive damages totaling
Bonenberger now asks that I grant a number of equitable remedies: (1) order
the defendants to transfer him to the position of Assistant Academy Director; (2)
enjoin the defendants from transferring or assigning officers to positions based
upon race; (3) order the Department to follow its policies regarding reporting of
discrimination complaints; (4) order an EEOC officer to be present during
interviews conducted for open positions within the Department; (5) order
command staff to attend annual anti-discrimination training for the next three
years; and (6) order the defendants to publish this court’s judgment.
“A district court is obligated to grant a plaintiff who has been discriminated
against on account of his [or her] race . . . the most complete relief possible.”
Briseno v. Cent. Technical Cmty. Coll. Area, 739 F.2d 344, 347 (8th Cir. 1984). A
court may exercise its discretion to fashion injunctive relief to remedy the effects
of racial discrimination. Briscoe v. Fred’s Dollar Store, 24 F.3d 1026, 1028 (8th
Cir. 1994). An injunction should be tailored to the harm suffered. See E.E.O.C. v.
HBE Corp., 135 F.3d 543, 557 (8th Cir. 1998) (“Provisions of an injunction may
be set aside if they are broader than necessary to remedy the underlying wrong.”)
(citing Easley v. Anheuser–Busch, Inc., 758 F.2d 251, 263 (8th Cir. 1985)).
Bonenberger asks that I order the Department to appoint him to the position
of Assistant Academy Director immediately or, alternatively, as soon as the
position opens. In deciding whether to order a plaintiff’s instatement, the court
must balance the equities of making the plaintiff whole, the possibility that an
innocent incumbent may be injured, and the effect of such an order on the
workplace involved. See E.E.O.C. v. Rath Packing Co., 787 F.2d 318, 334–35 (8th
Cir. 1986). The court may also consider whether the position sought is high level,
unique, or unusually sensitive and whether extreme animosity exists between the
plaintiff and defendant. Dickerson v. Deluxe Check Printers, Inc., 703 F.2d 276,
280–81 (8th Cir. 1983) (citations omitted).
The position Bonenberger seeks is both unique and high level. It would
require close collaboration with the Academy Director – one of the defendants,
whom Bonenberger now alleges made false statements under oath at trial to
conceal the conspiracy. It is highly probable that these continued allegations
would result in substantial antagonism and interfere with the operations of the
Academy. Bonenberger’s appointment would also harm the innocent party that
now holds the position. Bonenberger has been sufficiently compensated by the
actual and punitive damages awarded by the jury and has not suffered any lower
pay in the interim. The equities here do not favor appointing Bonenberger as the
Assistant Academy Director.
Bonenberger next asks that I enjoin the defendants from transferring and
assigning officers based on race. I have a “duty to render a decree which will so
far as possible eliminate the discriminatory effects of the past as well as bar like
discrimination in the future.” Albemarle Paper Co. v. Moody, 422 U.S. 405, 418
(1975) (quotation omitted). The Board’s oversight over the Department remains
intact,1 and the command-staff defendants largely remain in the same supervisory
positions.2 Given that the jury found that race was a motivating factor in the
defendants’ employment decision, I will enjoin the Department to refrain from
illegal discrimination based on race in future employment decisions. See EEOC v.
FLC & Bros. Rebel, Inc., 663 F. Supp. 684, 870 (W.D. Va. 1987), aff’d, 846 F.2d
70 (4th Cir. 1988).
I will order the Department to follow its policies regarding reporting of
discrimination complaints. Bonenberger provided evidence from a former member
of the Board of Police Commissioners who related that the Board was not routinely
informed of discrimination complaints, in contravention of a policy on the subject.
In a case involving excessive force by St. Louis police, Judge Webber found that
the Board had “created an insulating barrier which prevents notice of complaints
from reaching the Commissioner Defendants.” Rohrbough v. Hall, No.
4:07CV996 ERW, 2008 WL 4722742, at *13 (E.D. Mo. Oct. 23, 2008). Continued
violation of its own rules perpetuates the risk for future discrimination by the
command staff, and the Board should be notified of complaints per Department
Following the jury trial, the State of Missouri relinquished control of the St. Louis Metropolitan
Police Department in favor of the City. Mayor Francis Slay, formerly an ex officio member of
the Board, now has more direct control.
Chief of Police Daniel Isom retired before the trial.
I will also order Lt. Michael Muxo, Lt. Col. Reggie Harris, and the current
Chief of Police to attend training designed to enable them, as command staff, to
detect and prevent discrimination within the Department. The training shall
consist of at least one class lasting three hours or more, which shall take place
during each of years 2014, 2015 and 2016. This requirement is ordered in light of
the jury’s finding for Bonenberger on his conspiracy claim against Muxo and
Harris and the jury’s decision to award punitive damages against Muxo, Harris,
and former Chief Isom.
Bonenberger asks that I order a representative from the EEOC be present
during all interviews. However, Bonenberger has not established that this relief
could prevent the type of discrimination to which he was subjected. Bonenberger
was not granted an interview and the position was filled without conducting an
interview. The requested relief is broader than required and, therefore,
inappropriate in this instance. See Easley v. Anheuser–Busch, Inc., 758 F.2d at
Bonenberger finally asks that I order the department to publish this Court’s
final judgment, including any equitable relief awarded, to encourage the reporting
of illegal discrimination by officers. This trial, and the jury’s award, received
extensive press coverage. Bonenberger’s attorneys also made statements to the
press, and Bonenberger currently serves as president of a police officers’ union.
Further publication of the judgment by the command staff is unnecessary.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that plaintiff’s motion for equitable relief
[# 101] is granted in part. Defendants will be enjoined from any illegal use of race
when transferring or assigning officers. Defendants will also be ordered to comply
with St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department policies related to the reporting of
discrimination complaints to the Board of Police Commissioners. Lt. Michael
Muxo, Lt. Col. Reggie Harris, and the current Chief of Police will be ordered to
undergo anti-discrimination training for at least one session lasting three hours
during each of calendar years 2014, 2015, and 2016. All other equitable relief is
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all other pending motions are denied as
A separate judgment in accordance with this Memorandum and Order is
entered this same date.
CATHERINE D. PERRY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 29th day of April, 2014.
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