Crouse v. Town of Moncks Corner, No. 16-1039 (4th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Two police officers appealed their dismissal from the force, alleging retaliation for the exercise of their First Amendment rights. The district court granted qualified immunity to the police chief. The court held that the chief is entitled to qualified immunity because he could reasonably have believed that the officers were acting as police officers rather than private citizens and believed that the officers' conversation with an individual arrested by another officer was surreptitious conduct designed to foment complaints and litigation against a supervisor with whom they did not get along. In this case, the chief saw this behavior as a serious threat to the smooth running of the police department and to his own ability to maintain operational control. The court explained that the chief could reasonably have viewed the department's interest in maintaining discipline as paramount in the Pickering balance. Because the court found that the law was not clearly established here, the court declined to determine whether a constitutional violation actually occurred. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.