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E.W. v. Dolgos

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

February 12, 2018

E.W., a minor, by and through her next friend and mother, T.W., Plaintiff - Appellant,
ROSEMARY DOLGOS, School Resource Officer, in her individual capacity, Defendant-Appellee, and WICOMICO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, Defendant.

          Argued: May 10, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore. J. Frederick Motz, Senior District Judge. (1:15-cv-03982-JFM)


          Robin Ringgold Cockey, COCKEY, BRENNAN & MALONEY, PC, Salisbury, Maryland, for Appellant.

          John Francis Breads, Jr., Hanover, Maryland, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Laura E. Hay, COCKEY, BRENNAN & MALONEY, PC, Salisbury, Maryland, for Appellant.

          Before GREGORY, Chief Judge, WYNN, Circuit Judge, and SHEDD, Senior Circuit Judge.

          GREGORY, Chief Judge.

         This matter involves a school resource officer's decision to handcuff a calm, compliant elementary school student for fighting with another student three days prior. The child brought a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for excessive use of force in violation of the Fourth Amendment and several state law claims. On a motion for summary judgment, the district court concluded that the officer's conduct did not amount to a constitutional violation and that the officer was entitled to both federal qualified immunity and state statutory immunity under the Maryland Tort Claims Act ("MTCA"). For the reasons that follow, we affirm the district court's judgment.


         Because this case arises from a grant of summary judgment, we set forth the material facts in the light most favorable to Appellant E.W., the non-movant. Henry v. Purnell, 652 F.3d 524, 527 (4th Cir. 2011) (en banc).

         On Tuesday, January 6, 2015, ten-year-old E.W. rode a school bus to East Salisbury Elementary School in Salisbury, Maryland. E.W. sat in an aisle seat on one side of the bus while another student, A.W., sat diagonally across from her in an aisle seat one row behind E.W. on the opposite side of the bus. The two schoolgirls both had their feet in the aisle: E.W. was facing sideways with her feet in the aisle, and A.W. was facing forward with her left leg in the aisle, extended in the direction of E.W.

         Video footage from the school bus's surveillance camera shows A.W. swaying her left knee from side to side in the aisle. ECF No. 18 (DVD filed with Joint Appendix, hereinafter "Video"), at 0:10. Several seconds later A.W. raised her left leg in the air and made a sudden, stomping motion in the direction of E.W.'s leg. Video 0:24. E.W. later reported that A.W. had stomped on her shoe. In response to the stomp, E.W. immediately stood up and faced A.W., who was slouched in her seat. Video 0:26. The bus driver then asked E.W. what she was doing. E.W. sat down, took off her backpack, and removed what appeared to be two lanyards from around her neck. Video 0:26-38. A few seconds later, E.W. stood up again and raised her leg towards A.W. Video 0:40. As E.W. raised her leg, A.W., still sitting, also raised hers. Video 0:40. Because A.W. was slouched in her seat, she was able to extend her leg further than she would have sitting fully upright. The two girls appear to trade kicks before E.W. put her leg down and A.W. slid lower into her seat. Video 0:41.

         E.W. then stood over A.W. and began hitting her, swinging her arms downward because of their height difference. Video 0:41-45. Although the seat in front of A.W. obscured the camera's view of the scuffle, the way A.W. was sitting suggests that E.W.'s swings likely landed on A.W.'s left arm, shoulder, and possibly her head. Video 0:46-48. After four seconds, E.W. returned to her seat. Video 0:46-48. Shortly thereafter, E.W. looked at A.W., stood up, and again moved in A.W.'s direction. Video 0:54-55. A.W. raised her leg in the air, and E.W. kicked at A.W.'s shoe several times while A.W. kicked back. Video 0:56-59. During the exchange of kicks, A.W. appeared to laugh and say something to E.W. Video 0:56-59.

         This exchange drew the attention of the bus driver, who called both E.W. and A.W. to the front of the bus and eventually suspended both girls from the bus for three days. Video 1:00-2:15; J.A. 22-23.

         On Friday, January 9, 2015, the school contacted Appellee Rosemary Dolgos, a deputy sheriff and school resource officer ("SRO") in Wicomico County, about the scuffle. When she arrived at the school, Dolgos watched the surveillance video described above. Dolgos spoke to A.W. first, asking her if she was injured. A.W. pulled up her left pant leg, and Dolgos observed "two small, bluish bruise[s]" above the left knee and one on the side of A.W.'s leg. J.A. 23. Notably, no other injuries, including upper body injuries, were reported.

         E.W. was then removed from class and placed in a closed office with Dolgos and two school administrators. Dolgos told E.W. that she was there to discuss what took place on the bus. But, in Dolgos's estimation, "E.W. [did not] seem to care." J.A. 23. E.W. explained, "A.W. stepped on my shoe so I kicked her and started to hit her." J.A. 23. Dolgos attempted to emphasize to E.W. the seriousness of the situation and the possible repercussions, telling her that adults could be jailed for such behavior. Still, in Dolgos's opinion, "E.W. continued to act as if the situation simply was not a 'big deal.'" J.A. 23. Dolgos then decided to take E.W. into custody.

         Dolgos placed E.W. in handcuffs from behind and reseated her. Dolgos inserted two fingers between the handcuffs and E.W.'s wrists to ensure that they were not too tight. In her affidavit, Dolgos stated that she was concerned about the physical safety of herself and the school administrators because of both the incident she observed in the surveillance video and E.W.'s apathy. Dolgos expressed concern in the affidavit that E.W. might act violently against her or someone else if she attempted to walk E.W. from the school to her patrol car. Dolgos also admitted, however, that she had no idea whether E.W. had "any past or current behavioral issues or past involvements with law enforcement." J.A. 24. According to Dolgos, E.W. stood 4'4" and weighed about 95 pounds, while Dolgos stands 5'4" and weighs 155 pounds.

         Immediately after being handcuffed, E.W. began to cry. She explained that she did not want to go to jail and that she would not hit A.W. again. Dolgos kept her handcuffed for about two minutes as she cried and apologized. Dolgos averred that E.W. never complained that the handcuffs were too tight or displayed bruises to her. Rather, "[i]n response" to E.W.'s show of remorse, Dolgos decided not to arrest E.W. and removed the handcuffs. J.A. 24-25. "Based on [E.W.'s] remorse, " Dolgos further decided to release E.W. to her parents. J.A. 25. The school contacted E.W.'s mother, T.W., and Dolgos informed T.W. that she would refer the matter to the Wicomico County Department of Juvenile Services. T.W. responded by asking, "[f]or a kid fight?" and "[s]o you're going to put my 10 year old daughter in the system when she's 10?" J.A. 25. Frustrated and upset by the treatment of her daughter, T.W. retrieved E.W. from the school.

         On December 29, 2015, E.W., by and through T.W., filed this suit against Dolgos, [1]lleging (1) a violation of the Fourth Amendment under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for unreasonable seizure and excessive force; (2) a violation of Article 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights; (3) battery; and (4) assault. Dolgos filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, which the district court construed as one for summary judgment and then granted. In a short paragraph, without citing any case law, the district court concluded that Dolgos's actions did not amount to excessive force because E.W. was handcuffed for only two minutes and then released to her mother. The court further concluded that Dolgos was "at least" entitled to qualified immunity as to the § 1983 claim. J.A. 71. And as to the state law claims, the court found that E.W. failed to prove that Dolgos acted with malice or gross negligence. E.W. timely appealed.


         E.W. first maintains that the district court erred by granting summary judgment to Dolgos for her § 1983 claim. We review de novo a district court's order granting summary judgment.[2]See Smith v. Ray, 781 F.3d 95, 100 (4th Cir. 2015). "Summary judgment is appropriate only if taking the evidence and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, 'no material facts are disputed and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Purnell, 652 F.3d at 531 (quoting Ausherman v. Bank of Am. Corp., 352 F.3d 896, 899 (4th Cir. 2003)).

         E.W. argues that the district court erred by concluding that Dolgos did not use excessive force and was entitled to qualified immunity. Qualified immunity shields government officials from liability in a § 1983 suit so long as their conduct did not violate "clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). To determine whether an officer is entitled to qualified immunity, the court must examine (1) whether the plaintiff has demonstrated that the officer violated a constitutional right and (2) "whether that right was clearly established at the time of the alleged violation." Estate of Armstrong ex rel. Armstrong v. Vill. of Pinehurst, 810 F.3d 892, 898 (4th Cir. 2016) (quoting Raub v. Campbell, 785 F.3d 876, 881 (4th Cir. 2015)). To defeat the officer's entitlement to immunity, the answer to both questions must be in the affirmative. Id.

         Courts are no longer required to analyze these questions sequentially, but it is often the "better approach" to "determine first whether the plaintiff has alleged a deprivation of a constitutional right at all." Id. (quoting Pearson, 555 U.S. at 232). Indeed, the Supreme Court has recognized that "following the two-step sequence-defining constitutional rights and only then conferring immunity-is sometimes beneficial to clarify the legal standards governing public officials." Camreta v. Greene, 563 U.S. 692, 707 (2011). To "provide guidance to those charged with the difficult task" of protecting students "within the confines of the Fourth Amendment, " we exercise our discretion to first decide whether a constitutional violation occurred. Id. (internal quotation marks omitted); see Armstrong, 810 F.3d at 899 (exercising discretion to address excessive force issue because issue does not "frequently arise in cases in which a qualified immunity defense is unavailable" (internal quotation marks omitted)). And our discussion of the alleged constitutional violation is "[n]o mere dictum" because "a constitutional ruling preparatory to a grant of immunity creates law that governs the official's behavior." Camreta, 563 U.S. at 708.


         We begin by considering whether Dolgos used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment when she handcuffed E.W. "The Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable seizures bars police officers from using excessive force to seize a free citizen." Jones v. Buchanan, 325 F.3d 520, 527 (4th Cir. 2003) (citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395 (1989)). We analyze whether an officer has used excessive force under an objective reasonableness standard. Purnell, 652 F.3d at 531. Determining the reasonableness of an officer's actions "requires a careful balancing of the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual's Fourth Amendment interests against the countervailing governmental interests at stake." Ray, 781 F.3d at 101 (quoting Graham, 490 U.S. at 396). We examine the officer's actions "in light of the facts and circumstances confronting [her], without regard to [her] underlying intent or motivation." Graham, 490 U.S. at 397; accord Pegg v. Herrnberger, 845 F.3d 112, 120 (4th Cir. 2017) ("Subjective factors involving the officer's motives, intent, or propensities are not relevant." (quoting Rowland v. Perry, 41 F.3d 167, 173 (4th Cir. 1994))).

         For this inquiry, Graham encourages us to evaluate three factors: "the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight." 490 U.S. at 396. But these factors are not "exclusive, " and we may identify other "objective circumstances potentially relevant to a determination of excessive force." Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015). Here, we believe it prudent to consider also the suspect's age and the school context. The ultimate "question [is] whether the totality of the circumstances justified a particular sort of . . . seizure." Jones, 325 F.3d at 527-28 (alternation in original) (quoting Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 8-9 (1985)); see Ray, 781 F.3d at 101 ("To properly consider the reasonableness of the force employed we must 'view it in full context, with an eye toward the proportionality of the force in light of all the circumstances.'" (quoting Waterman v. Batton, 393 F.3d 471, 481 (4th Cir. 2005))).

         Here, the parties dispute whether handcuffing E.W. was justified under the circumstances. E.W. asserts that such physical restraint was unnecessary because Dolgos did not have a reasonable safety concern. Dolgos argues in response that because she had probable cause to arrest E.W. for assaulting A.W., as seen on video and as E.W. concedes, see Md. Code Ann, Crim. Law § 3-203(a) (West 2015) (defining second-degree assault), she was justified in using handcuffs to effectuate the arrest.

         In Brown v. Gilmore, we stated that "a standard procedure such as handcuffing would rarely constitute excessive force where the officers were justified . . . in effecting the underlying arrest." 278 F.3d 362, 369 (4th Cir. 2002). There, the plaintiff brought an excessive force claim based on allegations that a police officer had handcuffed her, causing her wrists to swell, dragged her to the police cruiser, and then pulled her into the vehicle. Id. at 365-66, 369. We found that the circumstances justified the "minimal level of force applied" because, as the officer approached a crowded scene on the street, he attempted to arrest the plaintiff for failure to follow another officer's orders to move her car. Id. at 369. We stated that it was not "unreasonable for the officers to believe that a suspect who had already disobeyed one direct order would balk at being arrested. Handcuffing [the plaintiff] and escorting her to a police vehicle was thus reasonable under the circumstances." Id.

         But this Court has never held that using handcuffs is per se reasonable. Rather, the Fourth Amendment requires us to assess the reasonableness of using handcuffs based on the circumstances. See United States v. Drayton, 536 U.S. 194, 201 (2002) ("[F]or the most part per se rules are inappropriate in the Fourth Amendment context."); Garner, 471 U.S. at 7-8 (holding that probable cause to arrest does not automatically justify manner in which search or seizure is conducted). A lawful arrest does not categorically legitimize binding a person's wrists in chains. See Soares v. State of Conn., 8 F.3d 917, 921 (2d Cir. 1993) ("[W]e reject defendants' invitation to adopt a per se rule that the use of handcuffs in effecting an arrest is always reasonable."). And the troubling facts of the present case highlight why such a per se rule would be ill-advised.

         The circumstances in this case are markedly different from those in Brown. We are not considering the typical arrest of an adult (or even a teenager) or the arrest of an uncooperative person engaged in or believed to be engaged in criminal activity. Rather, we have a calm, compliant ten-year-old being handcuffed on school grounds because she hit another student during a fight several days prior. These considerations, evaluated under the Graham framework, demonstrate that Dolgos's decision to handcuff E.W. was unreasonable.

         The first factor considers the severity of the underlying offense. Graham, 490 U.S. at 396. At the time Dolgos handcuffed E.W., Dolgos knew that E.W. had at most committed misdemeanor assault in the second degree by hitting another little girl for stepping on her foot. See Md. Code Ann. Crim. Law § 3-203(a). But because assault is an offense that can be considered violent if committed by any person, even a child, we find that this factor weighs against E.W. This finding is tempered, though, by the fact that the offense is a misdemeanor.[3]

         The second factor identified in Graham, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officer or others, weighs strongly in E.W.'s favor. See 490 U.S. at 396. In assessing the threat an individual poses, it is often useful to consider the suspect's conduct at the time of the arrest and "the size and stature of the parties involved." See Solomon v. Auburn Hills Police Dep't, 389 F.3d 167, 174 (6th Cir. 2004); see also C.B. v. City of Sonora, 769 F.3d 1005, 1030 (9th Cir. 2014) (en banc). In Solomon, the Sixth Circuit concluded that a suspect did not pose a safety threat because she had no weapons, she made no threats, and she was several inches shorter and weighed one hundred pounds less than the arresting officers. 389 F.3d at 174. Similarly, in Sonora, the Ninth Circuit held that "a calm, compliant, but nonresponsive 11-year-old child, " who weighed about eighty pounds and stood around 4'8" tall, did not pose a safety threat, particularly given the child was "surrounded by four or five adults at all times." 769 F.3d at 1030.

         Here, Dolgos could not have reasonably believed that E.W. presented any immediate risk of harm to anyone. Like the adult suspect in Solomon, E.W. had no weapons and made no threats, see 389 F.3d at 174, and like the eleven-year-old in Sonora, she was calm and compliant as Dolgos spoke to her, see 769 F.3d at 1030. In fact, Dolgos recognized that E.W. appeared calm. See J.A. 23-24. Also similar to the suspects in Solomon and Sonora, E.W., at 4'4" and ninety-five pounds, was quite small relative to Dolgos, the arresting officer, who was a foot taller and sixty pounds heavier. See Sonora, 769 F.3d at 1030; Solomon, 389 F.3d at 174. Not to mention, E.W. was in a closed office and surrounded by two school administrators and a deputy sheriff. Given these facts, E.W. posed little threat even if she were to become aggressive.

         The significant time that had elapsed-without incident-since the fight on the bus further negates any notion that E.W. posed an immediate threat. While the scuffle took place on Tuesday, January 6, East Salisbury Elementary School waited three days to even contact Dolgos. In the interim, E.W. was allowed to and did in fact attend school without incident, indicating that she did not pose a risk to the children around her, much less to the adults. See Williams v. Nice, 58 F.Supp.3d 833, 838 (N.D. Ohio 2014) (finding reduced need to use force because student was no longer disruptive when officer arrived). When Dolgos interacted with E.W. on Friday, January 9, E.W. was not hostile or even disobedient. Rather, E.W. remained seated and submissive during the entire interview, even as Dolgos placed the handcuffs on her.

         Moreover, Dolgos had no reason to think that the scuffle between E.W. and A.W. was anything but an isolated incident. E.W. had no prior behavioral issues or involvement with law enforcement, nor did Dolgos have any indication that she did. The use of force is an intrusion on Fourth Amendment rights, and an officer must have a reason for using or escalating force. See Graham, 490 U.S. at 396 (intrusions on Fourth Amendment rights must be reasonably necessary given countervailing governmental interests). Even as to the altercation on the school bus, E.W., while unjustified in retaliating, did not become violent without physical provocation by A.W. Indeed, even a child with a history of attacking school officials should not be handcuffed if, at the time of handcuffing, she did not present a danger. See S.R. v. Kenton Cty. Sheriff's Office, No. 15-143, 2017 WL 4545231, at *5- 6, *9 (E.D. Ky. Oct. 11, 2017) (hereinafter "Kenton II"). All of these circumstances, taken together, show that E.W. posed no immediate threat to the safety of the officer or others to justify the use of handcuffs.

         The third factor discussed in Graham, whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight, also strongly favors E.W. See 490 U.S. at 396. Dolgos does not even suggest that E.W. attempted to resist or flee from the office at any point. See, e.g., Sonora, 769 F.3d at 1030 (handcuffing student was unreasonable in part because no evidence suggested that nonresponsive eleven-year-old was likely to run away); Solomon, 389 F.3d at 173-74 (unreasonable use of force in part because arrestee did not attempt to flee or otherwise resist arrest). Cf. Brown, 278 F.3d at 369-70 (finding that officer was justified in handcuffing plaintiff who was actively and violently resisting arrest).

         The suspect's age again favors E.W. Circuit and district courts around the country have recognized that youth is an important consideration when deciding to use handcuffs during an arrest.[4] The Ninth Circuit, applying the Graham factors, held that officers who handcuffed an eleven-year-old child used excessive force. Tekle v. United States, 511 F.3d 839, 846 (9th Cir. 2007) ("He was cooperative and unarmed and, most importantly, he was eleven years old."); see also Ikerd v. Blair, 101 F.3d 430, 435 (5th Cir. 1996) (holding that officer used excessive force against ten-year-old girl under Graham analysis). In addition, the Eleventh Circuit has held that "handcuffing was excessively intrusive given [the arrestee's] young age." Gray ex rel. Alexander v. Bostic, 458 F.3d 1295, 1300-01, 1306 (11th Cir. 2006) (denying qualified immunity to SRO who handcuffed nine-year-old student for five minutes). Several district courts have similarly held that young age is a "uniquely" or "highly relevant" consideration under Graham. See Kenton II, 2017 WL 4545231, at *9 (holding that handcuffing eight-year-old child violated constitution); Hoskins v. Cumberland Cty. Bd. of Educ., No. 13-15, 2014 WL 7238621, at *7, 11 (M.D. Tenn. Dec. 17, 2014) (noting that eight-year-old student "was a startlingly young child to be handcuffed"); see also James v. Frederick Cty. Pub. Sch., 441 F.Supp.2d 755, 757, 759 (D. Md. 2006) (concluding that handcuffing eight-year-old child suggested excessive force). Here, E.W. was only ten years old at the time of the arrest. She therefore falls squarely within the tender age range for which the use of handcuffs is excessive absent exceptional circumstances.

         The concurrence seems to suggest that elementary school children like E.W. are so inherently unpredictable and uncontrollable that officers would be reasonable in restraining them for our collective safety. Unsurprisingly, the concurrence's authorities do not actually support that position or apply to this case. The concurrence cites to Knox Cty. Educ. Ass'n v. Knox Cty. Bd. of Educ., 158 F.3d 361 (6th Cir. 1998), for the proposition that young children are "unpredictable, in need of constant attention and supervision, " such that "[e]ven momentary inattention or delay in dealing with a potentially dangerous or emergency situation could have grievous consequences." Post at 41 (quoting Knox, 158 F.3d at 378). What the concurrence leaves out is that Knox was discussing whether teachers may be required to undergo drug-testing in order to protect young children, who "could cause harm to themselves or others while playing at recess, eating lunch in the cafeteria (if for example, they began choking), or simply horsing around with each other." See 158 F.3d at 378-79. Unless the concurrence suggests that we handcuff children as a reasonable method of "supervision" to prevent choking and horseplay, Knox has little relevance to the case at hand. If anything, Knox suggests that adults may have to take on otherwise unreasonable burdens under the Fourth Amendment to accommodate children's unique needs. Similarly, the concurrence cites to United States v. Gwinn, 219 F.3d 326 (4th Cir. 2000), but it addresses an officer's interest in protecting an arrestee by requiring him to wear a shirt and shoes outside. See id. at 333; Post at 41. Needless to say, handcuffs are different from shoes, and there is no indication in this case that there was any danger to E.W. that justified her wearing handcuffs. The concurrence also cites to Hedgepeth ex rel. Hedgepeth v. W.M.A.T.A., 386 F.3d 1148 (D.C. Cir. 2004), but that case expressly noted that the plaintiff did not bring a traditional Fourth Amendment claim, and the court did not even consider an excessive force argument. See id. at 1159; Post at 42. Finally, J.H. ex rel. J.P. v. Bernalillo County, 806 F.3d 1255 (10th Cir. 2015), another case the concurrence cites, is not contrary to our holding, as it merely held that age does not categorically remove all safety concerns. See id. at 1259 ("[A]n arrestee's age does not necessarily undermine an officer's concern for safety and need to control the situation." (citation and alternations omitted)); Post at 41. We agree and therefore do not establish a per se rule in this case.[5]Contrary to the concurrence's suggestion, we are in good company in concluding that age is a relevant consideration in an excessive force analysis.

         The location of the arrest also weighs in E.W.'s favor because all relevant activity took place in the school context.[6] Courts have found that officers should exercise more restraint when dealing with student misbehavior in the school context. See Hoskins, 2014 WL 7238621, at *7 (holding that school setting, along with suspect's young age, is "uniquely relevant" consideration under Graham analysis); see, e.g., Sonora, 769 F.3d at 1030 (noting significance of school setting); Kenton I, at *4-5 (same). Society expects that children will make mistakes in school-and, yes, even occasionally fight. That teachers handle student misbehavior and unruliness "on a routine basis without the use of any force" suggests that force is generally unnecessary in the school context.[7] See Nice, 58 F.Supp.3d at 838. Furthermore, as with age, the school context presents unique considerations not present when officers patrol the streets. The use of handcuffs, for instance, may undermine students' perception of the school and their willingness to attend, thereby disrupting their education far beyond the time they actually spend in handcuffs.[8]And being handcuffed is often a source of stigma, which can lead to alienation and further disrupt long-term outcomes.[9] In other words, the use of handcuffs and force is not reasonably expected in the school context because it is counterproductive to the mission of schools and school personnel. For these reasons, the school setting-especially an elementary school- weighs against the reasonableness of using handcuffs.

         Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to E.W., the totality of the circumstances weighs against Dolgos and demonstrates that her actions were not "'objectively reasonable' in light of the facts and circumstances confronting" her. Graham, 490 U.S. at 397. Our reasonableness analysis incorporates "the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments-in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving-about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation." Id. But the circumstances here were by no means tense, uncertain, or rapidly evolving such that Dolgos was required to make any split-second decisions. Dolgos observed a ten-year-old girl sit calmly and compliantly in a closed office surrounded by three adults and answer questions about an incident with another little girl that had occurred several days prior. Although Dolgos stated she "believed there was a possibility that [E.W.] could physically act out against me or anyone else nearby as we left the school to go to my patrol car, " J.A. 24, and although E.W. argues that Dolgos handcuffed her at the outset merely because E.W. "didn't seem to care" about the incident with A.W., J.A. 23, Dolgos's subjective motives are not relevant to our reasonableness inquiry. We consider neither whether Dolgos had a subjective safety concern nor whether she intended to teach E.W. to appreciate the consequences of her actions.[10] Rather, we consider whether a reasonable officer would have determined that E.W. should be handcuffed as a means of effectuating her arrest.

         The district court considered only the amount of time E.W. was handcuffed and that she was released to her mother, but we are required to assess the totality of the circumstances presented to properly assess Dolgos's conduct. Jones, 325 F.3d at 527-28 (citing Garner, 471 U.S. at 8-9). A reasonable officer, in addition to discerning E.W.'s small stature and calm and compliant disposition, would know that the bus driver who observed the incident between E.W. and A.W. found them mutually culpable, as he suspended both girls from the bus for three days. Further, the officer would know that E.W. attended school and sat in class among other children without incident from Tuesday, January 6, 2015 to Friday, January 9, 2015. No ...

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