The Intersection of Medicine and Forensic Toxicology


Medicine and forensic toxicology are two closely related fields that intersect in the investigation of crimes, accidents, and other incidents involving toxic substances. Forensic toxicology plays a crucial role in determining the presence and effects of drugs, chemicals, and poisons in biological samples. This article explores the connection between medicine and forensic toxicology, highlighting their collaborative efforts in promoting public safety and justice.

medicine and forensic toxicology

Medicine’s Role in Forensic Toxicology

Medicine provides the foundation for forensic toxicology by studying the effects of substances on the human body. Medical knowledge and expertise help forensic toxicologists understand the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of drugs, the physiological impact of toxins, and the interactions between substances and bodily systems. Medical professionals, such as pathologists and forensic physicians, often collaborate with forensic toxicologists to analyze toxicological findings and interpret their significance.

Forensic Toxicology in Criminal Investigations

Forensic toxicology plays a vital role in criminal investigations by identifying and quantifying toxic substances in various samples, including blood, urine, hair, and tissue. Toxicologists utilize sophisticated analytical techniques, such as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS), to detect and measure drugs, poisons, and their metabolites. This information can provide crucial evidence in cases involving drug overdoses, driving under the influence (DUI), poisoning, and suspicious deaths.

Also Read: Questions on Forensic Toxicology

Medicolegal Autopsies

Medicolegal autopsies, performed by forensic pathologists, combine medical examination with toxicological analysis to determine the cause and manner of death. Toxicologists assist in the autopsy process by collecting samples, analyzing bodily fluids and tissues for toxic substances, and interpreting toxicological findings. This collaboration helps establish a comprehensive understanding of the circumstances surrounding the individual’s death, particularly if it is related to drug toxicity, poisoning, or chemical exposure.

Medication Monitoring and Drug Testing

Forensic toxicology plays a significant role in medication monitoring and drug testing programs. In various contexts, such as workplace drug testing or probation monitoring, toxicologists analyze biological samples to detect the presence of illicit drugs or misuse of prescribed medications. These tests can provide objective evidence of drug use, aiding in treatment programs and legal proceedings and ensuring public safety.

Also Read: MCQs on Forensic Toxicology

Expert Testimony in Legal Proceedings

Forensic toxicologists often serve as expert witnesses in legal proceedings, providing objective and scientifically sound testimony related to toxicological findings. Their expertise is crucial in explaining the effects of drugs or poisons on the human body, interpreting laboratory results, and assisting the court in making informed decisions.


The collaboration between medicine and forensic toxicology plays a crucial role in investigating and understanding the effects of toxic substances on human health and in the legal system. Through their combined efforts, medical professionals and forensic toxicologists contribute to public safety, assist in criminal investigations, and provide expert guidance in legal proceedings. The intersection of medicine and forensic toxicology highlights the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to understanding and addressing issues related to toxic substances in society.


Repost of Day 58/67: Five Month GED, Graphing via Slope-Intercept Form, and Forensic Science Continuous Learning: Project Do Better

We use rate of change every day, for transporting ourselves and our needful things, for instance, perhaps without even recognizing it, but what else …

Repost of Day 58/67: Five Month GED, Graphing via Slope-Intercept Form, and Forensic Science Continuous Learning: Project Do Better

Inmate Rights: The justice system is now holding Municipalities Accountable when they fail to protect their Inmates.

When municipalities take inmates into custody, they assume a responsibility to protect them from sexual assault. But this responsibility means little if the justice system is unwilling to hold municipalities accountable when they fail to protect their inmates. When municipalities are not held to account, measures like PREA, enacted to eliminate sexual assault in jails and prisons, are reduced to little more than a perfunctory policy for correctional staff to sign, then freely disregard.

2023 WI 2

Rachel Slabey, Plaintiff-Appellant-Petitioner,
Dunn County, Wisconsin, Dennis P. Smith, Brenda LaForte, Marshall L. Multhauf and Paul Gunness, Defendants-Respondents,
Dunn County Sheriff’s Office, Ryan Boigenzahn, John Doe One, John Doe Two and John Doe Three, Defendants,
Wisconsin County Mutual Insurance Corporation, Intervenor.

No. 2020AP877.

Supreme Court of Wisconsin.Oral Argument: October 10, 2022.Opinion Filed: January 18, 2023.

Appeal from Circuit Court, Dunn County, Maureen D. Boyle, Judge.

REVIEW of a decision of the Court of Appeals. Affirmed. Reported at 399 Wis. 2d 323, 964 N.W.2d 549 (year — unpublished)

For the plaintiff-appellant-petitioner, there were briefs filed by Cristina M. WirthMartha H. Heidt, and Bye, Goff & Rohde, Ltd., River Falls. There was an oral argument by Cristina M. Wirth.

For the defendants-respondents, there was a brief filed by Samuel C. Hall, Jr.Timothy M. JohnsonMolly K. Woodford, and Crivello Carlson, S.C., Eau Claire. There was an oral argument by Samuel C. Hall, Jr..

An amicus curiae brief was filed by Mark L. ThomsenLynn R. LaufenbergKimberly D. Sweatt, and Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs, LLP, Madison, and James D. Rogers and Wisconsin Association for Justice, Madison, for the Wisconsin Association for Justice.

ZIEGLER, C.J., delivered the majority opinion of the Court, in which ROGGENSACK, REBECCA GRASSL BRADLEY, DALLET, and HAGEDORN, JJ., joined. KAROFSKY, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which ANN WALSH BRADLEY, J., joined.


¶1 This is a review of an unpublished decision of the court of appeals, Slabey v. Dunn County, No. 2020AP877, unpublished slip op. (Wis. Ct. App. July 7, 2021), affirming the Dunn County circuit court’s[1] order granting summary judgment in favor of Dunn County on Rachel Slabey’s claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. We affirm.

¶2 Slabey argues that her § 1983 claim against Dunn County survives summary judgment because she presented evidence sufficient for a reasonable jury to find that Dunn County[2] violated her rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution when then-Dunn County Correctional Officer Ryan Boigenzahn sexually assaulted her. According to Slabey, Dunn County is liable because the “County was deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of harm to Slabey by failing to thoroughly investigate, appropriately discipline, and adequately supervise Boigenzahn.” Slabey argues that the circuit court erroneously granted Dunn County summary judgment and that the court of appeals erred in affirming that result.

¶3 We conclude that Slabey’s § 1983 claim against Dunn County fails because, under Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), no reasonable fact finder could conclude that Dunn County was the causal, moving force behind the sexual assault. A § 1983 plaintiff suing a municipality for a constitutional deprivation must prove that the municipality caused—that is, was the moving force behind—the constitutional deprivation. This requires evidence “that the municipal action was taken with `deliberate indifference’ as to its known or obvious consequences.” Bd. of Cnty. Comm’rs of Bryan Cnty. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 407 (1997) (quoting City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 388 (1989)). Here, there is insufficient evidence demonstrating Dunn County acted with deliberate indifference to a known or obvious consequence that Boigenzahn would sexually assault Slabey. The circuit court was correct to grant Dunn County summary judgment on Slabey’s § 1983 constitutional deprivation claim. We affirm the court of appeals.


¶4 Ryan Boigenzahn began working as a correctional officer (“CO”) at the Dunn County Jail in April 2011. As part of his training, Dunn County required Boigenzahn to attend the Jail Academy at Nicolet College. There, Boigenzahn took a month-long, 160-hour course where, according to Boigenzahn, he learned “what it is to be a corrections officer in the state of Wisconsin.” Boigenzahn was also required to participate in the course’s Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (“PREA”)[3] training. Boigenzahn admitted during his deposition that he “learn[ed] through that training . . . that sexual contact between inmates and prisoners was” prohibited by law. He passed the training course, and he received his certification from the Law Enforcement Standards Board in June 2012. Boigenzahn worked third shift at the jail as a CO, which was from 10:30 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.

¶5 Dunn County also required Boigenzahn to review and certify that he reviewed all Dunn County policies, including the County’s fraternization, sexual misconduct, and PREA policies. Boigenzahn signed these policies, stating, “I certify that I have read, understand, and will comply with the policies. . . .” Dunn County’s fraternization policy includes, in relevant part:

Employees of the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office shall not:

a. Have a relationship with an inmate/prisoner or the spouse of an inmate/prisoner under the supervision or custody of the Dunn County Jail, for one year after their release.

b. Have a relationship with individuals whom the employee knows is [sic] incarcerated in a state correctional facility or a county jail other than the Dunn County Jail, or under the supervision of the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (Probation/Parole), or for one year after their release.

c. Have personal contacts that are usually one-to-one such as dating, knowingly form close friendships, correspond without an exception granted or have visits that are not job related, for a period of one year after their release.

d. Accept or give gifts, provide services in exchange for work performed, for one year after their release.

e. Encourage or allow to occur, the exchange of personal or departmental information between the employee and an inmate.

The sexual misconduct/PREA policy prohibits all staff, including COs like Boigenzahn, from engaging in sexual misconduct, which the policy defines as follows:

Sexual Misconduct is any behavior or act of a sexual nature directed toward an inmate, detainee, victim, witness, or complainant by any employee, volunteer, vendor, contractor, visitor or agency representative.

1. This includes acts or attempts to commit such acts including, but not limited to, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual contact, conduct of a sexual nature or implication, obscenity and unreasonable or unnecessary invasion of privacy.

2. Sexual misconduct also includes, but is not limited to, conversations or correspondence that suggests a romantic or sexual relationship involving any person mentioned above.

3. Sexual misconduct is not limited to unwanted sexual contact. Sexual misconduct is also a range of behaviors or situations that include inappropriate remarks, sexualized name-calling, correspondence, conversations, inappropriate displays, fondling, inappropriate viewing, and sexual contact with individuals vulnerable to the authority of the justice system or any other person in a work setting. Such acts are inappropriate in a work setting and presumed to be unwelcome.

4. Romantic relationships between supervisors and those under their supervision are presumed to be coercive and may be deemed sexual harassment or misconduct.

Dunn County’s sexual misconduct/PREA policy also requires staff to report and investigate all alleged violations:

A. Reporting Requirements

1. Any employee or staff member who knows or reasonably suspects that any employee may be or has been involved in sexual misconduct is required to inform the Jail Captain. To protect the reputations and integrity of all persons engaged in such a process, including the accuser, the accused, and the alleged victim, all such reports shall be dealt with as matters of highest discretion both before and after they have been submitted to appropriate authorities.

. . . .

4. Upon receiving a report of possible sexual misconduct or harassment, the Jail Captain shall notify the Chief Deputy. The Chief Deputy shall in turn notify the Sheriff and other Command Staff as appropriate and needed.

B. Investigation

1. All reported violations of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault and harassment, will be investigated and, as warranted, will be resolved through appropriate disciplinary processes and/or criminal proceedings in accordance with applicable state and federal laws.

Dunn County requires all staff, including COs like Boigenzahn, to regularly complete policy reviews. According to Boigenzahn’s training log, he completed at least eight reviews of the County’s fraternization, sexual misconduct, or PREA policies. After each policy review, Boigenzahn certified that he read and understood the policy.

¶6 On July 31, 2015, a CO informed Sergeant Michael Owens that inmate J.W.B. expressed that staff needed to “keep a close eye on [the] `male COs.'” Sergeant Owens immediately began investigating. He first interviewed J.W.B. During the interview, J.W.B. said that she observed Boigenzahn passing notes between inmates on July 28, 2015. Sergeant Owens also “asked her if one of [the] officers was developing a relationship with an inmate.” J.W.B. said “no, nothing like that.” Sergeant Owens also reviewed surveillance footage of the alleged incident and recorded phone conversations between the inmates suspected of note-passing. He discovered no evidence of misconduct and determined “[t]he allegation [was] not supported on a factual basis.” Sergeant Owens recorded the results of his investigation in a report and, according to County policy, forwarded that report to his supervisor.

¶7 On August 6, 2015, a different inmate, B.M., said to Sergeant Douglas Ormson that “she actually had a lot of respect for the staff at the Jail, except for one person who she felt was in danger of `crossing the line.'” Sergeant Ormson asked B.M. who she was referring to and to elaborate. B.M. identified Boigenzahn and said he “was too chummy with some of the females.” B.M. said she saw another inmate, A.D., “playfully slap[] Officer Boigenzahn on the chest,” and that A.D. and Boigenzahn “talked quite a bit.” Sergeant Ormson asked B.M. “if she felt that anything else had happened.” B.M. said “she didn’t think so, but she felt that if there was an opportunity where there were no cameras around she felt something might happen.” B.M. also told Sergeant Ormson how “all the females in the Jail talk about that, and about [Boigenzahn’s] willingness to talk to them,” and how Boigenzahn “maybe liked the attention from the females.” Sergeant Ormson “asked her again if she had witnessed anything sexual or even heard any rumors about that type of relationship,” and B.M. said she hadn’t “but again said her feeling was that was a possibility if things progressed.” B.M. said she “knows that there is a `bright line’ that staff aren’t supposed to cross” and felt “if Officer Boigenzahn hasn’t already crossed that line that he is getting dangerously close to doing it.”

¶8 The next day, Sergeant Ormson discussed this matter with Sergeant Owens, who stated he heard similar allegations, and Sergeant Rachel Vold. The three decided that Sergeant Vold would review surveillance footage to investigate the allegations. Sergeant Vold reviewed two weeks of surveillance footage and found two concerning instances. On July 29, 2015, while delivering medications to inmates, Boigenzahn “playfully reach[ed] out his foot to step on [A.D.]’s foot.” On August 6, 2015, again while delivering medications, Boigenzahn “gesture[d] with his head as if motioning someone to come in his direction, and also with his right arm. [A.D.] then [came] running over to him. . . . [A]s she walk[ed] away she brush[ed] him with her hand on his shoulder/chest area.” Pursuant to Dunn County policy, Sergeant Vold forwarded this information to the Jail Captain on August 10, 2015. The Jail Captain told Sergeant Vold to interview A.D., which she did later that day.

¶9 During that interview, Sergeant Vold informed A.D. that “at no time should there ever be any sort of contact with an officer, male or female, whatsoever.” Sergeant Vold “went on to ask [A.D.] if there [were] any instances where she felt uncomfortable [because of] any male or female officer.” A.D. said that Boigenzahn made her feel uncomfortable. A.D. reported that three months prior, she and Boigenzahn “accidentally bumped hands” and that A.D. “pulled her hand back, where [Boigenzahn] then responded that it was alright[;] he didn’t mind.” A.D. “went on to say that other female inmates . . . told her [Boigenzahn] seems to be `obsessed’ with her and that they have observed him standing and watching her sleep.” Sergeant Vold asked A.D. “if there were any other instances or officers that made her feel uncomfortable, to which she responded no.”

¶10 Later that same day, the Jail Captain and the Dunn County Chief Deputy interviewed Boigenzahn regarding these allegations. Boigenzahn initially denied passing notes between inmates, but he admitted to doing so once the Jail Captain and Chief Deputy reminded Boigenzahn that he could be terminated for lying. Boigenzahn said he made a “dumb mistake passing the note and it w[ould] not happen again.” They also showed Boigenzahn the videos of him and A.D., but he denied that there was any inappropriate conduct. The Jail Captain and Chief Deputy further discussed “policy violations, co-worker mistrust, and inmates who now think there is a relationship between [A.D.] and CO Boigenzahn.” Boigenzahn explained that he “tries to gain rapport or cooperation with inmates but now sees that he needs to be sterner.”

¶11 Pursuant to Dunn County policy, the matter was then brought to the Dunn County Sheriff. Based on the results of the investigation, the Sheriff decided that Boigenzahn violated Dunn County’s policies which prohibited fraternization and unbecoming conduct. The Sheriff decided to impose discipline. The available options were performance counseling, oral reprimand, written reprimand, unpaid suspension, and termination. The Sheriff initially “was planning on terminating [Boigenzahn]. But [he thought that Boigenzahn] really had been a pretty good jailer on a lot of other notes, . . . so the decision was made to give him a three-day suspension and try and say wake up.” Accordingly, on August 26, 2015, Dunn County suspended Boigenzahn for three days without pay. When communicating the Sheriff’s disciplinary decision, the Chief Deputy warned Boigenzahn:

I expect you will take this opportunity to correct your improper conduct in the future, fully meet the duties and responsibilities required of you and observe all the rules and procedures of your job. If you fail to do so, you will subject yourself to further disciplinary action, including discharge and termination of your employment with the County.

Boigenzahn returned to work on August 29, 2015. The Sheriff also considered moving Boigenzahn to the day shift so he could be under greater supervision because more staff worked that shift, but the Sheriff decided against this because “it would affect somebody on day shift that would be bumped off from that shift and forced onto the night shift.”

¶12 About nine months later, in May 2016, inmate A.D. reported to Sergeant Vold that Boigenzahn again acted inappropriately. She stated that Boigenzahn frequently contacted inmate B.S. A.D. stated that on one occasion Boigenzahn accepted a note that was sexual in nature from B.S. Surveillance footage showed that on April 17, 2016, at 2:32 a.m., Boigenzahn spent 12 minutes out of camera view and near B.S.’s bunk. Boigenzahn later admitted that he did receive the note from B.S. On May 19, 2016, the County placed Boigenzahn on administrative leave, and on May 31, 2016, he was terminated.

¶13 About one month after Dunn County terminated Boigenzahn, on June 27, 2016, inmate Slabey was heard saying, “[Boigenzahn] must have stuck his hand down somebody else’s pants, too.” According to Slabey, she said this “jokingly.” Investigator Dan Westlund, however, who was at the jail to interview Slabey regarding an unrelated matter, overheard Slabey’s remark. He immediately reported what he heard to the Jail Captain. Pursuant to County policy, the Jail Captain called her supervisor, the Chief Deputy, and the matter was reported to the Sheriff. The Sheriff requested that an outside agency investigate Slabey’s allegations. The Menomonie Police Department then investigated the allegations against Boigenzahn.

¶14 The criminal investigation regarding Slabey’s statement revealed that on March 25, 2016, about seven months after Boigenzahn was first disciplined by the County, he sexually assaulted Slabey. Boigenzahn entered the Huber Dorm[4] and talked with Slabey and her bunkmate. Slabey was on the top bunk in a location that was apparently out of camera view.[5] According to Slabey, she “made a comment [to Boigenzahn] about do you ever get in trouble. . . . And he’s like yeah, I’ve gotten in trouble before, he’s like, but I can — pretty much saying he didn’t care, you know.” It is undisputed that during this time, Boigenzahn began touching Slabey and put his hand down her pants. Slabey told Boigenzahn, “no,” and he pulled his hand out. According to Slabey, Boigenzahn said, “you’re not going to tell on me, are you. . . . And [Slabey] told him no, I’m not going to tell on you.” Radio checks were typically conducted after ten minutes of not hearing from a CO on rounds and, according to Boigenzahn, he did receive a radio check the night of the assault. There was however no radio check during the 45 minutes Boigenzahn was with Slabey and her bunkmate. Boigenzahn was charged and subsequently convicted and sentenced to prison for second-degree sexual assault by correctional staff contrary to Wis. Stat. § 940.225(2)(h) (2016-17).

¶15 Notably, it was just two days prior to the sexual assault that, pursuant to Dunn County policy, Boigenzahn had attended a legal update session that included PREA training. Boigenzahn admitted that, at the time of the sexual assault, he knew it was against state law, against County policy, and against PREA.

¶16 On November 15, 2017, Slabey commenced this action against Dunn County under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the County violated her rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.[6] Dunn County moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was not liable under § 1983 because “the County did not act with deliberate indifference to [Slabey’s] safety,” “there is no evidence upon which a jury could find a Dunn County policy, custom, or practice violated her constitutional rights,” and “[Slabey’s] substantive due process rights were not violated by the County.” Slabey opposed summary judgment, arguing that there are “sufficient facts to support a jury finding [of] deliberate indifference” and that “Dunn County’s informal custom/policy of ignoring dangers to female inmates caused Slabey’s [sexual] assault.”

¶17 The circuit court held a hearing on Dunn County’s motion and subsequently issued a written decision granting Dunn County summary judgment. The court concluded, “There is no evidence that [Dunn County’s] training practices were constitutionally deficient and that the County was aware of the deficiency and failed to abate the deficiency.”

¶18 Slabey appealed the circuit court’s order. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding there is “no evidence upon which a reasonable fact finder could rely to conclude [Dunn County was] deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk that Boigenzahn would sexually assault an inmate.” Slabey, No. 2020AP877, ¶1.

¶19 Slabey petitioned this court for review, which we granted.


¶20 “We independently review a grant or denial of summary judgment, applying the same method as the circuit court.” Hoida, Inc. v. M&I Midstate Bank, 2006 WI 69, ¶15, 291 Wis. 2d 283, 717 N.W.2d 17. “While our review is independent from the circuit court and court of appeals, we benefit from their analyses,” both of which concluded that summary judgment is appropriate. DSG Evergreen Fam. Ltd. P’ship v. Town of Perry, 2020 WI 23, ¶15, 390 Wis. 2d 533, 939 N.W.2d 564. “We will affirm a grant of summary judgment when there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Baumeister v. Automated Prods., Inc., 2004 WI 148, ¶11, 277 Wis. 2d 21, 690 N.W.2d 1. “A factual issue is `genuine’ if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party.” Midwest Neurosciences Assocs., LLC v. Great Lakes Neurosurgical Assocs., LLC, 2018 WI 112, ¶80, 384 Wis. 2d 669, 920 N.W.2d 767.


¶21 The parties do not dispute that Slabey suffered a constitutional deprivation because she was sexually assaulted by Boigenzahn.[7] The issue in this case is not whether Boigenzahn committed a sexual assault. He did, and what he did to Slabey was terribly wrong. But a claim against Boigenzahn is not the claim we analyze today. Whether Dunn County is liable to Slabey under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is an altogether separate legal inquiry. In analyzing that issue, we must consider the exacting standards set forth in Monell, 436 U.S. 658. In short, Slabey asserts that “Dunn County was deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of harm to Slabey by failing to thoroughly investigate, appropriately discipline, and adequately supervise Boigenzahn.”[8]

¶22 Because the only issue before us is whether Dunn County is liable to Slabey under § 1983, we must analyze the standards outlined in Monell. We begin with an overview of municipal liability under § 1983. See Monell, 436 U.S. 658. Specifically, the causation requirement in Monell is dispositive. We then conclude that Slabey failed to demonstrate that Dunn County’s action or inaction was the moving force behind her constitutional deprivation. Because Slabey cannot demonstrate the requisite causation, we need not analyze the other criteria of a municipality’s liability in a § 1983 claim under Monell.

A. Monell Liability Generally

¶23 Unlike any liability that may exist for an individual like Boigenzahn, in order for a municipality to be liable in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, the plaintiff must demonstrate that she can satisfy the exacting standards set forth by Monell. Under § 1983,

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured. . . .

In Monell, 436 U.S. 658, the United States Supreme Court interpreted “person” within the meaning of § 1983 as including local governing bodies. Monell involved public employees whose employers “had as a matter of official policy compelled pregnant employees to take unpaid leaves of absence before such leaves were required for medical reasons.” Id. at 660-61. The employees sued the Department of Social Services and Board of Education of the City of New York for damages under § 1983. Id. at 660-62. The Court held that the employees could sue these local governing units:

Congress did intend municipalities and other local government units to be included among those persons to whom § 1983 applies. Local governing bodies, therefore, can be sued directly under § 1983 for monetary, declaratory, or injunctive relief where, as here, the action that is alleged to be unconstitutional implements or executes a policy statement, ordinance, regulation, or decision officially adopted and promulgated by that body’s officers.

Id. at 690 (footnotes and emphasis omitted).

¶24 However, the Court also explained that “Congress did not intend municipalities to be held liable unless action pursuant to official municipal policy of some nature caused a constitutional tort.” Id. at 691. “[A] municipality cannot be held liable solely because it employs a tortfeasor—or, in other words, a municipality cannot be held liable under § 1983 on a respondeat superior theory.” Id. (emphasis omitted). “Instead, it is when execution of a government’s policy or custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury that the government as an entity is responsible under § 1983.” Id. at 694. Monell and its progeny thus require a plaintiff to satisfy each of the following to prove municipal liability under § 1983: (1) “identify a municipal `policy’ or `custom’ that caused the plaintiff’s injury”; (2) “the municipal action was taken with the requisite degree of culpability”; and (3) there is “a direct causal link between the municipal action and the deprivation of federal rights.” Bryan Cnty., 520 U.S. at 403-04. Because this case is resolved on the third requirement, causation, we need not address the first two.

B. Section 1983 Causation Under Monell.

¶25 To prevail in her claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Dunn County, Slabey must demonstrate that the County caused her constitutional deprivation. Slabey argues that causation is satisfied because (1) “Dunn County failed to thoroughly investigate claims that Boigenzahn’s conduct would cross a line”; (2) “Dunn County failed to appropriately discipline Boigenzahn in light of the clear risk of harm that his conduct posed to inmates generally and Rachel Slabey specifically”; and (3) Dunn County “failed to properly supervise Boigenzahn to prevent any further escalation of his misconduct.” Slabey argues that these acts of the County caused her constitutional deprivation because they “caused Boigenzahn’s conduct to escalate to Slabey’s assault.”

¶26 “Where a plaintiff claims that the municipality has not directly inflicted an injury, but nonetheless has caused an employee to do so, rigorous standards of . . . causation must be applied to ensure that the municipality is not held liable solely for the actions of its employee.” Bryan Cnty., 520 U.S. at 405. Monell requires plaintiffs to “demonstrate a direct causal link between the municipal action and the deprivation of federal rights.” Id. at 397. “[M]ere `but-for’ causation is insufficient.” Harte v. Bd. of Comm’rs, 864 F.3d 1154, 1204 (10th Cir. 2017) (quoting Bryan Cnty., 520 U.S. at 410). Rather, a plaintiff bringing a § 1983 claim under Monell must demonstrate that a municipality was not just a cause, but the “moving force” behind the constitutional deprivation. Monell, 436 U.S. at 694-95.

¶27 Monell’s causation requirement is a high bar for plaintiffs to clear. “[L]esser standards . . . would require the federal [and state] courts endlessly to `second-guess’ the wisdom of municipal [programs], a task inappropriate for the federal [and state] judiciar[ies].” Doe v. Taylor Indep. Sch. Dist., 15 F.3d 443, 453 (5th Cir. 1994) (citing City of Canton, 489 U.S. at 392). The requirement is “applied with especial rigor when the municipal policy or practice is itself not unconstitutional, for example, when the municipal liability claim is based upon inadequate training, supervision, and deficiencies in hiring.” Schneider v. City of Grand Junction Police Department, 717 F.3d 760, 770 (10th Cir. 2013) (quoting Martin A. Schwartz, Section 1983 Litigation Claims & Defenses § 7.12 (2013)). In such cases, a § 1983 plaintiff “must” prove causation by showing “that the municipal action was taken with `deliberate indifference’ as to its known or obvious consequences. A showing of simple or even heightened negligence will not suffice.” Bryan Cnty., 520 U.S. at 407 (citation omitted). Evidence of a “pattern of tortious conduct” is typically necessary to establish that the municipal action “rather than a one-time negligent administration of the program or factors peculiar to the officer involved in a particular incident, is the `moving force’ behind the plaintiff’s injury.” Id. at 407-08 (citing City of Canton, 489 U.S. at 390-91); see also Oklahoma City v. Tuttle, 471 U.S. 808, 824 (1985) (“[W]here the policy relied upon is not itself unconstitutional, considerably more proof than the single incident will be necessary in every case to establish . . . the causal connection between the `policy’ and the constitutional deprivation.”).

¶28 Slabey acknowledges that hers is a “single incident” case because of the “absence of prior sexual assaults of female inmates by male guards.” She argues that, although the single-incident theory governs her claim, she nonetheless prevails under that theory because “Dunn County acted with deliberate indifference to a significant, obvious risk of sexual violence to all female inmates.”

¶29 Though not impossible, it is exceedingly rare that a § 1983 plaintiff under Monell can prove causation based on a single incident.[9] The United States Supreme Court first recognized the possibility of such a claim in City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378. In City of Canton, officers failed to seek medical attention for an arrested suspect despite the suspect sitting on the floor of the patrol car, responding with “an incoherent remark” when asked if she needed medical attention, “slump[ing] to the floor on two occasions,” and lying on the floor. Id. at 381. The plaintiff argued that the officers “were not provided with any special training (beyond first-aid training) to make a determination as to when to summon medical care for an injured detainee.” Id. at 382. The Supreme Court noted that a claim based on a single incident might survive in some cases:

[I]t may happen that in light of the duties assigned to specific officers or employees the need for more or different training is so obvious, and the inadequacy so likely to result in the violation of constitutional rights, that the policymakers of the city can reasonably be said to have been deliberately indifferent to the need.

Id. at 390. In such a situation, “the need to train . . . can be said to be `so obvious,’ that failure to do so could properly be characterized as `deliberate indifference’ to constitutional rights.” Id. at 390 n.10 (citation omitted). The Supreme Court dismissed the § 1983 claim and concluded that “the evidence in the record . . . does not meet th[is] standard of § 1983 liability.” Id. at 392.

¶30 The Supreme Court again considered, but rejected, an argument that this “single-incident” theory applied in Board of Commissioners of Bryan County v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397. There, the § 1983 plaintiff argued that the municipality was liable for an officer’s use of excessive force because it failed to adequately screen the officer’s background prior to hiring him, and that such screening would have uncovered that the officer was previously “charged with assault and battery, resisting arrest, and public drunkenness.” Id. at 412-13. The Court reasoned, “[e]ven assuming without deciding that proof of a single instance of inadequate screening could ever trigger municipal liability, the evidence in this case was insufficient to support a finding that, in hiring [the officer], [the Sheriff] disregarded a known or obvious risk of injury.” Id. at 412.

¶31 The Supreme Court also considered and rejected the single-incident theory posed in Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51 (2011). In Connick a § 1983 plaintiff sued a municipality for a constitutional deprivation caused by a prosecutor’s failure to turn over exculpatory evidence. Id. at 55-56. The Court reasoned that because prosecutors already received legal training on the issue, the § 1983 plaintiff’s constitutional deprivation was not “so predictable that failing to train the prosecutors amounted to conscious disregard for defendants[].” Id. at 71 (emphasis omitted). The Court therefore concluded that this case did not fall within the “narrow range of `single-incident’ liability hypothesized in Canton as a possible exception to the pattern of violations necessary to prove deliberate indifference in § 1983 actions.”[10] Id. at 71-72.

¶32 The Tenth Circuit in Schneider v. City of Grand Junction Police Department, 717 F.3d 760, similarly rejected use of the single-incident theory in a § 1983 claim. There, an officer sexually assaulted a 911 caller while responding to the call. Id. at 763. The plaintiff argued that, in light of a prior complaint against the officer, the municipality failed to adequately investigate, discipline, and supervise the officer. Id. at 766. The court rejected each of these claims against the municipality. The court relied on the facts that the municipality “conducted the criminal investigation regarding the [prior] complaint,” and it “disciplined [the officer] with a pay cut and probation” along with a “notice of discipline [informing the officer] that his conduct was unacceptable.” Id. at 775, 777. As for the failure-to-supervise claim, the court found “no evidence that additional controls or sanctions . . . would have had any more deterrent effect than the already-present threats of discharge and criminal punishment.” Id. at 780.

¶33 Similarly, the First Circuit in Santiago v. Fenton, 891 F.2d 373, 382 (1st Cir. 1989), rejected a § 1983 claim that was based on a single incident. The officer in Santiago used excessive force against the plaintiff, who argued the municipality failed to discipline the officer for an earlier incident. Id. The court nonetheless concluded that the municipality was entitled to summary judgment on the failure-to-discipline claim and stated:

The city and the department undisputedly had a policy of investigating complaints that expressly included the disciplining of officers in appropriate circumstances. In both of these instances the department conducted an investigation and hearing but decided that discipline was not appropriate. As we have indicated before, we cannot hold that the failure of a police department to discipline in a specific instance is an adequate basis for municipal liability under Monell.


¶34 Slabey places great reliance on the Seventh Circuit’s decision in J.K.J. v. Polk County, 960 F.3d 367 (7th Cir. 2020) (en banc), where a § 1983 plaintiff succeeded on the single-incident theory.[11] In J.K.J., the Seventh Circuit concluded that Polk County, Wisconsin, acted with deliberate indifference “in the face of an obvious and known risk that its male guards would sexually assault female inmates.” Id. at 381 (emphasis omitted). That case involved two inmates at the Polk County Jail who “endured repeated sexual assaults at the hands of [a] correctional officer.” Id. at 370.

¶35 When Polk County had earlier learned of similar allegations against a different guard, it “imposed minor discipline on the guard but from there took no institutional response—no review of its policy, no training for guards, no communication with inmates on how to report such abuse, no nothing.” Id. at 370-71. The jail’s Captain “knew of sexual comments male guards made about female inmates” and “admitted to himself participating in [it].” Id. at 382. The Captain also knew that an officer’s conduct “began with watching [the inmate] shower, grew to requests to expose her body for him, and in time intensified to forcibly touching her in a sexual manner—all the while ordering her to `keep quiet.'” Id. Importantly, “with red lights flashing, Polk County chose the one unavailable option—doing nothing. It did not change its sexual abuse policy, institute a training, inquire of female inmates, or even call a staff meeting.” Id. at 383. Although Polk County did investigate and reprimand a guard for inappropriate sexual behavior, jail officials assured him that it was “not a big deal.” Id.

¶36 Unlike Polk County, this record reflects that Dunn County in fact required significant, relevant training of its officers and took nearly immediate action upon a complaint of noncompliant conduct. Dunn County thoroughly investigated the August 2015 complaint and acted in a timely manner to impose unpaid leave on the officer. Boigenzahn was sternly warned for the policy violations, which were passing notes between inmates and non-sexual physical contact with an inmate. He was warned that his behavior would not be tolerated and that he could be terminated. Leave without pay was one of the most severe options of discipline, just short of termination. When Boigenzahn returned to duty, he was required to continue training and monthly policy reviews.

¶37 Nine months had gone by with Boigenzahn working as a CO, and there was no indication of his noncompliance. The very next time the County learned that Boigenzahn was noncompliant because he had received a note from an inmate, he was terminated. In fact, unlike the facts in Polk County, Dunn County first gained knowledge of this off-camera sexual assault only after the County had already terminated Boigenzahn.

¶38 Slabey argues Dunn County acted with deliberate indifference to a known or obvious consequence that Boigenzahn would sexually assault an inmate when it “failed to thoroughly investigate claims that Boigenzahn’s conduct would cross a line,” “failed to appropriately discipline Boigenzahn in light of the clear risk of harm that his conduct posed to inmates generally and Rachel Slabey specifically,” and when it “failed to properly supervise Boigenzahn to prevent any further escalation of his misconduct.” However, this allegation in the August 2015 complaint was thoroughly investigated. The County officials reviewed two weeks of surveillance video, interviewed inmates, and concluded that Boigenzahn committed a serious violation of County policy. The evidence demonstrated that Boigenzahn passed notes between inmates and had inmate non-sexual contact. The County acted within a month from allegation to discipline. The matter did not languish. Despite several less severe options, Boigenzahn was suspended for three days without pay and sternly warned, “If you fail to [correct your improper conduct], you will subject yourself to further disciplinary action, including discharge and termination of your employment with the County.” He was also given additional PREA training two days before the assault. For about nine months after Boigenzahn returned, Dunn County had no reason to believe he was noncompliant.

¶39 Nonetheless, Slabey argues that the County should have done more and, because it did not, it caused her constitutional deprivation. In other words, she argues that the County’s deliberate indifference “caused Boigenzahn’s conduct to escalate to Slabey’s assault.” However, Slabey offers insufficient evidence of how the County was deliberately indifferent given its policies, training, investigation, discipline, and additional stern warning of termination for conduct quite unlike a sexual assault. According to Slabey, the only way to safeguard against the wrong that was done to her would be that the County should have terminated Boigenzahn, constantly supervised him, or not allowed him to have any contact with female inmates.[12] However, the record reflects that three COs worked the night shift, with two splitting up to do rounds in different parts of the Jail and the third staying in the central office.[13] Additionally, staffing restrictions prevented the County from moving Boigenzahn off the night shift. In other words, constant supervision or moving Boigenzahn were unworkable options given Dunn County’s Jail; therefore, the only acceptable option in hindsight would have been to terminate Boigenzahn for passing notes and nonsexual conduct. Accepting Slabey’s arguments would make the County liable on a respondeat superior theory, a result the Supreme Court has explicitly rejected. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691.

¶40 In short, Dunn County is entitled to summary judgment because there is insufficient evidence for a reasonable fact finder to conclude that Dunn County was the moving force behind her being sexually assaulted. Boigenzahn sexually assaulting Slabey was the result of his action, which was completely forbidden by Dunn County and the criminal law. It is hindsight alone that underlies Slabey’s causation theory. Causation in the context of a § 1983 claim requires much more. “[L]esser standards . . . would require the federal [and state] courts endlessly to `second-guess’ the wisdom of municipal [programs], a task inappropriate for the federal [and state] judiciar[ies].” Doe, 15 F.3d at 453 (citing City of Canton, 489 U.S. at 392). Taken together, these facts do not demonstrate that the known or obvious consequence of the County’s action or inaction was that Boigenzahn would sexually assault an inmate.

¶41 Overall, Slabey’s allegations do not rise to the level of a cognizable § 1983 claim against Dunn County. Just because the County could have, in hindsight, done some things differently, does not mean that the County was the moving force behind the assault. Section 1983 “does not provide plaintiffs or courts carte blanche to micromanage local governments throughout the United States.” Connick, 563 U.S. at 68. The standards of a § 1983 claim under Monell are exacting. Slabey’s claim does not survive that scrutiny.


¶42 Slabey argues that her 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Dunn County survives summary judgment because she presented evidence sufficient for a reasonable jury to find that Dunn County violated her rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution when Boigenzahn sexually assaulted her. According to Slabey, Dunn County is liable because the “County was deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk of harm to Slabey by failing to thoroughly investigate, appropriately discipline, and adequately supervise Boigenzahn.” Slabey argues that the circuit court erroneously granted Dunn County summary judgment, and that the court of appeals erred in affirming that result.

¶43 We conclude that Slabey’s § 1983 claim against Dunn County fails because, under Monell, no reasonable fact finder could conclude that Dunn County was the causal, moving force behind the sexual assault. A § 1983 plaintiff suing a municipality for a constitutional deprivation must prove that the municipality caused—that is, was the moving force behind— the constitutional deprivation. This requires evidence “that the municipal action was taken with `deliberate indifference’ as to its known or obvious consequences.” Bryan Cnty., 520 U.S. at 407 (quoting City of Canton, 489 U.S. at 388). Here, there is insufficient evidence that Dunn County acted with deliberate indifference to a known or obvious consequence that Boigenzahn would sexually assault Slabey. The circuit court was correct to grant Dunn County summary judgment on Slabey’s § 1983 constitutional deprivation claim. We affirm the court of appeals.

By the Court. — The decision of the court of appeals is affirmed.

JILL J. KAROFSKY, J. (dissenting).

¶44 “The confinement setting is a tinderbox for sexual abuse.” J.K.J. v. Polk Cnty., 960 F.3d 367, 381 (7th Cir. 2020).

¶45 While women are vulnerable almost everywhere in our society, they are especially at risk in correctional settings where an estimated 25 to 41 percent of incarcerated women are sexually abused. Hannah Brenner et al., Bars to Justice: The Impact of Rape Myths on Women in Prison, 17 Geo. J. Gender & L. 521, 537-38 (2016). In such settings female prisoners are dependent on guards (who are disproportionately male) for their very existence. This includes “their safety as well as their access to food, medical care, recreation and even contact with family members.” J.K.J., 960 F.3d at 381. Due to the imbalances of power, the correctional context is ripe for abuse as “[p]rison rape represents the intersection of masculine elitism and deprivations of civil rights.” Maureen Brocco, Facing the Facts: The Guarantee Against Cruel and Unusual Punishment in Light of PLRA, Iqbal, and PREA, 16 J. Gender Race & Just. 917, 917 (2013). Sexual abuse is about power and control and “this psychosocial dynamic is amplified in the prison context.” Id.

¶46 Victims of sexual abuse often confront profound physical, social, and psychological effects. These effects can be debilitating and overwhelming, and they are magnified in confinement settings. “Victims often endure great physical pain and sustain various injuries. Moreover, any episode of sexual assault could ultimately prove deadly since incarcerated victims are at an increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted and other communicable diseases such as HIV, AIDS, tuberculosis, and hepatitis B and C.” Kevin R. Corlew, Congress Attempts to Shine a Light on a Dark Problem: An In-Depth Look at the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, 33 Am. J. Crim. L. 157, 160 (2006).

¶47 To combat the scourge of sexual assaults in the confinement setting, Congress passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in 2003. But the enactment of a law aimed at stopping prison rapes does not in and of itself put an end to sexual violence. Prisons and jails must take steps to prevent and detect sexual misconduct. And important to this case, when sexual abuse does occur, it is incumbent on the judicial system to hold to account those who are responsible in order to protect vulnerable inmates. It is here where the majority falls short. In wrongly concluding that the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment for Dunn County should be upheld, the majority allows the county to escape all responsibility for (1) ignoring clear warning signs that former Dunn County correctional officer Ryan Boigenzahn had engaged in inappropriate and escalating behavior with female inmates, and (2) creating the circumstances that allowed Boigenzahn to sexually assault Rachel Slabey while she was incarcerated in the Dunn County Jail.


¶48 Boigenzahn sexually assaulted Slabey[1] while she was in her bunk in the Dunn County Jail on March 25, 2016.[2] It was the middle of the night in the Huber Dorm.[3] Boigenzahn was tasked with checking the women’s dorm despite his recent suspension for violating the jail’s fraternization policy. Boigenzahn surveyed the women’s dorm alone, unmonitored, and entirely unsupervised. That night, Boigenzahn spent 45 minutes in Slabey’s dorm, an extraordinarily long time compared to the few seconds that guards usually took to check the dorm during the night. And although the Dunn County Jail practice is for the central office of the jail to conduct radio checks when an officer fails to report back to the central office after 10 minutes, no supervisor checked in on Boigenzahn during the 45 minutes he was in the dorm, despite his known history of fraternization. By all accounts, no one was monitoring Boigenzahn as he abandoned his duties to prowl around Slabey’s dorm.

¶49 The jail assigned Slabey to the only bunk in the dorm that was entirely unmonitored by security cameras, a fact both Boigenzahn and Slabey knew. Boigenzahn himself previously denied Slabey’s request to be moved to a different bunk. Additionally, the jail recently transferred Slabey from administrative segregation, causing her concern that if she did anything to “make a scene” or displease Boigenzahn, she would be transferred back. And, unsurprisingly, Slabey did not think that anyone would believe her or protect her if she spoke up and complained about Boigenzahn. In a word, Slabey was vulnerable.

¶50 Armed with the knowledge of his victim’s vulnerabilities, Boigenzahn entered the Huber Dorm, found Slabey and her bunkmate, D.S., and began talking with them. One of the topics of conversation was Boigenzahn’s reputation for spending an inappropriate amount of time with female inmates. Slabey “made a comment [to Boigenzahn] about do you ever get in trouble. . . . And [Boigenzahn was] like yeah, I’ve gotten in trouble before, he’s like, but I can—pretty much saying he didn’t care, you know.” As he was talking to the inmates, Boigenzahn began touching Slabey, first by rubbing her hand. Slabey tried to protect herself by moving away and lying down, but Boigenzahn persisted. He went after her, grabbing her pants, then her leg, then Boigenzahn shoved his hand down Slabey’s pants and inside her underwear.

¶51 While Boigenzahn was sexually assaulting her, Slabey, now completely defenseless, went silent. She did not want to call attention to his actions “because it was so quiet in there” and she “didn’t want to have a scene or have him say something like, oh, [she] did something and put [her] back in [segregation].” During the sexual assault, Slabey felt “confused,” “in shock” and “didn’t know what to do.” After sexually assaulting her, Boigenzahn asked Slabey if she would tell anyone. Slabey told him no, and soon after, Boigenzahn left the Huber Dorm.

¶52 This sexual assault did not occur without warning. It was not a freak occurrence, a force majeure that could have neither been foreseen nor prevented. Instead, sheriff’s department officials—importantly here, the Sheriff himself— first ignored the clear warning signs that Boigenzahn had already engaged in inappropriate and escalating behavior with female inmates, and then created the circumstances that allowed Boigenzahn to sexually assault Slabey.

¶53 Prior to the sexual assault, the Sheriff had ample warning that Boigenzahn was, in the words of one inmate, “dangerously close to crossing the line.” Sheriff’s department officials were first alerted to Boigenzahn’s conduct in July 2015, about eight months before the sexual assault. Inmate J.W.B. informed a correctional officer, and subsequently a jail sergeant, that officials needed to “keep a close eye on” the male correctional staff.[4] When asked for an example, J.W.B. explained that on two separate occasions, an officer passed notes between female and male inmates. J.W.B. originally refused to identify the officer in question for fear of retaliation, but upon further questioning, she identified Boigenzahn. Passing notes was a violation of the Dunn County Jail’s fraternization policy, one that historically resulted in suspension or termination. Despite the seriousness of the allegations, the sergeant only reviewed surveillance video for one of the two instances J.W.B. reported, and he failed to question Boigenzahn or the inmates directly. After this cursory investigation, the sergeant concluded that there was no factual basis for J.W.B’s claims.

¶54 About one week later, another inmate, B.M., told a different sergeant that Boigenzahn was dangerously close to “crossing the line,” and that he had been getting “too chummy” with some of the female inmates. B.M. said that she had not yet witnessed anything sexual, but she believed “that was a possibility if things progressed.” As an example, she told this sergeant that Boigenzahn had been talking with another inmate, A.D., when A.D. playfully slapped Boigenzahn on the chest. B.M. said that if there was an opportunity when there were no cameras around, “something might happen,” and “all the females in the Jail talk about that.” If Boigenzahn hadn’t already crossed the “bright line” that staff are not supposed to cross, B.M. said, “he [was] getting dangerously close to doing it.”

¶55 In response to the above reports, sheriff’s department officials reviewed surveillance footage and found two incidents that corroborated B.M.’s concerns. First, on July 29, Boigenzahn entered the Huber Dorm, stepped out of camera range for a few minutes, then stepped back into view when another officer entered the room. While the other officer was handing out breakfast, Boigenzahn reached out and “playfully” stepped on A.D.’s foot. She then stepped back on his foot. Second, on August 6, Boigenzahn entered the dorm and shut the door behind him. He gestured “as if motioning someone to come in his direction,” at which point A.D. ran over to him and “brush[ed] him with her hand on his shoulder/chest area.”

¶56 Sheriff’s department officials then questioned A.D., asking her whether any officer ever made her feel uncomfortable. A.D. “immediately” informed the officials that Boigenzahn made her feel uncomfortable and provided the following three examples. First, she described an instance where her hand and Boigenzahn’s hands accidentally touched. She pulled her hand away and apologized, but he responded that “it was alright, he didn’t mind.” Second, other inmates told her that Boigenzahn seemed to be “obsessed” with her, and they observed him standing and watching her sleep. Third, she explained that he just “lingered too long” around her. Like J.W.B., A.D. explained that she did not report Boigenzahn sooner because she was afraid of retaliation. In response to A.D.’s statements, the sergeant pressed A.D. and asked “if there had ever been anything more than statements made or him watching her.” In doing so, the sergeant seemingly dismissed A.D.’s claim that Boigenzahn was obsessed with her, watched her sleep, and lingered too long around her, as if that information alone were unimportant to the investigation.

¶57 Sheriff’s department officials then met with Boigenzahn and questioned him about the inmates’ allegations. Boigenzahn initially lied to the officials and denied passing notes between inmates, only confessing after he learned that he would be terminated if he were not truthful. He denied that he acted inappropriately toward A.D., which officials also found to be false.

¶58 Despite knowing that Boigenzahn had, at the very least, violated the jail’s fraternization policy and attempted to conceal and lie about his violations, the Sheriff decided against terminating Boigenzahn. The Sheriff made this choice despite the fact that violations of the fraternization policy “historically” resulted in termination, and despite the fact that Boigenzahn’s lying, in and of itself, was grounds for termination. The Sheriff opted instead for a far more lenient response and suspended Boigenzahn for three days before allowing him to return to work—in the same position—where he continued to have unfettered access to vulnerable women inmates. The Sheriff did not put Boigenzahn on a different shift, one where more staffing would allow for more supervision. He did not assign Boigenzahn to a different section, away from female inmates. He did not bar Boigenzahn from having further unsupervised contact with female inmates; in fact, he did not assign any staff to further monitor or investigate Boigenzahn at all. Instead, the Sheriff sent an officer who violated jail policies, lied to officials, and raised such serious red flags that multiple inmates reported him despite fears of retaliation, back to guard female inmates on the lightest-staffed shift with little to no monitoring. And that is how former officer Boigenzahn accessed, cornered, and sexually assaulted, Slabey on March 25, 2016.


¶59 When Dunn County took Slabey into custody, it assumed an affirmative duty to protect her from harm. DeShaney v. Winnebago Cnty. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 489 U.S. 189, 199-200 (1989) (“When the State takes a person into its custody and holds [her] there against [her] will, the Constitution imposes upon it a corresponding duty to assume some responsibility for [her] safety and general well-being.”). Sexual assault is one of those harms, for while the Eighth Amendment “does not mandate comfortable prisons,” sexual assault “is simply not part of the penalty that criminal offenders pay for their offenses against society.” See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832-834 (1994) (internal citations omitted). Sexual offenses “tend . . . to cause significant distress and often lasting psychological harm,” Washington v. Hively, 695 F.3d 641, 643 (7th Cir. 2012), and there is little doubt that Slabey’s Eighth Amendment rights were violated when Boigenzahn sexually assaulted her. The only question here is whether Slabey may hold Dunn County accountable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which “plainly imposes liability on a government that, under color of some official policy, `causes’ an employee to violate another’s constitutional rights.” See Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 692 (1978).

¶60 While the standards for establishing municipal liability under § 1983 are rigorous, “they are not insurmountable.” J.K.J., 930 F.3d at 378. In order to establish liability and survive summary judgment on her claim against Dunn County, Slabey must bring sufficient evidence for a jury to reasonably find that Dunn County (1) had an official policy, custom, or decision, (2) that demonstrated the requisite level of culpability, and (3) caused her injury. See Bd. of Cnty. Comm’rs of Bryan Cnty., Okl. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 403-404 (1997). I will discuss each of these elements in turn before explaining why a jury could reasonably find for Slabey on each.

¶61 First, Slabey must identify an official Dunn County policy or custom that caused her injury. Monell, 436 U.S. at 690. The Supreme Court has recognized that a decision by an official with final policy-making authority meets this requirement—that is, municipal liability attaches when “a deliberate choice to follow a course of action is made from among various alternatives by the official or officials responsible for establishing final policy with respect to the subject matter in question.” Pembaur v. City of Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 483 (1986). Inaction, as well as action, may serve as the basis for municipal liability, depending on the circumstances. Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 61-62 (2011) (“[a] policy of inaction in light of notice that its program will cause constitutional violations is the functional equivalent of a decision by the city itself to violate the Constitution.” (internal citations omitted)).

¶62 Second, Slabey must establish Dunn County’s culpability, which under Monell means that she must provide sufficient evidence for a jury to find that the county’s actions demonstrated a “deliberate indifference” to the “known or obvious” consequence that a constitutional violation would occur. Bryan Cnty., 520 U.S. at 407. While a pattern of constitutional violations is “ordinarily necessary” to establish the requisite notice that an official course of conduct is inadequate, the risk of a constitutional violation may be so obvious that the municipality’s actions could demonstrate deliberate indifference to that risk. See Connick, 563 U.S. at 64. The Supreme Court in City of Canton v. Harris provided the following example of deliberate indifference: if city policy-makers, having armed their police officers with firearms, fail to train those officers on the constitutional limitations on deadly force, that failure could be characterized as deliberate indifference. City of Canton, Ohio v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 390 n. 10 (1989). The Seventh Circuit in Glisson v. Indiana Department of Corrections provided another example: the failure to establish coordinated care protocols for inmates with chronic illnesses could reflect deliberate indifference if a jury found the need for those protocols obvious, even absent prior constitutional violations. Glisson v. Ind. Dep’t of Corr., 849 F.3d 372, 382 (7th Cir. 2017). And in J.K.J. v. Polk County the Seventh Circuit provided another, one relevant to this case: the failure to institute more robust policies to prevent the sexual assault of female inmates in the face of a guard’s escalating behavior can demonstrate deliberate indifference to the known or obvious risk of sexual assault. J.K.J., 960 F.3d at 385.

¶63 Third, Slabey must establish sufficient evidence for a jury to find that Dunn County’s actions caused her injury. That is, the official actions must be the “moving force” behind the constitutional violation. Bryan Cnty., 520 U.S. at 400 (1997). A municipality cannot be held vicariously liable for the actions of its employee solely because it employed that employee. Monell, 436 U.S. at 691. Instead, the plaintiff must “demonstrate a direct causal link between the municipal action and the deprivation of federal rights.” Bryan Cnty., 520 U.S. at 404.

¶64 Slabey established sufficient evidence for a jury to find for her on each of these three requirements by: (1) identifying a course of action by a final policy-maker—namely, the Sheriff’s choice to return Boigenzahn to his standard shift with no additional supervision; (2) alleging sufficient evidence for a jury to conclude that the risk of sexual assault was so predictable that the Sheriff’s course of action constituted deliberate indifference; and (3) alleging sufficient evidence to show that the Sheriff’s course of action caused the sexual assault. Her § 1983 claim against Dunn County should therefore survive summary judgment. I address how Slabey met each requirement in more detail below.

A. Official Policy, Custom, or Decision

¶65 Slabey met the first requirement for municipal liability under § 1983 because she identified a “deliberate choice to follow a course of action” by a final policy-maker. See Pembaur, 475 U.S. at 483. As Slabey points out, and Dunn County does not dispute, the Sheriff was the final policy-maker for staffing and disciplinary decisions at the Dunn County Jail. And he, as that final policy-maker, deliberately chose to adopt a particular course of action—to retain Boigenzahn and send him back to guard female inmates alone, on the lightest-staffed shift, with no additional supervision, investigation, or follow-up.[5] The Sheriff had “various alternatives” to his course of action. See Pembaur, 475 U.S. at 483. One of those alternatives was to terminate Boigenzahn. Termination was not just an option, but (as the Sheriff acknowledged), the typical disciplinary response for violations of the fraternization policy. Another alternative was to adjust Boigenzahn’s schedule to accommodate increased supervision and monitoring of his behavior. The Sheriff considered these alternatives, but instead chose the one course of action that would allow Boigenzahn to spend significant time alone and unmonitored with female inmates.

¶66 Slabey may not have identified a written policy that caused her injury, but she does not need to. Monell liability attaches where “a deliberate choice to follow a course of action is made among various alternatives by the official or officials responsible for establishing final policy with respect to the subject matter in question.” Pembaur, 475 U.S. at 483. Slabey sufficiently identified that deliberate choice here.

B. Culpability

¶67 Slabey also met the culpability requirement because she presented enough evidence for a jury to reasonably find that the Sheriff’s official course of action was taken with deliberate indifference to the known or obvious risk that a sexual assault would occur. Whether the risks were known or obvious and whether the Sheriff acted with deliberate indifference are questions of fact. See Sherrod v. Lingle, 223 F.3d 605, 611 (7th Cir. 2000). Next I demonstrate how a jury, assessing the facts of this case, could reasonably conclude that: (1) Boigenzahn’s prior behavior created a known or obvious risk that he would sexually assault an inmate and (2) the Sheriff’s decision to send Boigenzahn back to guard female inmates reflected deliberate indifference to that risk.

1. Known or Obvious Risk of Sexual Assault

¶68 When evaluating Boigenzahn’s prior conduct to determine whether the risk of sexual assault was known or obvious, it is important to note that “consent is not an issue” when a correctional officer has “sexual contact or sexual intercourse with an individual who is confined in a correctional institution if the actor is a correctional staff member.” Wis. Stat. §§ 940.225(2)(h), 940.225(4). In enacting Wis. Stat. § 940.225(2)(h), the legislature barred consent from being a defense in this context because it recognized that the power imbalance between correctional staff and inmates in the confinement setting, coupled with restrictions on inmates’ freedom, make it impossible for inmates to freely consent. Because an inmate cannot consent to sexual conduct with a correctional staff member, an inmate’s “words or overt actions that might indicate a freely given agreement to have sexual intercourse or sexual contact” in the outside world are irrelevant in this instance. See Wis. Stat. § 940.225(4). Accordingly, the deliberate indifference inquiry must be viewed through the correct lens of the confinement setting. And through this lens, conduct that merely foreshadows consensual sexual contact in other contexts may serve as notice of an obvious risk of sexual assault in the confinement setting. See Cash v. Cnty. of Erie, 654 F.3d 324, 337 (2d Cir. 2011) (noting that because (like Wisconsin) New York state law did not tolerate any sexual contact between guards and prisoners, jail officials “were thus obligated to do the same in carrying out their affirmative duty to protect prisoners from harm.”).

¶69 A jury aware of the distinctive nature of sexual abuse in the correctional setting could, based on Slabey’s evidence and reasonable inferences drawn from that evidence, make three factual findings: (1) Boigenzahn engaged in inappropriate behavior with female inmates, based on the corroborated reports of three different inmates; (2) Boigenzahn’s behavior, particularly with A.D., was not just inappropriate, but sexually charged; and (3) Boigenzahn had a propensity to lie and conceal inappropriate behavior unless directly confronted, and sheriff’s department officials knew about this propensity. Based on these findings, a jury could reasonably conclude that the Sheriff had notice that Boigenzahn was engaging in a pattern of escalating and inappropriate behavior toward female inmates—including physical conduct—that was likely to lead to sexual assault. I will address each of the potential factual findings in turn.

¶70 First, based on the corroborated reports of three different inmates, a jury could find that Boigenzahn engaged in inappropriate behavior with female inmates, some of which was physical in nature. Two of those inmates warned sheriff’s department officials that the behavior was likely to escalate, or “cross the line” if it had not already. One of the inmates, A.D., reported that Boigenzahn “made her uncomfortable,” told her that “he didn’t mind” when their hands accidentally touched, and, according to other inmates, even watched her while she slept. Additionally, Sheriff’s department officials viewed video surveillance of Boigenzahn which corroborated some of the inmates’ reports.

¶71 Second, a jury could reasonably infer that Boigenzahn’s behavior, particularly with A.D., was not only inappropriate, but sexually charged. Just because a municipality labels behaviors as “fraternization” instead of sexual misconduct does not mean that the majority should defer to that characterization, or assume that a jury must. As Dunn County’s own sexual misconduct policy acknowledges, sexual conduct encompasses a “range of behaviors,” including, for example, “conduct of a sexual nature or implication” and “unreasonable or unnecessary invasion of privacy.” A jury could reasonably conclude that Boigenzahn’s physical conduct with A.D. was “conduct of a sexual implication.” A jury could also reasonably conclude that “obsessing” over an inmate and watching her sleep is an “unreasonable or unnecessary invasion of privacy.”

¶72 The majority errs when it dismisses Boigenzahn’s prior behaviors and mischaracterizes them as “nonsexual.” See majority op. at ¶¶36, 39. In doing so, the majority incorrectly draws inferences in Dunn County’s favor, rather than Slabey’s favor. See Burbank Grease Servs., LLC v. Sokolowski, 2006 WI 103, ¶40, 294 Wis. 2d 274, 717 N.W.2d 781 (when reviewing a summary judgment decision, “we draw all reasonable inferences from the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.”). Sheriff’s department officials viewed surveillance footage of Boigenzahn quite literally “playing footsie” with A.D., which even the Oxford English Dictionary recognizes as “surreptitiously touching a person’s foot or ankle with one’s foot . . . as a playful expression of sexual attraction” (emphasis added). Officials also viewed footage of A.D. stroking Boigenzahn’s chest and shoulder after he beckoned her over to him. And A.D. reported that Boigenzahn told her that he “didn’t mind” when their hands touched. A jury, viewing Boigenzahn’s behavior in the proper context of the confinement setting and drawing on their life experiences and common sense, could reasonably conclude that his actions were sexually charged.

¶73 Third, a jury could find that Boigenzahn had a propensity to lie and conceal inappropriate behavior, and that the sheriff’s department officials knew about his dishonesty. Officials knew that Boigenzahn initially lied about passing notes between male and female inmates, and only confessed when told that he would be terminated for being untruthful. Additionally, Boigenzahn himself admitted to officials that he “tends not to tell the truth.” And finally, officials knew that Boigenzahn appeared to intentionally stand out of camera view in the Huber Dorm. A jury could find that the Sheriff knew that he could not trust Boigenzahn due to his deceptive tendencies, yet chose to put him back in the female dorm, without the supervision or monitoring that Boigenzahn clearly needed.

¶74 Taking all of these facts and inferences together, a jury could find that there was a known or obvious risk that Boigenzahn’s behavior would escalate to sexual assault. The jury could find that the Sheriff received notice from multiple female inmates that Boigenzahn’s behavior was escalating, had become physical, and would cross the line from merely inappropriate to predatory, if it had not already. The jury could find that this escalating behavior was, at the very least, “conduct of a sexual implication” that—along with the inmates’ warnings—created notice of an obvious risk that sexual assault would occur. The jury could find that Boigenzahn had already lied to sheriff’s department officials and attempted to evade detection for his behaviors—thus, he could not be trusted and clearly required supervision and monitoring. Taking all these facts together in the context of the confinement setting, with its stark power imbalance between guards and female inmates, the jury could reasonably conclude that Boigenzahn’s behavior created a known or obvious risk that he would sexually assault an inmate.

2. Deliberate Indifference to the Known or Obvious Risk of Sexual Assault

¶75 A jury, having found that Boigenzahn’s actions created an obvious risk that sexual assault would occur, could further find that the Sheriff’s decision to put Boigenzahn back on his normal shift reflected deliberate indifference to that risk.

¶76 In determining that the Sheriff was not deliberately indifferent, the majority suggests that the Sheriff’s chosen course of action—suspending Boigenzahn for three days—was a “severe” response to Boigenzahn’s behavior, and that the Sheriff chose it over less severe options. See majority op. at ¶¶36, 38. This does not square with the Sheriff’s admission that “historically fraternization turns into a termination,” and that a short suspension was the “minimum” appropriate disciplinary action for passing notes. The Sheriff’s disciplinary response was lenient, based on his own admissions, and does not preclude a finding of deliberate indifference as a matter of law. See Cash, 654 F.3d 324 (2d Cir. 2011) (upholding a jury finding of deliberate indifference even though the sheriff’s department had previously suspended a guard for misconduct).

¶77 The majority also concludes that the Sheriff’s decision to send Boigenzahn back to guard the female prisoners on the night shift was not deliberate indifference in part because moving Boigenzahn to a different shift with more supervision “would affect somebody on day shift that would be bumped off from that shift and forced onto the night shift.” See majority op. at ¶11. But the administrative inconveniences inherent to protecting constitutional rights in the confinement setting are no excuse for failing to protect those rights. For instance, the difficulty in finding the time and staff to train officers about the constitutional limits on excessive force before handing those officers firearms would not preclude a finding of deliberate indifference. See Canton, 489 U.S. at 390 n. 10. Nor would any difficulties, staffing or otherwise, in enacting “centralized treatment protocols for chronically ill inmates.” See Glisson, 849 F.3d at 382. Replacing one staff member or changing one staff member’s schedule is not “unworkable,” as the majority suggests, see majority op. at ¶39, but in fact a relatively small undertaking compared to adopting a new training program or revamping healthcare protocols; therefore, it is difficult to understand why the inconvenience of doing either would preclude a jury from finding for Slabey on the deliberate indifference element of the Monell test. The Sheriff may have decided to retain Boigenzahn despite his behavior toward female inmates in part because replacing him would be inconvenient, and “[Boigenzahn] had been a pretty good jailer on other notes,” but the choice still demonstrated a deliberate indifference to the “note” that mattered here—the safety of female inmates.

C. Causation

¶78 Slabey also established enough evidence for a jury to reasonably find that the Sheriff’s course of action caused Slabey’s injury.

¶79 Much of the same evidence that supports Slabey’s claim on the culpability requirement also supports it on the causation requirement. Specifically, evidence of an obvious risk of sexual assault can support both a finding of “deliberate indifference” and “an inference of causation—that the municipality’s indifference led directly to the very consequence that was so predictable.” Bryan Cnty., 520 U.S. at 409-410. If a jury could reasonably conclude that the risk of sexual assault was obvious enough that the failure to take action constituted deliberate indifference, it may take “but a small inferential step” for a jury to find that the failure to take action caused the injury. J.K.J., 960 F.3d at 384. Causation, like culpability, is a fact question for a jury—”finding causation is not a mechanical exercise like working a math problem and getting an answer, but instead requires jurors to view evidence in its totality, draw on their life experiences and common sense, and then reach reasonable conclusions about the effects of particular action and inaction” (emphasis in original). Id. at 384-385. Here, Slabey established enough evidence for a jury to do so.

¶80 Slabey’s evidence “paved multiple roads for the jury to travel” to find that the Sheriff’s actions caused her injury. See id. at 385. A jury could find that if the Sheriff had pursued the typical course of action and terminated Boigenzahn for his violations of the fraternization policy (and arguably, the sexual misconduct policy, as discussed above), Boigenzahn would not have had access to sexually assault Slabey or any other inmate. A jury could alternatively find that if the Sheriff had instead switched Boigenzahn to a shift that allowed for more supervision, Boigenzahn would have been prevented from spending a significant amount of time alone and unmonitored with female inmates, and thus would have either been dissuaded from sexually assaulting an inmate for fear of the consequences, or denied the opportunity to sexually assault an inmate at all. A jury could also infer that the Sheriff’s failure to take any additional action to protect female inmates both emboldened Boigenzahn and silenced inmates who now understood that objecting to his behavior was essentially futile. Since any of these inferences would be reasonable, a jury could conclude from Slabey’s evidence that the Sheriff’s course of action caused the sexual assault to happen.

¶81 The Sheriff’s actions were the “moving force” behind Slabey’s injuries. See Bryan Cnty., 520 U.S. at 400. This is not a case where a plaintiff is attempting to prove causation simply by showing that she would not have been sexually assaulted “but for” the municipality’s original decision to hire the perpetrator. See id. Instead, Slabey established that her sexual assault was caused by the Sheriff’s decision to put a guard with a known history of inappropriate and arguably sexual conduct toward female inmates back in a position where he would be alone and unmonitored with those inmates. The Sheriff’s decision was thus not only a “but for” cause of Slabey’s injuries, but “closely related to the ultimate injury.” See Canton, 489 U.S. at 391. A jury could therefore reasonably find that Slabey has met the causation requirement.

¶82 Because Slabey established sufficient evidence that a final policy-maker acted with deliberate indifference to a serious risk of sexual assault, and in doing so caused her sexual assault, she has met all three requirements for Monell liability. Based on the evidence Slabey provided, a jury could reasonably find that the Sheriff knew that he was essentially sending a fox back to guard the hen house, and in doing so was deliberately indifferent to the constitutional rights of Dunn County inmates. Therefore, Slabey’s § 1983 claim against Dunn County should survive summary judgment.


¶83 Based on the evidence Slabey provided, a jury could find that Dunn County Sheriff’s Department officials ignored the clear warning signs that Boigenzahn had already engaged in inappropriate and escalating behavior with female inmates and then created the circumstances that allowed Boigenzahn to sexually assault Slabey. The Sheriff’s deliberate course of action enabled Boigenzahn to escape detection for 45 minutes as he was working alone, unsupervised, and unmonitored in the Huber dorm on the night he sexually assaulted Slabey. Slabey provided sufficient evidence for a jury to reasonably find that the Sheriff’s course of action both demonstrated deliberate indifference and was the causal “moving force” behind the sexual assault. Slabey’s § 1983 claim against Dunn County should therefore survive summary judgment.

¶84 When municipalities take inmates into custody, they assume a responsibility to protect them from sexual assault. But this responsibility means little if the justice system is unwilling to hold municipalities accountable when they fail to protect their inmates. When municipalities are not held to account, measures like PREA, enacted to eliminate sexual assault in jails and prisons, are reduced to little more than a perfunctory policy for correctional staff to sign, then freely disregard. Dunn County threw a match into the tinderbox when it sent Boigenzahn back to guard female inmates. The majority’s failure to hold Dunn County accountable is akin to standing idly by as the fire burns.

¶85 I am authorized to state that Justice ANN WALSH BRADLEY joins this dissent.

[1] The Honorable Maureen D. Boyle presided.

[2] All references to “the County” are to Dunn County unless otherwise noted.

[3] 34 U.S.C. §§ 30301-30309 (2018).

[4] The Huber Dorm is an open area with bunk beds for inmates on Huber work release. See generally Wis. Stat. § 303.08 (2019-20).

[5] According to Slabey’s deposition, also on or about March 25, 2016, Slabey asked Boigenzahn “if [she] could move down to the bottom bunk . . . because it was open.” Slabey claimed Boigenzahn “told [her], why would you want to move there because this one is off camera view up here, and he said that [she] couldn’t move.” Slabey took this to mean at the time that it would be easier for her to have contraband if she remained on the top bunk.

[6] In her petition for review, Slabey asserted claims against not just Dunn County but also several individual defendants employed by the County. In her briefing, however, Slabey asserts claims only against Dunn County and therefore has abandoned her claims against the individual defendants. A.O. Smith Corp. v. Allstate Ins. Companies, 222 Wis. 2d 475, 492, 588 N.W.2d 285 (Ct. App. 1998) (“[A]n issue raised on appeal, but not briefed or argued, is deemed abandoned.”).

[7] Though the issue is not before us, for purposes of this review, we assume without deciding that Boigenzahn violated Slabey’s constitutional rights.

[8] Slabey raised an additional issue in her opening brief, arguing that Dunn County is not entitled to qualified immunity. However, Dunn County does not argue here that it is entitled to qualified immunity. Nor could it. It is well settled that municipalities cannot assert qualified immunity. Owen v. City of Independence, 445 U.S. 622 (1980) (holding that municipalities are not entitled to qualified immunity); see also Davis v. United States, 564 U.S. 229, 248 n.9 (2011) (recognizing the same).

[9] This rigorous standard is what drives our analysis. Section 1983 plaintiffs suing municipalities must clear a high bar—a bar that is even higher when alleging liability based on a “single incident.” For those who would relax this standard by conflating it with our standard of review on summary judgment, doing so would massively broaden the “single incident” exception and “only invite jury nullification of Monell.” City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 399 (1989) (O’Connor, J., concurring).

If this were not the well-established standard, we could instead reinvent § 1983 law and analyze how Dunn County might have merely allowed, rather than caused, Slabey’s constitutional deprivation. However, that would be a sea change in the law. Causation under Monell requires much more than “but-for” causation. Bd. of Cnty. Comm’rs of Bryan Cnty. v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 404, 410 (1997) (citing Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978)). “In virtually every instance where a person has had his or her constitutional rights violated by a city employee, a § 1983 plaintiff will be able to point to something the city `could have done’ to prevent the unfortunate incident.” City of Canton, 489 U.S. at 392. Whether Dunn County could have done more is not the applicable legal standard.

[10] In each of these cases where the Supreme Court hypothesized that single-incident theory could apply, the plaintiffs brought failure-to-train claims, and the Court considered the possibility that the theory might apply only in such cases. We note that Slabey’s claim is based on alleged failures to investigate, discipline, and supervise Boigenzahn, but not a failure to train him.

[11] Four judges on the en banc panel dissented: Circuit Judges Easterbrook, Brennan, Bauer, and Sykes.

[12] Slabey also identifies the County’s failure to conduct a radio check during the 45 minutes that Boigenzahn was with Slabey, and its failure to make sure Slabey’s bunk was in view of a surveillance camera as acts of deliberate indifference. However, these demonstrate the kind of “one-time negligent administration of [a] program” that is insufficient to satisfy Monell causation. Bryan Cnty., 520 U.S. at 408.

Principles of Forensic Science

Sources:A Closer Look On Forensic Science written by Archana Singh

laws.pngLaws and Principles of Forensic Science


Forensic Science is the science which has developed its own Laws and Principles. The Laws and Principles of all the natural sciences are the bases of Forensic Science.

Every object, natural or man-made, has an individuality which is not duplicated in any other object.

1. Law of Individuality

Anything and everything involved in a crime, has an individuality. If the same is established, it connects the crime and the criminal.

This principle at first sight appears to be contrary to common beliefs and observations. The grains of sand or common salt, seeds of plants or twins look exactly alike.

2. Principle of exchange

Contact exchange traces is principle of exchange. It was first enunciated by the French scientist, Edmond Locard. Commonly known as Edmond Locard’s maxim on Interchange.

According to the principle, when a criminal or his instruments of crime come in contact with the victim or the objects surrounding him, they leave traces. Likewise, the criminal or his instruments pick up traces from the same contact.

3. Law of progressive change

“Change is inevitable” , this also applies to object. Different types of objects may take different time spans.

The criminal undergoes progressive changes. If he is not apprehended in time, he becomes unrecognizable.

The scene of occurrence undergoes rapid changes. The weather, the vegetable growth, and the living beings make extensive changes in comparatively short periods.

Samples degrade with time, Bodies decompose, tire tracks & bite marks fade, the firearm barrel loosen, metal objects rust, etc.

4. Principle of comparison

“Only the likes can be compared” is the principle of comparison.

It emphasize the necessity of providing like samples and specimens for comparisons with the questioned items.

A questioned hair can only be compared to another hair sample, same with tool marks, bite marks, tire marks, etc.

For example

A specimen obtained by writing on the same wall, at the same height and with the same instrument and then photographed. It can be matched.

Once handwriting available on a photograph allegedly written on a wall was compared with the specimen written on paper. It did not give worthwhile results.

5. Principle of analysis

The Analysis can be no better than the sample analyzed.

Improper sampling and contamination render the best analysis useless.

The principle emphasizes the necessity of correct sampling and correct packing for effective use of experts.

6. Law of probability

All identification, definite or indefinite, are made, consciously or unconsciously, on the basis of probability.

Probability is mostly misunderstood. If we say that according to probability a particular fingerprint has come from the given source, but it is not a definite opinion.

Probability is a mathematical concept. It determines the chances of occurrence of a particular event in a particular way.

If “P” represents probability, “Ns” the number of ways in which the event can successfully occur (with equal facility) and “Nf” the number of ways in which it can fail ( with equal facility) , the probability of success is given by the formula:

7. Law Of Circumstantial Facts

“facts do not lie, men can and do”

Evidences given by eye witnesses or victims may not always be accurate.

Sometimes victims may intentionally lie or sometimes because of poor senses (such as low sight, unclear hearing), exaggeration & assumptions.

According to Karl Marx “True belief only becomes knowledge when backed by some kind of investigation and evidence”.

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Arson Investigation Dogs Can Detect Traces of Gasoline as small as 1 Billionth of a Teaspoon via Crime Scene to Court 

Arson Canine  East  Texas Nina Lab ATF
Photo: Mark Moore; Gregg County, Texas Fire Marshal

New research out of the University of Alberta – Canada, finds that dogs can detect gasoline in quantities as small as one billionth of a teaspoon.

Daisy, an accelerant detection canine from Westchester County, New York works with her partner Detective John V. Peters.
Photo: US Fire Administration

Canines have been used in arson investigations for about 30 years, beginning when the US ATF partnered up with the Connecticut State Police in 1986 to train an accelerant detecting canine (ADC) named Mattie.

Mattie was a Labrador Retriever, working for the Connecticut State Police, and she was trained to alert to 17 different ignitable liquids. We all know that Mattie and her kind have an incredible sense of smell, but just how sensitive, is amazing.

Dogs typically have about 200 million receptor cells in their noses that help them identify scents and odors, compared to about 5 million cells in a human nose. Further increasing their sense of smell is an organ located in the roof of their mouths that allows them to basically “taste” a smell.

Mando the Chihuahua

Just like a human, a dog can smell an odor that comes directly from an item, and like us, they can smell an odor left on a surface after the source of the odor has been removed, the difference is that a dog’s sense of smell eclipses ours, and it even beats electronic equipment designed for hydrocarbon detection.

In fact, man made odor detecting devices detect hydrocarbon components in the neighborhood of parts per million, where dogs an detect amounts as small as .01 micro liters. And if that wasn’t enough to favor the dog, a dog pinpoints the area of the source odor, where a man made instrument cannot.

Lastly, a dog can actually differentiate between true accelerants and similar gases that an instrument cannot do.

K9’s are often used in arson investigation, allowing investigators to locate items and debri that presumptively contains accelerants. These areas shown as “hits” by the dog will be collected, and sent to a lab for scientific analysis.

Click the link below for more info on accelerant detecting K9’s.


via Arson Investigation Dogs Can Detect Traces of Gasoline Down to 1 Billionth of a Teaspoon — Crime Scene to Court 

How to Catch a Liar via Brainwave Science

According to Brainwave Science an average person hears about 200 lies every day. It is no surprise as we learn how to lie in our early development stages and by the time we become adults, we get pro at lying! The only catch here is the question, ‘how to catch a liar?’

Technological advancements in different fields of crime scene investigation have drastically changed the landscape. Today, law enforcement can use technology to detect and solve criminal activity happening at the moment. The approach is more proactive than reactive. Forensic Science has completely changed the way crimes are investigated, prosecuted, and adjudicated.

Biometrics work very well to confirm the identity of the person. They are being utilized in ID cards, bank cards, phones, and other technological devices and come in various forms such as fingerprints, irises, voice patterns, and the spatial geometry of the faces, etc. Biometric systems must be able to accommodate changes to the biometric over time which may be caused by aging, illness, or injury.  Let us not forget though that external subject identification via its Automated Biometrics Identification System aims to ensure national security and public safety. It can only, however, identify the person’s identity externally, but not the mind and schemes of the person.

Brain Fingerprinting – This technique is quite ideal for discovering if a piece of information is collected in a person’s brain through EEG. It correctly measures the electric brainwaves science which helps us tap into the person’s familiarity with the crime scene. The major challenge in using this technique is the need for extensive training and the cumbersome nature of software and hardware application needs specialized neuroscientists to administer tests that may not be learned by investigators. It is more of a service-based model where the expert is needed to constantly conduct testing.

iCognative technology is the only available neuroscience-based forensic technology that is over 99.9% accurate, applicable in almost all investigations, is based on proven P300 science, has been used in over 100 real-life cases, and is virtually unbeatable. Today many countries and intelligence agencies in the world are already reaping the benefits afforded by it. To top it all it supports human rights and eliminates torture.

iCognative technology:

  • identifies criminals from innocents, detects presence or absence or information in the brain
  • specifically screens privileged information holders, specific training like IED/EOD bomb-making
  • helps apprehend terrorism and crime supporters and sympathizers
  • helps identify foot soldiers from kingpins in organized crimes
  • successfully detects intent to harm and cause violence

distinguishes between witness and perpetrator

DNA and Fingerprints are the first go-to methods for all investigations. They are accepted as a piece of evidence in the court of law. However, the issue with them is that the crime scene must remain uncorrupted and the collection of evidence must be done properly to eliminate cross-contamination. Preservation of these evidence is also a labor-intensive task that must be conducted by professionals who have been extensively trained in this field.

Lie Detector/Polygraphs are not accepted as evidence but are extensively used by law enforcement agencies to eliminate innocents from the suspects. The accuracy rates of Lie detectors or Polygraph has been hotly debated. People are able to beat them, and the interpretation of results is done subjectively by the examiner. Most psychologists agree that there is little evidence that polygraph tests can accurately detect lies – American psychological Association (APA)


Did you know that an average person hears about 200 lies every day? It is no surprise as we learn how to lie in our early development stages and by the time we become adults, we get pro at lying! The only catch here is the question, ‘how to catch a liar?’ Technol

7 Countries with the Best Forensic Technologies via iTHINK

Civilizations that have thousands of years invested in perfecting a field tend to NAIL IT with more accuracy….

Many research and development solutions can be obtained through information sharing from countries that have had centuries of trial and error based experiementation. Seek to learn from mentors in the field, and save yourself from complicating your analysis.

7 Countries with the Best Forensic Technology

7. China


China has been investing time, energy and resources into forensic science since the 1980’s and globally-renowned forensic scientist Henry Chang-yu Lee believes it’s about to pay off tipping China to become a world leader in high-tech evidence collection.

“I believe the technology in China will be more advanced than ever in the United States within five years,” the Chinese-American expert said in a recent interview with China Daily.

Lee, who has racked up more than five decades of experience in forensic science, has worked on a number of high-profile criminal cases in the US, but has also shared his wealth of knowledge with students, lawyers, judges and law enforcement in China over the years.

“The apparatus and devices used to identify fingerprints or footprints, for example, were very simple when I first visited Chinese forensic laboratories,” he said.

However, he has seen the technology improve over the years and there have been many advances, particularly in electronic evidence collection and fraud prevention by means of real-time monitoring.

In 2016, Lee and several other experts established the Silk Road Forensic Consortium in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, to fight crime and safeguard security by boosting scientific exchanges among countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.

The consortium, which has 150 members from 30 countries and regions, provides an open platform for forensic specialists, police officers and judges to share ideas and difficulties as well as experiences in DNA identification studies.

Lee, who acts as chairman, said, “Although we speak different languages in our daily lives, we all speak the same ‘language’ at work, and that’s the language of the criminal investigation. We share the same goal – to speak for the dead using forensic science.”

In September, at the organisation’s third annual conference in Yantai, Shandong province, Lee announced plans to unify DNA identification standards among its members to try and build a mutual DNA database that can better solve criminal cases.

Unified standards are essential to the world of forensic science, he told China Daily.

“If we can achieve unification in China, it can be extended across Asia, to the consortium and finally the world,” he added. “It would mean a brighter future for forensic science.”

6. European Network of Forensic Institutes

Although not a country, the European Network of Forensic Institutes (ENFSI) is recognized as a pre-eminent voice in forensic science worldwide. It is a network of forensic specialists covering a broad range of fields of expertise, from 38 countries geographically spread across Europe:

Austria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malta, Montenegro, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

The ENFSI has seventeen Expert Working Groups working on a diverse range of forensic specialisms, from textiles and hair to explosives and firearms. It also provides invaluable training to police officers and crime scene investigators.

5. Germany


Police in the German state of Bavaria have the power to use forensic DNA profiling after a controversial law passed in 2018 in the Landtag, the state parliament in Munich. The law was the first in Germany to allow authorities to use DNA to help determine the physical characteristics, such as eye colour, of an unknown culprit.

The new DNA rules are part of a broader law which has drawn criticism of the wide surveillance powers it gives the state’s police to investigate people they deem an “imminent danger,” people who haven’t necessarily committed any crimes but might be planning to do so.

The move was prompted, in part, by the rape and murder of a medical student in Freiburg, Germany, in late 2016. An asylum seeker, originally from Afghanistan, was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison.

But some authorities complained that they could have narrowed their search more quickly if they had been able to use trace DNA to predict what the suspect would look like.

Federal and state laws previously only allowed investigators to use DNA to look for an exact match between crime scene evidence and a potential culprit, either in a database of known criminals or from a suspect.

Germany also forms part of the aforementioned ENFSI.

4. South Korea

To say that smartphones have changed the digital forensic landscape is an understatement. The device has become the core of every criminal investigation and helped propel digital forensics as a serious, scientific investigation tool.

South Korea is leading the way in digital forensics, with its largest digital forensic firm, Hancom GMD, playing a crucial role in prosecuting some of the country’s most powerful politicians.

In late 2016, South Korea was rocked by one of its biggest political corruption scandals in history – its President Park Guen-hye was accused of bribery and by law, investigators only had 60 days to investigate and prosecute.

They had confiscated over 300 smartphones as from suspects and needed to analyse tens of thousands of phone records and chat messages within a tight deadline. Hancom GMD successfully analysed all of the data in the 300 smartphones and extracted crucial evidence that led to several convictions.

With 5G set to be rolled out globally this year, forensic teams in South Korea are already preparing for this further growth in the collection of digital evidence.

Hancom GMD is planning to launch a service that recovers data from the cloud, though privacy regulations in each country are expected to be a challenge to overcome.

3. United Kingdom


Prior to its closure in 2012, the UK Forensic Science Service (FSS) was a world-leader in forensic technology. It pioneered the use of the handheld breath alcohol roadside tester and the DNA national database was first worked on and initially tested on all staff and police forces to ensure its reliability.

The organisation later pioneered the use of large scale DNA profiling for forensic identification and crime detection when it moved the facilities to Birmingham.

This enabled the launch of the world’s first DNA database on 10 April 1995. The FSS’s innovative and highly sensitive DNA profiling technique called LCN (low copy number) was used in convicting Antoni Imiela (the M25 rapist).

As well as,  Ronald Castree (for the murder of Lesley Molseed in 1975) but the organisation came under attack when it failed to recover blood stains from a shoe in the murder of Damilola Taylor.

Forensic laboratories in the UK are now privately-owned but are experiencing similar financial difficulties, a recent inquiry by the House of Lords heard.

Mark Pearse, the commercial director in the forensics division of Eurofins, one of the three major providers in the UK, described an “unsustainable toxic set of conditions” when he appeared before the inquiry.

Representatives from the two other largest providers – Key Forensics, which had to be bailed out by police last year after going into administration, and Cellmark – raised similar concerns.

However, that’s not to say that the UK is not involved in researching and implementing new forensic technologies.

Forensic scientists are currently working with the British military to open the United Kingdom’s first body farm — a site where researchers will be able to study the decomposition of human remains.

Details are not yet finalized, but the plans are at an advanced stage: project leaders hope this year to open the farm, also known as a forensic cemetery or taphonomy facility, after the discipline devoted to the study of decay and fossilization.

Such sites generate data on tissue and bone degradation under controlled conditions, along with chemical changes in the soil, air and water around a corpse, to help criminal and forensic investigators.

2. The Netherlands

The Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) is one of the world’s leading forensic laboratories. From its state-of-the-art, purpose-built premises in The Hague, the NFI provides products and services to a wide range of national and international clients.

To ensure that their work remains at the forefront of developments, the Netherlands Forensic Institute invests heavily in Research and Development. In this way, it lays the foundations for innovative forensic methods and technologies that will play an important part in the coming decades.

Amongst these innovative forensic technologies is the invention of Hansken, a system that can store large quantities and diverse data easily from different sources. All data is stored, indexed, enriched and made rapidly searchable, cutting down the turnaround time of forensic evidence.

It now contains over 150 samples of glass from a large number cases. In several cases, this glass database has linked suspects to several crimes.

Offenders who carry out robberies, smash-and-grab raids or ARM gas attacks may have splinters of glass on their clothes or in the soles of their shoes and these splinters of glass can remain in place for months, even though they are barely visible to the naked eye, if at all.

These splinters can be of great value. The composition of each piece of glass is unique because of minuscule contaminants in the raw materials for making glass.

By comparing the unique composition of splinters of glass found on a suspect to glass from the database, it is possible to check whether that glass originates from a crime committed earlier.

The glass analysts of the NFI measure the concentration of twenty elements in each piece of glass. This produces a kind of ‘chemical fingerprint’ of the material.

1.United States of America


It will come as no surprise that at the forefront of cutting-edge forensic technology is the USA, home to over 400 crime labs and the biggest crime lab in the world, the FBI Laboratory.


To help train government and industry organisations on cyberattack prevention, as part of a research project for the U.S. Army, scientists at The University of Texas at San Antonio, have developed the first framework to score the agility of cyber attackers and defenders.

“The DOD and U.S. Army recognize that the cyber domain is as important a battlefront as ground, air and sea,” said Dr. Purush Iyer, division chief, network sciences at Army Research Office, an element of the Army Futures Command’s Army Research Laboratory.

“Being able to predict what the adversaries will likely do provides opportunities to protect and to launch countermeasures. This work is a testament to successful collaboration between academia and government.”

The framework developed by the researchers will help government and industry organizations visualize how well they out-maneuver attacks.

Their work is published in IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security, a top journal for cybersecurity.

Education and training programs in the field of forensics are also on the rise, supported by organisations such as The Forensic Sciences Foundation and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

In fact, there are 485 Forensic Science schools in the US, so it’s no wonder that it is the home of the some of the most influential forensic scientists, such as Dr. Michael M. Baden and Ellis R. Kerley, and is sure to produce a great deal more talent in the future.

This is certainly an exciting time to be working in forensic science, with the challenges presented by the world of AI, Smartphones and Cloud data calling for rapid improvements to existing technology.

With these challenges comes the need for those countries with more developed forensic facilities to provide training and education opportunities to those in less developed areas so that science can play its rightful part in the criminal justice system.

For now, these are among the 7 countries who have the most advanced forensic technology and it is not the end. As the world continues to evolve, so will technology and the forensic industry itself.

Hi! I’m Isabella and I’m an Italian living in the UK studying for a Masters in Crime & Justice. I currently work in the prison education sector and have a background in teaching, having completed a PGCE after reading languages at the University of Durham. I love travelling, cooking, reading and playing the piano.

Technology is at its peak moment and with it has bought about some of the finest forensic techs. Here are 7 countries with the best forensic technology.

via 7 Countries with the Best Forensic Technology — iTHINK

How to Evaluate a Statistic and avoid Bias / False Presumptions via Mathematical Software

A counting statistic is simply a numerical count of the number of some item such as “one million missing children”, “three million homeless”, and “3.5 million STEM jobs by 2025.” Counting statistics are frequently deployed in public policy debates, the marketing of goods and services, and other contexts. Particularly when paired with an emotionally engaging story, counting statistics can be powerful and persuasive. Counting statistics can be highly misleading or even completely false. This article discusses how to evaluate counting statistics and includes a detailed list of steps to follow to evaluate a counting statistic.

Checklist for Counting Statistics

  1. Find the original primary source of the statistic. Ideally you should determine the organization or individual who produced the statistic. If the source is an organization you should find out who specifically produced the statistic within the organization. If possible find out the name and role of each member involved in the production of the statistic. Ideally you should have a full citation to the original source that could be used in a high quality scholarly peer-reviewed publication.
  2. What is the background, agenda, and possible biases of the individual or organization that produced the statistic? What are their sources of funding?What is their track record, both in general and in the specific field of the statistic? Many statistics are produced by “think tanks” with various ideological and financial biases and commitments.
  3. How is the item being counted defined. This is very important. Many questionable statistics use a broad, often vague definition of the item paired with personal stories of an extreme or shocking nature to persuade. For example, the widely quoted “one million missing children” in the United States used in the 1980’s — and even today — rounded up from an official FBI number of about seven hundred thousand missing children, the vast majority of whom returned home safely within a short time, paired with rare cases of horrific stranger abductions and murders such as the 1981 murder of six year old Adam Walsh.
  4. If the statistic is paired with specific examples or personal stories, how representative are these examples and stories of the aggregate data used in the statistic? As with the missing children statistics in the 1980’s it is common for broad definitions giving large numbers to be paired with rare, extreme examples.
  5. How was the statistic measured and/or computed? At one extreme, some statistics are wild guesses by interested parties. In the early stages of the recognition of a social problem, there may be no solid reliable measurements; activists are prone to providing an educated guess. The statistic may be the product of an opinion survey. Some statistics are based on detailed, high quality measurements.
  6. What is the appropriate scale to evaluate the counting statistic? For example, the United States Census estimates the total population of the United States as of July 1, 2018 at 328 million. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates about 156 million people are employed full time in May 2019. Thus “3.5 million STEM jobs” represents slightly more than one percent of the United States population and slightly more than two percent of full time employees.
  7. Are there independent estimates of the same or a reasonably similar statistic? If yes, what are they? Are the independent estimates consistent? If not, why not? If there are no independent estimates, why not? Why is there only one source? For example, estimates of unemployment based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey (the source of the headline unemployment number reported in the news) and the Bureau’s payroll survey have a history of inconsistency.
  8. Is the statistic consistent with other data and statistics that are expected to be related? If not, why doesn’t the expected relationship hold? For example, we expect low unemployment to be associated with rising wages. This is not always the case, raising questions about the reliability of the official unemployment rate from the Current Population Survey.
  9. Is the statistic consistent with your personal experience or that of your social circle?If not, why not? For example, I have seen high unemployment rates among my social circle at times when the official unemployment rate was quite low.
  10. Does the statistic feel right? Sometimes, even though the statistic survives detailed scrutiny — following the above steps — it still doesn’t seem right. There is considerable controversy over the reliability of intuition and “feelings.” Nonetheless, many people believe a strong intuition often proves more accurate than a contradictory “rational analysis.” Often if you meditate on an intuition or feeling, more concrete reasons for the intuition will surface.

(C) 2019 by John F. McGowan, Ph.D.

About Me

John F. McGowan, Ph.D. solves problems using mathematics and mathematical software, including developing gesture recognition for touch devices, video compression and speech recognition technologies. He has extensive experience developing software in C, C++, MATLAB, Python, Visual Basic and many other programming languages. He has been a Visiting Scholar at HP Labs developing computer vision algorithms and software for mobile devices. He has worked as a contractor at NASA Ames Research Centerinvolved in the research and development of image and video processing algorithms and technology. He has published articles on the origin and evolution of life, the exploration of Mars (anticipating the discovery of methane on Mars), and cheap access to space. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).



A counting statistic is simply a numerical count of the number of some item such as “one million missing children”, “three million homeless”, and “3.5 million STEM jobs by 2025.” Counting statistics are frequently deployed in public policy debates, the marketing of goods and services, and other contexts. Particularly when paired with an emotionally engaging […]

via How to Evaluate a Counting Statistic — Mathematical Software