Here’s the Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed by Brandon Tate-Brown’s Family

Tanya Dickerson, center, is flanked by Asa Khalif, left, and Brian Mildenberg, right, during a press conference on Thursday. Dickerson's son, Brandon Tate-Brown, was shot to death by police in December; DA Seth Williams announced earier in the day no charges would be filed in the death.

Tanya Brown-Dickerson, center, is flanked by Asa Khalif, left, and Brian Mildenberg, right, during a press conference in March. Dickerson’s son, Brandon Tate-Brown, was shot to death by police in December.

The family of Brandon Tate-Brown has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia — and is asking for a court to take control of the departmental reform efforts initiated by Commissioner Charles Ramsey.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday with the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas seeks to be given class-action status, saying Tate-Brown’s December death after being pulled over by police is representative of broader training and oversight failures diagnosed by the Department of Justice in its March report on the department’s use-of-force practices.

“The deficiencies in PPD training found by the DOJ Report contributed to and were a substantial factor in the unlawful pullover, arrest, seizure, beating, and killing of Brandon Tate-Brown,” said the complaint filed by Brian Mildenberg, the attorney for Tate-Brown’s mother, Tanya Brown-Dickerson. (See the full complaint below.)

A Philadelphia Police spokesman referred inquiries to the city solicitor’s office. A call to that office was not immediately returned. Read more »

Civic League, Williams Want Police Commissioner Gone

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. AP | Matt Rourke

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. AP | Matt Rourke

If the Guardian Civic League — a group representing Philadelphia’s black police officers — has its way, the next mayor will put a brand-new police commissioner in the department’s top job.

If he becomes mayor, Anthony Williams will be happy to oblige.

“I’m not gonna say I’ll fire someone. But we differ, and I don’t compromise,” said Williams, citing Commissioner Charles Ramsey’s implementation of “stop-and-frisk” policy during his tenure here.

NewsWorks reports on objections raised by the league — led by Rochelle Bilal — to Ramsey: Read more »

Tell Us All About It: One of Philly’s Best 911 Dispatchers Speaks

911 dispatcher Celestine Stanford at her desk inside the Police Administration Building, where she takes hundreds of calls each day. Photo | Christine O'Brien, Philadelphia Police Department

911 dispatcher Celestine Stanford at her desk inside the Police Administration Building, where she takes hundreds of calls each day. Photo | Christine O’Brien, Philadelphia Police Department

911 operators in Philadelphia have a rough job. Anyone who calls these civil servants is either complaining about something or reporting a serious emergency (or making a prank call), and often, lives hang in the balance. So we decided to get one of them on the phone to find out what it’s like. Meet South Philadelphia’s Celestine Stanford, a 56-year-old St. Maria Goretti graduate who has been taking your 911 calls for 28 years. Last week, the Philadelphia Police Department announced that Stanford was one of three winners of the 2015 Dispatcher of the Year Awards. Read more »

State Rep Wants to Make it Illegal to Taunt Police, Cites Cops’ “Emotions”


Photo | Joel Mathis

On Tuesday, way out yonder in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, state lawmakers, police officers, and other officials gathered in the State Capitol for a rally in support of law enforcement personnel, led by Pennsylvania State Senator John Rafferty, who entered a resolution in the State Senate to recognize 2015 as the “Year of the Cop.”

“It used to be when a law enforcement official answered the call for a burglary on an armed robbery, he or she worried about a situation where their life might be threatened,” Rafferty said at the rally. “After 9/11, we’ve seen a dramatic change in the attitude in this country, and in the world. Law enforcement officials are now being targeted because they wear a badge.”

True enough. And sure, why not call 2015 the Year of the Cop? We’re all for it.

But then another Pennsylvania lawmaker decided to say a few words — as first pointed out by the blog Raging Chickens Press — and those words have us scratching our heads a bit.  Read more »

Why Didn’t Lynne Abraham Prosecute a Cop Who Shot a 20-Year-Old in the Back?

Lynne Abraham | Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Lynne Abraham | Photo by Jeff Fusco

Before Michael Brown and Eric Garner were household names, an off-duty police sergeant shot Lawrence Allen in the back in Philadelphia on Nov. 17, 2008.

Allen was paralyzed and, three months later, he died. He was 20 years old.

Lynne Abraham, the city’s district attorney at the time, decided not to press charges against Sgt. Chauncey Ellison, the cop who shot Allen, or his then-girlfriend, Officer Robin Fortune, who was involved in the melee.

Allen’s family was furious. “How could you say it’s not murder?” his father asked the Daily News in 2010. “My son suffered like a wounded animal until he died.”

Six-and-a-half years later, Abraham is running for mayor and police-involved killings are a source of major controversy throughout the nation. The U.S. Department of Justice just issued a critical report on police shootings in Philadelphia. And, most saliently, Ellison and Fortune were convicted of reckless endangerment when District Attorney Seth Williams reopened the case after succeeding Abraham.

If she could do it all over again, would Abraham still have chosen not to prosecute? And will that decision come back to haunt her in the mayor’s race? Read more »

Suit: Cops Broke Down Man’s Door, Beat Him While Looking for His Brother

A Philadelphia man has filed a federal lawsuit against the police department claiming that the Internal Affairs division routinely ignores allegations of wrongdoing by officers.

Luis Gelpi filed the suit this week. His complaint stems from a May 2013 incident in which he says a group of officers raided his home while looking for his brother, Juan. The family had endured and, according to the suit, cooperated during several days of inquiry from officers before the raid.

The officers came to his house on May 8th, Gelpi’s attorney, Brian Humble, writes in the complaint.

“On this occasion, Mr. Gelpi, demanded that the Police Officers named herein produce a warrant, or go away and stop harassing his family and disrupting his life. In response, one of the Defendant Officers ordered Mr. Gelpi to ‘open the fucking door,’” the complaint alleges. “Mr. Gelpi justifiably demanded that the individually named defendants produce a warrant. Rather than obtaining and/or showing a warrant, the Defendant Officers broke the front door and forcibly entered the Gelpi home.”

Gelpi, who according to the suit had his right arm in a full cast at the time, alleges he was thrown to the floor where one officer allegedly hit him in the head, face, and back and twisted his injured arm, while other officers searched his home. Eventually, the complaint alleges, one of the officers announced, “oh it’s not him.”

Read more »

If You See a Cop Stop, Start Recording

North Charleston police officer Michael Slager caught on video shooting Walter Scott in the back.

North Charleston police officer Michael Slager caught on video shooting Walter Scott in the back.

For the past week, the country has spent a lot of time — perhaps too much? — watching North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager fire his gun repeatedly into the back of a fleeing Walter Scott, who died. Slager was denied bail and is currently sitting in jail awaiting trial for murder. But would that be the case if not for the bystander who caught the tragic shooting on video? I think not. Read more »

Philadelphia Police Force Still Far Whiter Than City Itself

Members of the Philadelphia Police Department swear an oath during a Department promotion ceremony. | Copyright City of Philadelphia. Photograph by Mitchell Leff.

A Philadelphia Police Department promotion ceremony. | Copyright City of Philadelphia. Photo by Mitchell Leff.

The alarming number of high-profile police shootings of unarmed black men over the last year has put a spotlight on just how few minorities serve as sworn officers in many American cities.

Take last week’s horrific video depicting a white police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina shooting a fleeing black suspect. Whites account for 80 percent of North Charleston’s police force, but only 42 percent of the total population of North Charleston. The city is comprised of 47 percent blacks, but only 18 percent of the city’s sworn officers are black. The disparities were even worse in Ferguson.

These sort of gaps between the demography of a community and that of the police force that serves it tend to be most pronounced in smaller cities, a 2007 Department of Justice report found. Read more »

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