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 »

Philadelphia Police Reform: The Path Forward

Clockwise from left: Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey; Bishop Dwayne Royster of POWER; JoAnne Epps, dean of Temple Law; Mary Catherine Roper of ACLU; and Tanya Brown-Dickerson with attorney Brian Mildenberg.

Clockwise from left: Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey; Bishop Dwayne Royster of POWER; JoAnne Epps, dean of Temple Law; Mary Catherine Roper of ACLU; and Tanya Brown-Dickerson with attorney Brian Mildenberg.

We’ve heard what the experts think needs to change about the Philadelphia Police Department. And we’ve heard what the feds think, too. But what about the community?

After two reports — one from the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, the other from a Department of Justice Review of Philadelphia policing practices — the Philadelphia Police Department is embarking on a widespread reform effort that is expected to take 18 months to complete.   Read more »

Why Commissioner Ramsey Must Stay

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, co-chair,  the President's Task Force on 21 Century Policing, listens to witnesses at the Newseum in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, co-chair, the President’s Task Force on 21 Century Policing, listens to witnesses at the Newseum in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

There’s been a bit of talk about the future of Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey lately, so let’s just say what needs to be said: Ramsey must stay on in the next mayor’s administration, at least for the first year or so.

Whether he wants to is anybody’s guess — his post-Philly opportunities will probably be quite lucrative — and it’s possible, despite widespread praise for Ramsey, that the next mayor will want his or her own man or woman in the job.  Read more »

Should Philly Police Recruits Learn African-American History at the Academy?

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There’s been plenty of evidence recently that the relationships between police officers and citizens throughout the nation are, to put it mildly, strained. (If you’ve been living under a rock, see: the police-involved deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Eric Garner in Staten Island, and Brandon Tate-Brown in Philadelphia, as well as a spike in police-involved shootings across the city in 2012. To name a few.)

There have also been some major efforts in the past few years to rebuild community trust in police, from President Barack Obama’s creation of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing to the federal government’s review of the use of deadly force in Philadelphia.

Now, former City Councilman and mayoral candidate Jim Kenney has a plan to improve the relationships between cops and residents in Philadelphia: require police recruits to learn about African-American and civil rights history.

Read more »

Student Arrested During Occupy Philly Protest Wins $80K in Damages

Police officers pull down structures at the Occupy Philly encampment inside Dilworth Plaza, in Philadelphia, Wednesday Nov. 30, 2011.

Police officers pull down structures at the Occupy Philly encampment inside Dilworth Plaza, in Philadelphia, Wednesday November 30, 2011, the night Gregory Harris was arrested.

A one-time doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania who studied and made a short film about Occupy Philly was awarded $80,000 in damages Thursday by a federal jury for his arrest during a protest.

Gregory Harris was watching police evict Occupy Philly activists from their encampment at City Hall when he was arrested on November 30, 2011, according to his lawsuit filed against the city. Harris was accused of striking Officer Joseph Sisca in the face with his forearm. He was charged with aggravated assault and several other counts. Read more »

5 Notable Philly April Fools’ Jokes — and One Real Story You’ll Wish Was Fake

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It’s not April Fools’ Day.

Ha, got you! It is April Fools’ Day, and as such you are quite the April Fool. You can go slink off now, feeling as foolish as you ever have.

Wait, wait, come back. The introduction to this article was not the only April Fools’ prank played by Philadelphians this year. Here’s a roundup of some of the best and worst. Read more »

Trial Starts Today for Accused Cops

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After a week of preliminaries, trial is expected to get under way today for six Philadelphia narcotics officers accused of robbing and shaking down the drug dealers they were supposed to be putting behind bars.

Defense attorneys for the officers — Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman, Perry Betts, John Speiser and Michael Spicer — are expected to attack the credibility of federal prosecutors’ witnesses, many of whom are convicted or accused drug dealers. More than 160 drug cases involving the officers have been thrown of criminal court. Read more »

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