Philly Cop Stood at Michelle Obama’s Side. Now He’s in Jail.
Not gonna lie: It’s usually a happy day when a crooked or corrupt Philly cop goes to jail. There’s so much distrust between the police and the citizens of this city, generally, that any measure of accountability never feels like quite enough—but it’s better than nothing.
Still, it’s hard to see the story of Richard DeCoatsworth as anything but a tragedy. You’ll remember him: He was the Philly cop shot in the face a couple of years ago, who still managed to pursue his attacker even while bleeding badly. He underwent surgeries, and ended up standing next to Michelle Obama at the State of the Union address.
Now it’s all come undone. The Daily News:
But this weekend, it was DeCoatsworth who found a new home behind bars, after he was charged with 32 crimes – including promoting prostitution, human trafficking and rape – for two cases involving alleged heinous acts against women.
In one case, DeCoatsworth, 27, is accused of holding two women hostage and forcing them to take drugs and engage in sexual acts at gunpoint. In the other case, he’s accused of abusing his girlfriend, police said.
Now, the man who once was hailed as a hero and sat next to first lady Michelle Obama at a presidential address is sitting in a city jail on $60 million bail.
The Inky says this isn’t DeCoatsworth’s first brush with the law:
Philadelphia police last year recommended bringing charges of witness intimidation against former Officer Richard DeCoatsworth, once hailed as a hero for his work on the force and charged over the weekend with rape, a high-ranking police official said Sunday.
Capt. John Gallagher, a former commander of East Detectives now assigned to the department’s Counter-Terrorism Operations, said the recommendation stemmed from allegations that DeCoatsworth, 27, had kidnapped, assaulted, and robbed a Port Richmond man who lived two blocks from him over an unpaid debt.
Detectives who investigated said they believed the debt was over drugs, said Gallagher, who led the investigation.
You’ll remember that DeCoatsworth’s career turned south after sitting with Michelle Obama. Marc Lamont Hill, the DN columnist and university professor, filed suit he said DeCoatsworth violated his civil rights during a car stop in 2010. Hill wrote about the encounter in 2011, capturing both why DeCoatsworth’s case might be a tragedy for the former officer—but why, ultimately, DeCoatsworth may be a danger to the public:
Since the incident, I’ve thought about DeCoatsworth. I’ve wondered if he regretted that night, wishing he could take back his actions now that he has been afforded the luxury of time and reflection. I’ve wondered whether his tragic shooting has put him in a permanent state of trauma, causing him to find danger where there is none. I’ve wondered if he was a good cop at heart, who became cynical and overly aggressive after spending a few short years trying to navigate a broken system. I’ve even hesitantly wondered if we could sit down and discuss our differences, allowing us to move in a new direction of growth and healing.
I got the answer to my last question a few weeks ago, as I bumped into Officer DeCoatsworth at a gas station at 22nd and Walnut streets. I was sitting in my car as he walked by in plain clothes, looking much smaller and less confident without his uniform and handgun. He stopped dead in front of my car and glared at me. I made eye contact and nodded, in an effort to break the tension and offer a nonverbal olive branch. He turned his head and walked a few feet away from me. He then stopped, turned back toward me and spit in my direction. He shot me a look of cold rage that sent me back to that chilly night last summer.