6 Philadelphia Officers Benched

Commissioner Charles Ramsey, left, and Mayor Michael Nutter address the beatings of three suspects by police.
Commissioner Charles Ramsey, left, and Mayor Michael Nutter address the beatings of three suspects by police. (By Tom Mihalek -- Associated Press)

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By Robert Strauss
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, May 8, 2008

PHILADELPHIA, May 7 -- Six city police officers, including one sergeant, were placed on administrative duty Wednesday after a preliminary investigation of an incident in which the beatings of three suspects were videotaped from a television station's traffic helicopter.

"It is not acceptable to do anything less than what we expect of Philadelphia police officers, and they know that," Mayor Michael A. Nutter said at a news conference Wednesday. "The behavior exhibited on the tape was unacceptable."

According to Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, officers stopped a car driven by Brian Hall, 23, on Monday night after members of a surveillance team saw four men, one of whom they believed to be Hall, shoot three other men on a North Philadelphia street corner notorious for drug dealing. One of the gunmen fled on foot, and while the other three fled in a car.

After officers stopped Hall's car, they dragged the driver and two passengers out and started kicking them and beating them with their fists and batons. Ramsey said there was no indication the suspects were resisting.

Ramsey said the department's investigation determined that the five patrolmen placed on administrative duty were doing the beating on the tape and that the sergeant should have "taken some supervisory action." He said the investigation is continuing and other officers may be taken off the street.

Ramsey became Philadelphia's police commissioner in January. He had been the D.C. police chief from 1998 to 2007.

The beatings come after a difficult weekend for the Philadelphia Police Department. Officers have been working 12-hour shifts since Saturday, when Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski was shot dead after a bank robbery. Police fatally shot one suspect in Liczbinski's killing; they arrested a second suspect and are looking for a third.

"Emotions run very high right now," Ramsey said. "It is obvious this puts a lot of stress and pressure on these officers.

"That being said, we expect officers to be above reproach and do not expect people to conduct themselves in any way other than that," he said.

No charges have been filed in Monday's beatings. The three suspects who were beaten are being held on bail ranging from $300,000 to $1 million on aggravated-assault and other charges in connection with the shootings.


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