A PHILADELPHIA woman filed a federal lawsuit against the Philadelphia Police Department last week after she says a cop beat her, injured her toddler son and arrested her and a friend for videotaping a May 2011 arrest near her Overbrook home.
This is the second lawsuit to be filed this year against the police department in which civilians claim they were wrongfully arrested for videotaping arrests. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in January after receiving several complaints from residents. Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey issued a memo to the department informing officers that Philadelphians have the right to record, videotape or photograph them in public after the Daily News first spotlighted the issue in 2011.
"If a citizen is not interfering with a police officer's ability to conduct an investigation and standing at a distance . . . [they're] able to videotape it. It should not be a problem," said attorney Donald Chisholm, who filed the lawsuit Thursday on behalf of Angelique Gerald-Porter, the lead plaintiff in the latest case.
Police spokesman Lt. John Stanford declined to comment on the case, but reaffirmed that citizens have the right to record and noted that the department has spread the message to its officers.
"They have the right to record," Stanford said. "We ask that they not get in the way of the police officer [or] put themselves in harm's way."
The suit says Gerald-Porter was standing near her home on Simpson Street near Vine watching a violent arrest that her friend, Salimah Milton, began to record on her iPhone. Gerald-Porter stepped off her steps and an officer told her to get back. She complied, the suit states.
The suit says the cop, 19th District Officer Ian Nance, told Gerald-Porter to walk to the end of the block, even after she informed him several times she lived feet away.
In a video recording of the incident, the officer responds, "This is our property right now," before grabbing Gerald-Porter's arm and wrestling her to the ground.
According to the suit, the officer punched Gerald-Porter in the stomach and dragged her down the steps by her hair. During the confrontation, her son, Tafari, then 2, was pinned beneath her and kicked in the head. She was bloodied, her clothes torn and she was nearly naked in the street, the suit says. Gerald-Porter and her son were both treated for injuries at Lankenau Hospital.
Gerald-Porter and Milton were arrested, but charges of disorderly conduct against them were eventually tossed. The suit claims the officer's actions were a violation of the Ku Klux Klan Act and Gerald-Porter's First Amendment rights. She is seeking $150,000 in damages.
The suit also claims Mayor Nutter and Ramsey have failed to discipline and properly train officers in police-brutality cases, especially those involving African Americans. Mayoral spokesman Mark McDonald said the administration does not comment on pending litigation.
Nance, the officer named in the lawsuit, is an eight-year veteran, who since 2008 has received seven civilian complaints, including five alleging physical abuse. None of the complaints have been sustained.