GIVEN OUR TRACK record of clearing bad cops, this might be a little hard to believe: Not every cop who behaves badly gets a pass.

In November, a federal jury awarded Khadijah White $31,000 in a wrongful-arrest suit against several Philadelphia police officers, the commander of the Police Department's Civil Affairs Unit and the city's public safety director after White was arrested and injured outside the Municipal Services Building.

On March 12, 2012, White was protesting peacefully with other demonstrators outside a public hearing on the mayor's proposed ban against feeding the homeless when a scuffle broke out between police and protesters. During the confusion White was arrested and hurt.

"One of [the officers] pulled so hard on my finger, they broke it," White recalled.

White, now an assistant professor of journalism at Rutgers, was supposed to receive a prestigious community service award from the University of Pennsylvania that night.

Instead, she was thrown in jail, charged with resisting arrest, harassment and disorderly conduct.

Officers claimed White dared the officers to hit her and pushed Civil Affairs Police Capt. Stephen Glenn so hard he fell backward into the crowd. I saw none of that in either of the two videos of the incident I watched.

A third video, mentioned by public safety director Michael Resnick in his deposition, apparently vanished. And later, in his deposition, Glenn seemed to amend his claim and said he recalled more of a "sensation" of being pushed than an actual push.

The prosecution later dropped the charges and White filed a wrongful-arrest suit.

"I really felt like they struck out at me because I was speaking my mind," said White, who struggled to finish her dissertation with a broken finger and worried that her arrest would affect her job search.

"I felt what the police did was wrong and inappropriate. So I wanted to have a day in court to make [them] answer for what they did, for the way that they hurt me. And to be held responsible for their actions."

The jury found that Capt. Glenn and Officer Edward Ashburn used excessive force. It awarded White $23,000. Three other officers were cleared. The jury also ruled against public safety director Resnick in the amount of $8,000 for malicious prosecution. The award included a few thousand in punitive damages after jurors found that the cops acted "maliciously or wantonly."

Of course with civil judgments, a jury's word often isn't the last. And in the settlement talks that followed, White and her lawyers agreed to a deal that will undo the verdict against Resnick.

But sealed in the record books will be the jury's finding that two of Philadelphia's finest illegally and wantonly violated the rights of a citizen they were sworn to protect.

"Police are supposed to uphold the law," said White's attorney, Lawrence Krasner, "and when they violate it, there's really only one conclusion you can draw, which is that these law-enforcement officers are pretty comfortable saying things that aren't true. That's not how the system is supposed to work."

The award is undoubtedly a win for White. But considering that taxpayers are the ones indirectly footing the bill and, as far as I know - police declined to comment - the officers aren't facing any disciplinary action, I'm not sure it's a lesson learned. Especially in a post-Ferguson climate where trust between cops and citizens is at an all-time low.

Interestingly, last month President Obama, in whose administration White was once an intern, tapped Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey to chair a task force on 21st-century policing.

Ramsey might want to start by reviewing White's case, in which his captain of civil affairs was found liable for excessive force and where officers still don't seem to understand that their duty is to protect the citizens of this city, not cover for each other.

In her deposition in the White case, an officer who was later cleared was asked if she would report fellow officers if she saw them act inappropriately. After a lot of back and forth, the officer finally seemed to settle on an answer.

"If no one was injured, no, I would not report it."

The White case is one small battle won. But one large war over public trust rages on. 

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