A former Philadelphia police officer testified Monday that he became a victim of the city's stop-and-frisk policies when two officers manhandled him during a pedestrian stop, exacerbating the back and neck problems that he said forced him from the department seven years earlier.
In his federal civil rights lawsuit, Herbert Spellman, 51, is represented by a lawyer whose firm worked with the American Civil Liberties Union on a recent report that says city police continue to illegally stop and frisk tens of thousands of minorities despite a 2011 consent decree. Spellman is black, and the two officers are white.
"They accused him of being a crackhead. They used foul language," Spellman's lawyer, Paul Messing, said in his opening argument.
Lawyers for the city, however, described Spellman as a man with "an ax to grind" because he was denied disability and workers' compensation over an on-duty car accident in 2006 that Spellman says has left him with back and neck problems.
The stop-and-frisk incident happened in September 2013 in North Philadelphia. Officers Brad Momme and David O'Connor suspected Spellman of exchanging glances with a known drug dealer on a high-crime corner. Spellman says he had been looking for a bus stop after leaving his son's school event.
O'Connor later described Spellman as "irate from the start."
"From the initial contact with Mr. Spellman, his demeanor was confrontational, noncompliant, angry," the chief deputy city solicitor, Craig Straw, told jurors.
Spellman used a cane in court and stood at times to stretch his back. Messing said he was injured when the officers twisted him and put his hands on the squad car during the search.
Spellman says the stop aggravated his back and neck problems and left him emotionally wounded.
The ACLU last month said data show improvements in the way Philadelphia police handle stop-and-frisk searches. But the group concluded that more than one-third of the 200,000 stops last year were unfounded, and only half based "on reasonable suspicion."
The report found that 80 percent of the people stopped, and nearly 90 percent of those frisked, were minorities, and that no contraband was found in 95 percent of the searches. The city's population, the report said, is 43 percent black, 42 percent white, and 9 percent Hispanic.