Scores of brutality lawsuits are filed against the Philadelphia Police Department every year. But it's unusual for an officer, a sergeant no less, to make those charges.
In a suit filed Monday, Sgt. Brandon Ruff did just that.
Ruff claims he was roughed up by seven officers from the 35th District when he attempted to anonymously turn in three handguns at the precinct. Ruff, who says he suffered two sprained wrists and two sprained shoulders in the fracas, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.
Ruff, an eight-year veteran assigned to the 16th precinct, said the acts of the 35th District officers "were committed willfully, wantonly, maliciously, intentionally, outrageously, deliberately and/or by conduct so egregious as to shock the conscience."
The City of Philadelphia, he said in his civil suit, encourages and is deliberately indifferent to the abuse of police powers. Among other accusations, Ruff claims the city tolerates officers who misrepresent facts in order to establish probable cause, and allows officers to have persons falsely arrested or maliciously prosecuted. He also asserts the city permits the continued employment of officers who are psychologically or emotionally unfit to serve.
Ruff is currently under investigation by Internal Affairs in connection with the incident.
In his suit, Ruff said a friend asked him to turn in three firearms the friend had bought from neighbors "in a proactive attempt to stop violence."
Ruff, who was off duty, checked to make sure the guns were unloaded and then drove to the 35th District station at Broad Street and Champlost Avenue. When he arrived at the precinct, he told an officer he wanted to turn in some firearms. The officer asked who owned the guns. Ruff – who refused to identify the owner -- said he was turning them in under a "no-questions-asked" policy and asked to speak to a supervisor, the suit states.
But according to a police spokesman, a "no-questions-asked" policy does not exist outside of periodic gun-amnesty programs.
"Can you drop them off like a baby? Typically, no," said Lt. John Stanford, a department spokesman. "That's only done when we do buybacks."
After a supervisor failed to appear, another officer demanded to see Ruff's identification. He told her that he didn't have a state ID on him but had his work ID instead. Ruff asked to make a phone call outside the building. As he walked out, someone shouted, "There he is," the suit states. Another officer came up behind Ruff and twisted his right hand behind his back. More than five officers ran to the scene. At that point, Ruff used a code number to identify himself as a fellow officer and said that his ID was in his pocket, according to the suit.
Two of those police officers held Tasers to his chest and rib cage and threatened to activate them. One of the officers spotted a weapon holstered to Ruff's hip and demanded, "Why the hell would you come into a police station with a gun on your hip? Where is your permit to carry?" Ruff responded that his police officer ID was his permit to carry, according to the suit.
After being held for six hours, Ruff was released. On Aug. 4, he went to Chestnut Hill Hospital, where he was treated for injuries he said he received during his arrest and detention. The same day, Ruff was placed on desk duty, according to the suit, which seeks unspecified damages.
Stanford described the entire episode as "odd." He said he could not comment specifically on the suit. He did offer an explanation of how guns usually are accepted at precincts.
"When you bring a gun to district, we want some background: your name and where it was found. You want to know where it came from," Stanford said. "That's all going to be done. It's like taking a regular police report. But the buybacks are different."
Refusing to give that information to police, "would raise eyebrows of any reasonable person," Stanford said.