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Phila. police sergeant jailed for not unlocking personal computers

A Philadelphia police sergeant was suspended Tuesday with intent to dismiss after federal authorities jailed him for refusing to hand over unencrypted files stored on his personal computers.

Francis "Phlash" Rawls, 36, was remanded to the Federal Detention Center on Monday after being found in contempt of court by U.S. District Judge Thomas J. Rueter.

Rawls is a 17-year-veteran most recently assigned to the 16th District.

It's unclear what government officials are seeking on the computers. Rawls has not been charged with a crime, according to authorities.

On July 29, federal investigators obtained a search warrant for "certain electronic media" belonging to Rawls. The files were stored on Rawls' Apple Mac Pro computer, his iPhone, and four external hard drives, according to court filings. The machines previously had been seized in Delaware Co. and Philadelphia.

On Aug. 27, Rawls was ordered to unlock the files on the machines. Rawls, who has an apartment in Chester, appeared at the Delaware Co. District Attorney's office on Sept. 4 where he decrypted "some of the media," according to Rueter's order, but did not unlock the hard drives.

After the Philadelphia Police found Rawls' actions to be "conduct unbecoming," Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey suspended Rawls for 30 days with intent to dismiss.