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Four Phila. officers fired for taped beating

In a remarkably swift action, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey today fired four police officers and disciplined four others for taking part in the dramatic videotaped beatings of several suspects two weeks ago.

In a remarkably swift action, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey today fired four police officers and disciplined four others for taking part in the dramatic videotaped beatings of several suspects two weeks ago.

The officers were among 19 policemen who were filmed May 5 kicking and pummeling three suspects by a Fox29 television news helicopter. Police allege the three men had been involved in an earlier drive-by shooting in Feltonville that resulted in several injuries.

With Mayor Nutter and the department's command staff at his side, Ramsey made announced the disciplinary actions at a news conference at Police Headquarters. He said he is allowed to a "commissioner's direct action" and unilaterally impose discipline without a hearing.

Mayor Nutter said today's announcement "represents our effort to ensure that officers - and more importantly citizens - understand the engagement they should expect out on the street."

Ramsey said the investigation determined that the remaining 10 Philadelphia officers identified in the video acted within guidelines and will not face disciplinary action. Ramsey said all officers will receive additional training on the use of force.

Reaction to the commissioner's decision was mixed.

About 15 protesters gathered outside the Police Administration Building and they were dissatisfied with Ramsey's decision.

"We want them all fired," said Sultan Ashley-Shah, the Philadelphia head of the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network.

But Sharpton, in a radio interview with Nutter shortly after the decision was announced, was effusive in his praise for the city's decision.

"For you to take this action before the legal process -- they could still face criminal indictment -- is unprecedented," the activist preacher said.

"For you to take this action now, shows some real muscle and seriousness about addressing police brutality. For you to step up like this, the police union is not going to be happy. This is a new era in accountability."

John J. McNesby, president of Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the officers were not given due process and the union would fight to have them reinstated.

"It was a rush to judgment," said McNesby. "There was no type of hearing. I don't even know if the investigation is complete. We will have to fight to get them back their jobs."

The 11-minute video was shot May 5 after 10 p.m. by Fox29's helicopter as it hovered over the scene in the 3700 block of North Second Street in the Feltonville section of North Philadelphia.

The police chase began with shots fired into a crowd at Fourth and Annsbury Streets in Feltonville.

The video depicts the suspects' car cruising to a stop along the shoulder of the road, blocked in the front by a patrol car and a series of patrol cars right behind. A half-dozen officers, guns drawn, immediately rush the gold 2000 Mercury Grand Marquis sedan, pull the driver and two passengers out and face-down on the roadway, then kick and hit them for 40 to 50 seconds until they are handcuffed.

The remaining 10 minutes of the video shows the suspects on the ground as they are searched by officers, and a police dog goes in and out of the sedan in an apparent search for contraband.

Ramsey dismissed four officers from the 35th District: Patrick Gallagher, Patrick Whalen, Robert Donnelly and Vincent Strain.

Three other officers were suspended from five to 15 days: Jonathon Czapor, 25th District; Demetrios Pittaoulis, 35th District; and Sean Bascom, Narcotics Strike Force.

In addition, Sgt. Joseph Schiavone of the 35th District was demoted to officer. Ramsey said he "failed to take action" and stop the beatings was being demoted to officer.

The 19th officer was identified as a SEPTA K-9 officer. Rich Maloney, a SEPTA spokesman, said it does not appear that the SEPTA officer who was in the area at the time, did anything inappropriate. Maloney said no action is being taken against the officer.

In addition to the disciplinary actions, the commissioner said an outside agency, the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington D.C., would evaluate the department's use of force guidelines and its training under a four-month contract the department signed recently.

McNesby, the FOP president, said officers are receiving mixed signals from the city about reducing violent crime -- a desire for more aggressive policing, but an unwillingness to accept the repercussions.

"They want a war on crime, but they don't want any casualties," he said.

On Friday a preliminary hearing for the three was aborted after the three victims they allegedly wounded failed to appear in court.

The witnesses' absence during Friday's hearing forced Municipal Court Judge Jacquelyn Frazier-Lyde to postpone the preliminary hearing for Dwayne Dyches, 24; Brian Hall, 23, and Pete Hopkins, 19, until July 17. The three are charged with attempted murder and related charges.

Assistant District Attorney Carol Meehan Sweeney said she spoke with two of the victims, Gerald Cooper and Brandon Crow, and the mother of victim Deangelo White earlier, reminding each they had been subpoenaed to testify at the hearing.

Meanwhile, police confirmed a major change in their initial account of the Feltonville shooting.

Police now allege that officers on the scene identified Hopkins, 19, of the 2000 block of East Firth Street in Kensington, as the man who got out of a gold 2000 Mercury Grand Marquis sedan shortly after 10 p.m. May 5 and fired at a group of people at Fourth and Annsbury Streets.