A part-time Darby officer who strip-searched a local woman on suspicion of using drugs has drawn other complaints of unjustified arrests, records and interviews show.
Professional photographer Jonah Wamah said he was talking to a friend on the sidewalk when Officer Tina Selimis ordered him to move along and, when he balked, charged him with disorderly conduct - a charge also later dismissed. Wamah now is suing the borough in federal court.
Marine Sgt. Kareem Cox said he ended up in handcuffs after a Sunday morning encounter with Selimis.
The woman who was strip-searched, Tameka Flythe, was taken to the borough lockup after Selimis encountered her walking home; she had no drugs and was never charged. Flythe sued but lost.
Selimis declined to be interviewed for this article. Her commander, Lt. Darrell Guy, said she is a good cop who did nothing wrong. The chief, Robert F. Smythe, did not respond to requests for comment.
Darby is one of a number of local municipalities without standards on when a suspect may be strip-searched.
In the Flythe suit, Darby police officials testified that they had no rules, instead letting officers decide strip searches for themselves. Selimis testified that she had conducted more than 100 in just two years.
Court records show that Selimis has written scores of citations for disorderly conduct, but she is by no means the only high-arrest officer in the department; Darby makes arrests on that charge at some of the highest rates in the nation.
Department leaders encourage such tactics, former officers said, by posting every officer's arrest statistics on the station-house wall.
Darby's tough-cop reputation was news to Cox, who grew up in Yeadon and Southwest Philadelphia. He now lives in Chesapeake, Va., assigned to a stateside Marine unit specializing in counterterrorism training.
Cox has the words
Rest In Peace
tattooed on his left arm - a tribute to four tank crew buddies killed last year in Fallujah.
One Sunday, Cox said, he stood in the street chatting as his sister, on her way home from church, double-parked to drop off his wife and 4-year-old son.
When Selimis told him to get away from the car, Cox said, he answered: "You don't have to yell."
In Cox's account, Selimis got out of her patrol car and put her hands on her hips: "I am yelling. What are you going to do about it?"
He said he tried to turn and walk away. But Selimis rushed after him and pushed him against a parked SUV. Backup cars arrived, and Cox said he was handcuffed, taken to the station, and released. Charges were later dismissed.
Cox said Selimis never gave him much of an explanation. "You didn't follow the rules," he said Selimis told him.
Cox, too, is considering a lawsuit. Even though the charge was dismissed, he worries it will be a black mark on an otherwise spotless military record.
"Disorderly conduct in the Marine Corps is taken very seriously," he said.