On first view, the video is so quick-moving and chaotic that it is difficult to track more than the obvious: A swarm of Philadelphia police officers pulls three men from a car and forces them to the ground, where they are repeatedly punched and kicked.
But as Internal Affairs investigators viewed the video repeatedly in the last two weeks, they isolated the behavior of each of 19 officers at the scene and drew clear distinctions between those who used acceptable force to subdue suspects believed to be dangerous and those who crossed the line into sadistic punishment.
"As you watch the tape, there is struggling taking place on the part of all three offenders on the ground, so there is some force that needed to be used," Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said at a news conference Monday.
"But we were looking at that force that we believed was beyond that needed at the time to bring people into custody," said Ramsey, who fired four officers and disciplined four others in the May 5 arrest of three men suspected of being involved in a shooting minutes before in Feltonville.
The Fraternal Order of Police has said that Ramsey's actions were premature, and that he should have held hearings before disciplining the officers. The union has vowed to take legal action in defense of its members. The punished officers have declined through the FOP to comment.
Some behavior on the video, shot from a Fox29 television helicopter, appeared to be clearly out of line. Officer Jonathon Czapor, a six-year veteran in the 25th District, arrived after the suspects were handcuffed on the ground and kicked one twice, Ramsey said.
"There was absolutely no need for that to occur as we reviewed the film. All struggle had been ended by that time," Ramsey said. Czapor, 26, was suspended for 15 days.
Perhaps the most egregious behavior was ascribed to Robert Donnelly, a September graduate of the Police Academy assigned to the 35th District and among the first to approach the car and pull a suspect from it, Ramsey said.
Donnelly - while holding a firearm - struck a suspect, kicked him, and then used his foot to hold down a suspect's head, Ramsey said.
"And then as he escorted one of the suspects to the patrol car at the end, actually shoved his neck into the roof of the car a couple of times before putting him in the car," the commissioner said.
Donnelly was fired.
Officer Vincent Strain, 27, a 35th District veteran of five years whose father is a police captain, was seen "going from suspect to suspect and delivering numerous kicks to individuals and made no attempt to try to subdue or try to bring an individual under control," Ramsey said.
"The whole purpose of any force that's used is to try to bring a person under control and arrest them," he said. Strain was suspended for 30 days, pending dismissal.
The two other dismissed officers also appeared to have inflicted blows without making an effort to bring the suspects into custody, Ramsey said. Patrick Whalen, a 35th District rookie with less than a month on the street, used "indiscriminate" force against two suspects, Ramsey said, and Officer Patrick Gallagher, a two-year veteran in the 35th District, kicked a suspect and used an unidentified object in his hand to strike a suspect in the head.
Two officers were suspended for conduct unbecoming.
Officer Demetrios Pittaoulis, 26, a six-year veteran in the 35th District, delivered the first kick, Ramsey said. His major offense was that he appeared to strike a suspect across the back of the head with an object, "and obviously any attack to the head area is something that is not allowed," Ramsey said. Pittaoulis was suspended for 10 days.
Officer Sean Bascom, 38, a 13-year veteran on the Narcotics Strike Force, was suspended for five days for delivering blows to the head, face and collarbone of a suspect, Ramsey said. "Those are not consistent with policy in the department," he said.
The eighth man disciplined is Sgt. Joseph Schiavone, 47, a 15-year veteran in the 35th District. The first supervisor to arrive, before the suspects were taken from the car, he was demoted to officer for "neglect of duty" for failing to take control of the scene, Ramsey said.
Eleven of the 19 officers were not disciplined, including eight who came into contact with the suspects, Ramsey said.
"Their actions were consistent with trying to take an offender into custody," he said.