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Beatings by police ‘widespread’ in city, study finds

A federally funded agency that analyzes police conduct in Philadelphia reported yesterday that there is a "widespread" pattern of beatings by police of white and black men and women in the city.

The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP), in its annual report, said it had been informed of 272 cases of police beatings in 1976.

Anthony Jackson, police project director for PILCOP, said at a press conference that the "attitudes" of Mayor Rizzo and Police Commissioner Joseph F. O'Neill "serve to foster the continuance of the problems."

Rizzo had no comment yesterday on the report. O'Neill referred questions to Chief Inspector Frank Scafidi of the Internal Affairs Division.

Scafidi disputed the statistics and the conclusions of the PILCOP report. "I don't condone it (police beatings) and I don't foster it," he said. He denied that police beatings were "systematic."

Statistics compiled by PILCOP showed that as a result of the 272 beatings reported, 175 victims required medical treatment for their injuries. Of those, 113 were taken to hospital emergency rooms by police before they were arraigned, PILCOP said.

The report said that 146 of those reportedly beaten by police were black and 36 were women. Of the victims, 179 were 30 years old or younger.

The majority of the beatings, 163, occurred in the street, the report said. Forty-three others occurred in district station houses throughout the city, according to PILCOP.

The alleged beatings were not the work of a specific group of policemen, the report said. "While there are clearly 'bad apples,'" Jackson, the project director, said, "the bad-apple theory alone is not sufficient to explain . . . police abuse in this city."

PILCOP said it had "carefully screened" the 272 complaints of police beatings in 1976, and then forwarded 69 cases to Commissioner O'Neill with a request that the Police Department investigate them.

In his comments on the report, Inspector Scafidi said the Police Department had received only 55 complaints from PILCOP in 1976, and that of those, only 24 involved allegations of improper use of force by police. He said the number of complaints from PILCOP this year to date (17) is less than the number (35) for the comparable period last year.

"You can draw your own conclusions from that," he said.

He said that as a result of the 55 complaints from PILCOP last year, the department had found one police officer guilty of misconduct, and had suspended him for one day. Scafidi would not identify the officer.

The PILCOP report said that 49 of the 272 people who were reportedly beaten by police were not charged with any crimes. In 137 of the other cases, the victims of the alleged beatings were charged only with offenses related to the beating such as resisting arrest, assaulting police officers or disorderly conduct.

Of those arrested on such charges, only 16 persons – or 12 percent of those who were reportedly beaten – were convicted. The remainder were either acquitted, had their charges dropped by the district attorney, or were enrolled in a non-reporting probation program that left them with no criminal record.

PILCOP said the highest number of complaints of police beatings in 1976 – 41 – came from the area served by the Ninth Police District, which includes the Art Museum and Fairmont neighborhoods.

Other police districts from which a high number of complaints were made to PILCOP included the 18th District in West Philadelphia (38 complaints); the 14th District in Germantown and West Oak Lane (35 complaints), the 35th District in Olney and Logan (34 complaints); and the Sixth District, including Society Hill, Washington Square and police headquarters, known as the Roundhouse, at Eighth and Race Streets.