PHILADELPHIA – Taking quick action after a videotaped police beating, the city on Monday said it will fire four police officers, discipline four others and retrain the entire 6,700-person department on the use of force.
Mayor Michael Nutter called the violent arrest of three shooting suspects "67 seconds of seeming chaos out on the streets of Philadelphia." The officers' conduct demanded "swift, direct action," he said.
The tape shows officers furiously kicking and beating the men as they are dragged from their car and handcuffed. At least two officers appeared to beat them with unidentified objects, and one banged a suspect's head against a cruiser several times before putting him inside, Ramsey said.
"We have to be better than some of what we showed on the fifth of May," Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said Monday, speaking at a press conference with Nutter at his side. "Unlike criminals on the street, we have rules that we have to abide by."
The Fraternal Order of Police, though, called the firings are "a rush to judgment."
The beatings took place as the department waged an intense manhunt for a fugitive sought in the slaying of a police sergeant two days earlier.
The Internal Affairs unit studied enhanced tape of the video, which was shot by a TV news helicopter, to isolate the actions of each officer involved before Ramsey made his decisions.
Nineteen officers — 18 city police and one transit officer — who were on the scene had been assigned to desk duty during the investigation.
The city's district attorney and the FBI are still reviewing the case for possible criminal charges, Ramsey said.
The family of at least one suspect believes any officer involved should be under arrest already.
"If it was me beating up an officer, ... I would be locked up," said Pete Hopkins, 40, a UPS supervisor whose 19-year-old son, Pete, remains jailed in the shooting.
"You can hide behind the badge and commit a crime and not be arrested for it," Hopkins said.
However, lawyer Evan T.L. Hughes, who represents suspect Brian Hall, praised the city's actions.
"It shows me that the mayor and the police commissioner are taking this very seriously, and they're trying to do the right thing," Hughes said.
Two officers are relatively new to the force and can be terminated immediately, Ramsey said. Two others were suspended without pay for 30 days with intent to dismiss.
Sgt. Joseph Schiavone, one of the first to arrive on the scene, is being demoted for failing to take control, Ramsey said. Three other officers are being suspended for five to 15 days each.
"It was a rush to judgment," John J. McNesby, president of FOP Lodge 5 in Philadelphia, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "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."
McNesby did not return a message left Monday afternoon from The Associated Press.
Eight other officers who had physical contact with the suspects will be retrained in the appropriate use of force during an arrest, Ramsey said. The city has also hired a police consultant group to retrain the entire force on the issue.
The video was shot from a helicopter by WTXF-TV.
Police said they had been pursuing the car in connection with a triple shooting. The three suspects — Hopkins, the 23-year-old Hall and Dwayne Dyches, 24, all of Philadelphia — have been charged with attempted murder and related counts. Their attorneys have said they were not involved in the shootings.
Police initially said that a fourth man who got away was the gunman, but switched gears on Friday and said they believe Hopkins shot the three victims shortly before the police stop. The gun has not been recovered.
The Fraternal Order of Police did not return a message left Monday seeking comment on the firings.
The beatings occurred during the manhunt for the remaining suspect in the May 3 slaying of Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski. However, Ramsey said Monday that there was no indication that any of the officers thought the suspect was among those in the car.
Hopkins' mother, Shirley, said Monday that her son suffered injuries to his forehead, arms, legs and back during his arrest. She complained that he has not received adequate medical treatment in jail.
Dyches suffered a large welt on his head and a serious leg injury, his lawyer has said.
The Rev. Al Sharpton visited Dyches in jail. The civil-rights activist later called for "balanced ... outrage" over both the beating and the death of Liczbinski, who was fatally shot as he closed in on three bank-robbery suspects.
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.