SEPTA fires police sergeant for striking protesters with baton

Police and protesters clash in Philadelphia

Police and protesters clash Saturday, May 30, 2020, in Philadelphia, during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

A SEPTA police sergeant who bashed two protesters with a baton at a demonstration against police brutality will be fired for use of excessive force after an internal affairs investigation.

The termination of the officer — Matthew Sinkiewicz — is effective immediately, SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch said.

“The sergeant’s response was not appropriate and unnecessarily injured people who had not acted in a way that warranted such a response,” said SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel in a statement regarding the firing. 

“I hope that the injured protestors recover completely and that they understand that our department does not tolerate such behavior.”

Busch did not release the names of the alleged victims, as they were only able to speak with one, a woman. But the Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported on another individual, Joe Rupprecht, 24, who was struck on the head with a baton on May 30, the first day of major protests in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Rupprecht was protesting at the since-removed Frank Rizzo statue in front of the city’s Municipal Services Building across from City Hall. He sustained a concussion and gash that required 10 staples to close, according to the report.

Busch said officers have yet to speak with Rupprecht. But he said that the allegations of violence moved the agency to decisive action quickly.

“We take it very seriously,” Busch said. “It came to our attention, we took action as quickly as possible in placing the sergeant on administrative duty.”

The May 30 incident is not the first time Sinkiewicz has faced disciplinary action.

The officer, in 2016, with only about one year on the job, was caught on a bystander’s camera slamming a handcuffed man to the ground who was being arrested for disorderly conduct, according to the Inquirer.

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Sinkiewicz did not have his body camera activated during the incident.

“That’s unacceptable to me,” SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel said at the 2016 press conference. “It could have resulted in injury.”

The police force disciplined Sinkiewicz, but he remained on the force.

SEPTA police are still conducting a criminal investigation into the incident and Sinkiewicz can appeal his termination.

SEPTA police are still conducting a criminal investigation into the incident and Sinkiewicz can appeal his termination.

Editor’s Note. This article was updated after original publication, on July 15, 2020, with a statement from SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel. 

 

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