Two officers who shot an unarmed pizza deliveryman in West Philadelphia are back on street duty, three years after a shooting that police brass called a “tragic misunderstanding.”
Their return has outraged several civic groups, who sent police officials a letter demanding they be booted back off the street – and permanently away from the public.
“We do not understand why these two police officers are still with the Philadelphia Police Department,” reads the letter, which is signed by representatives from four civic groups. “We are astounded that the Police Department is willing to allow these two police officers to patrol our neighborhoods. We are very uncomfortable and frightened that these two officers are on our streets. They have demonstrated that they are not good police and must be held accountable.”
In January, the city paid $4.4 million to college student Philippe Holland to settle a civil-rights lawsuit he filed after two undercover officers shot him in a mistaken identity case.
It was the largest payout for police misconduct in city history.
Holland was disfigured by the April 22, 2014, shooting and still has bullet fragments in his brain, which his attorney Tom Kline says will cause him seizures permanently.
Officers Mitchell Farrell and Kevin Hanvey, meanwhile, were on desk duty until the District Attorney’s Office cleared them of criminal wrongdoing, according to Capt. Sekou Kinebrew, a police spokesman. After an administrative hearing in January, each got suspended without pay for 25 days for violating departmental policies on discharging firearms, according to Capt. Sekou Kinebrew, a police spokesman. They returned to street duty when those suspensions ended, although Kinebrew said he didn’t know their exact return date.
Monica Allison, the co-founder of the Cobbs Creek Neighbors Association, signed the letter demanding they be taken back off street patrols.
“People do make mistakes, no matter what their job is,” said Allison, who has three grown sons and lost a fourth to murder in 2005. “But our sons, as African-American males, they pay for it for their entire lives, whether they’re killed or injured or criminally charged. These officers just go back to their normal duties. The disparity is just so wide. It just needs to be a little more reciprocal.”
Kline says the officers should have been fired.
“I would ask the question of any employer who just paid $4.4 million for the misconduct of an employee whether that employee would be sitting at his computer the next day – let alone carrying a gun,” Kline said.
Kinebrew says the department understands the citizens’ concerns – and is evaluating how to respond.