Victim of alleged Philly police abuse files federal assault and battery claim

Jon Campisi Oct. 21, 2011, 10:21am

A Philadelphia man who claims city police officers physically beat him without cause during an incident exactly two years ago has filed an assault and battery complaint against the city and the law enforcement officials involved in the act.

Edward Prince claims through his civil action that 35th Police District officers accosted him on Oct. 19, 2009, while he was lawfully traversing a public walkway near Granges Street within the city limits.

The complaint does not say why it was Prince apparently caught the attention of the defendants, which include the City of Philadelphia, an unnamed sergeant with the police department, an unnamed police captain and five unnamed officers.

“Suddenly, without warning, probable cause, reasonable suspicion or any provocation by Plaintiff, Defendants Doe I-V threw Plaintiff on the ground and began beating and/or striking him,” states the lawsuit, which was filed Oct. 19 in federal court in Philadelphia by attorney Leonard K. Hill, of Hill & Associates.

The lawsuit claims that the defendant officers used their police batons to beat Prince, as well as using their fists and feet, punching and beating him on his face and knees.

The officers allegedly continue their onslaught while Prince was on the ground in a submissive position.

“The attack occurred while Plaintiff was in a non-threatening and defenseless physical position, unarmed, and completely unable to pose any threat to others or defend himself,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit accuses the police captain and defendant of standing idly by while the attack took place, doing nothing to stop the incident.

The complaint states that after the beating, officers searched Prince without probable cause. The suit further states that Prince never committed a crime on the day of the incident, and that he was never arrested or charged with a crime at the time of his alleged illegal detention.

A criminal docket search of Prince’s name and date of the incident in question did not produce any court papers relating to the incident.

Following the alleged assault, the suit states, Prince was taken to the hospital for evaluation and treatment of his injuries, which included “internal derangement of the knees,” requiring him to use crutches to get around for a two-month period following the incident.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of violating Prince’s civil rights among other things.

“Defendants’ actions targeted and were intended to chill, restrict and inhibit Plaintiff from exercising his freedom to assemble in a public place,” the suit claims.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of violating Prince’s First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. It also contains assault and battery claims, false imprisonment claims, and claims of intentional infliction of severe emotional distress.

As a result of the incident, the lawsuit states, Prince has suffered, and continues to suffer, deprivation of his rights, fear, horror, loss of liberty, grievous physical injuries and the loss of enjoyment of life.

Prince also experienced “great physical pain and horrible mental anguish requiring medical and psychiatric treatment, as well as a loss of earning power and earning potential, all to his great detriment, financial detriment and personal loss,” the suit claims.

The complaint faults the city for enabling the police department’s policies, procedures, customs and practices of allowing its officers to use unreasonable and excessive force and violate the rights of citizens with whom they come into contact with.

The suit further blames the supervisory officers named as defendants, the sergeant and the captain, of failing to adequately train their officers.

The city is also faulted for failing to train police officers in the proper methods for securing a scene, handling bystanders, dealing with crowds and “handling citizens’ use of modern technology to capture police activity while preserving those individuals’ constitutionally protected rights.”

While the complaint doesn’t get into specifics with regard to the Prince incident, that last statement suggests the detainment, and alleged subsequent beating, may have had something to do with the plaintiff or others video taping police engaged in their official duties.

The Philadelphia Police Department has recently caught heat for tales of its officers detaining, and sometimes arresting, people caught using their camera phones to film police doing their job. Numerous lawsuits have been filed over the practice, which has at times allegedly ended with citizens’ phones being destroyed.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey recently issued a directive to all police personnel instructing them in the legality of the practice of citizens filming police in public.

In his lawsuit, Prince demands declaratory judgment that his rights were violated, compensatory damages in excess of $150,000, prejudgment interest, attorney’s fees and court costs, unspecified punitive damages and other legal and equitable relief.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-06550-PD.

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