Black motorist claims unlawful police detention in civil rights suit

Jon Campisi Jan. 9, 2012, 1:35pm

A Philadelphia man who claims he was the target of an unlawful police detention, following a traffic altercation because of his race, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city cops involved in the incident.

Attorney Brian S. Chacker, of the Philadelphia firm Gay Chacker & Mittin, P.C., filed the complaint Jan. 6 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Brian Morrison.

The defendants named in the lawsuit are Philadelphia Police Sgt. Massi, (no first name given), and a police officer listed only as John Doe.

In his complaint, Morrison alleges that he was roughly handcuffed following a traffic incident with another motorist on Jan. 21, 2010.

According to the lawsuit, Morrison and his father, a retired police officer for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, had just left the Laundromat at 18th Street and Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia when they became involved in a verbal confrontation with another driver.

Morrison, in his suit, claims he checked his rearview mirror before pulling out into the travel lane from his parking spot, and he noticed three vehicles stopped at a red light at the intersection behind him.

When he pulled out of his spot, however, Morrison had to suddenly slam on his brakes because the first vehicle sped off and almost struck Morrison’s vehicle, the suit states.

It was at this point that Morrison and the driver of the other vehicle got into a verbal argument, a confrontation that was witnessed by the two defendant police officers, according to the complaint.

After speaking with the driver of the other vehicle, a white male, the officers let the man leave the scene, but they proceeded to pull Morrison, who is black, from his vehicle and handcuff him, the suit claims.

“At no point in time was Mr. Morrison advised that he had committed any crime or why he had been forcibly removed from the vehicle,” the lawsuit states. “Mr. Morrison told the police officers that the handcuffs were too tight and inquired why he had been treated the way he had been. The defendants told him ‘this is what happens when you resist arrest.’”

The lawsuit claims that it wasn’t until Morrison told the officers that his father, who was with him that day, was a retired police officer himself that the defendants uncuffed Morrison and let him go.

Nevertheless, the suit claims, Morrison suffered a swollen forearm as well as “anxiety, fear and mental harm.

The lawsuit claims that Morrison was deprived of his rights, privileges and immunities under the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, in particular, the right to be free from false arrest and the right to due process of law.

For each of the two counts listed in the lawsuit Morrison seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in addition to attorney’s fees and other court costs.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:12-cv-00063-TON.

More News