Springettsbury Twp Police brutality cases settled for $500,000

Springettsbury Township has reached a settlement with two people suing them for police brutality. The Township agreed to pay Debra Williams and Steven Landis $250,000 each under a settlement reached today.

Springettsbury Township reaction
When reached by phone, Springettsbury Township Manager John Holman said he was waiting to receive of copy of the settlement from his attorney. He said the budget will not be affected by the settlement because the insurance carrier for the township will make the payments. He also went on to say, “The township is pleased to put this behind them.”

Attorney reaction
“This is clear vindication. Nobody pays a half million dollars if they didn’t do anything wrong. They had their opportunity to go to court, and they chose not to and instead they chose to pay the money,” said Devon M. Jacob, attorney for the plaintiffs and owner of Jacob Litigation. “Hopefully this is the beginning of the healing for the township and the removal of bad practices that resulted in the incidents.”

Background
Springettsbury Township Police Department Officers were accused of using excessive force against a man and woman in two separate incidents in 2011 and 2012. Patrolman Chad Moyer was a defendant in both cases, which occurred 16 months apart. The other officers named in the suits are Patrolman Gregory Hadfield and Patrolman William Polizzotto. The plaintiffs’ attorney, Devon Jacob, released videotape to the media that captured portions of both incidents.

In the first incident, police were called to a domestic dispute. Arriving officers found Debra Williams being restrained by a male on the floor of a residence in the township. Williams claimed Officer Moyer punched and slapped her as she sat handcuffed in a patrol vehicle. Hadfield is accused of grabbing Williams by the neck and slapping and punching her as well. The video seemed to back up her claims. Hadfield also admitted to tasering Williams while she was handcuffed prior to being placed in the car. Jacob said that the officers should have been able to tell that Williams was emotionally ill, as she was visibly distraught and stated that she wanted to kill herself.

The second lawsuit stems from the arrest of Steven Landis on August 5th, 2012. According to the Complaint filed by Landis, Moyer spotted him walking in the area of Eden Road and Sand Bank Roads around 11:22pm. Moyer ran a check on Landis and discovered he had a misdemeanor warrant for his arrest for a domestic dispute from earlier that night. Landis was not aware of the warrant at the time. During the arrest, which was recorded on dashboard camera video, Moyer is seen throwing Landis to the ground. Moyer can be heard making explicit threats. He kneed Landis in the ribcage, breaking five ribs. Polizzotto held Landis down and tasered him, according to the complaint.

Settlement
The plaintiffs agreed to drop the suits against the individual officers as a condition of the settlement.

Jacob’s said his clients will now be able to begin the healing process. “They were the victims of crime. This was never about the money. This money was offered over a month ago. They chose to delay accepting and entering into an agreement, until the non economic terms were agreed on by the township.”

Non-Economic Settlement Terms
As a condition of the settlement, Springettsbury Township also agrees to issue a written request to the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association for a review of its existing policies and practices regarding the assessment and interaction with mentally ill persons; accommodation of persons with disabilities (ADA); arrest procedures; de-escalation techniques; use of Electronic Control Weapons (“ECW”) (i.e., Tasers); and the use of force generally. The Township further agrees to request that the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association issue a written report that the Township will make available to the public.

Other terms agreed to by Springettsbury Township include working work to strengthen existing professional partnerships, and to encourage the building of new partnerships, to continue to meet the ever-changing needs of the community. In this regard, the Township agrees that the Chief of Police will issue a written request to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (“NAMI”), the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania (“MHAPA”), and the York/Adams Mental Health – Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Program (“York/Adams MH-IDD”), requesting that the respective agencies keep him informed regarding currently available community resources and how best to deliver those resources.

The Township further agrees that in any use of force incident involving the use of an Electronic Control Weapon (“ECW”), i.e., Taser, or resulting in an injury requiring medical care, or causing death, all audio and video recordings, ECW data, incident reports, witness statements, and other evidence related to the incident, shall be preserved for the greater of 2 ½ years, or until all administrative, civil, or criminal proceedings have been concluded. The Township further agrees that in any use of force incident resulting in serious injury or death, the officer’s complete uniform, including footwear, equipment, and weapons, shall be immediately secured and held as evidence in a manner to preserve blood or other trace evidence. In addition, in those use of force incidents resulting in serious injury or death, the involved officers and persons shall be photographed to record their physical appearance and any visible injuries.

Lastly, Springettsbury Township agrees that all use of force incidents resulting in injury or death, or involving the use of an Electronic Control Weapon (“ECW”), i.e., Taser, shall be reported to the Chief of Police and referred to internal affairs for a determination regarding whether or not Department policies were followed. In the event of a death incident, the report shall be made immediately. Otherwise, the report shall be made within 24 hours. The internal affairs investigation shall begin immediately, and unless an extension is granted by the Chief of Police for good cause, shall be completed within 45 days of the use of force incident. “Good cause” shall not include the fact that a criminal investigation is simultaneously being conducted. The Township further agrees that all use of force incidents that result in serious injury or death shall be immediately reported to the York County District Attorney’s Office for an independent determination regarding whether or not the use of force was lawful.

All of the officers involved are still employed with Springettsbury Township Police. After criminal investigations were conducted by York County District Attorney Tom Kearney, the officers were cleared of any criminal wrongdoing and charges.

Lawsuit against York County ongoing
The lawsuit against the York County and District Attorney Tom Kearney is still ongoing. Reached by phone, County Solicitor Mike Flannelly said, “The county and Mr. Kearney will be contesting the lawsuit.”