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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.”

10/04/13

Statement from attorney regarding York DA decision

Here is a statement from Devon M. Jacob, regarding the decision not to charge two Springettsbury Township Officers accused of assaulting his client, Steven Landis:

“District Attorney Tom Kearney knew of the use of force shortly after it occurred, but like Springettsbury Township (that to date has not conducted an internal investigation into whether or not Department policies were violated), decided not to conduct a criminal investigation. Instead, DA Kearney chose to prosecute Steven Landis for resisting arrest, which resulted in an acquittal.  In light of the fact that as a direct result of DA Kearney’s conduct York County is a Defendant in a pending related federal civil rights case, it is hardly surprising that DA Kearney’s investigation concluded that the officers (and he) did nothing wrong.

Regarding DA Kearney’s report, in determining whether a police officer’s use of force is reasonable, the scope of the inquiry is limited to the totality of the facts and circumstances known to the officer at the time when the force is used. Kopec v. Tate, 361 F.3d 772 (3d Cir. 2004). This begs the question as to why DA Kearney’s report discusses matters related to an alleged domestic assault that were not known to Officer Moyer when he warned Mr. Landis that “I am going to hurt you more,” and “You are going to get fucked up,” before intentionally breaking five (5) of his ribs. If such information was relevant, DA Kearney’s report would have also discussed the other use of force incidents involving Officer Moyer. Moreover, it is simply ridiculous that DA Kearney’s report contains an opinion from Mr. Landis’ estranged wife about the officers’ use of force. Finally, there are numerous reasons why criminal defendants enter into guilty pleas – actual guilt being only one of those reasons. Therefore, either DA Kearney did not understand the applicable law, or intended to deliver a self-serving report; neither is acceptable.

Furthermore, it is very upsetting that DA Kearney published personal information from Mr. Landis’ medical records in clear violation the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”). While medical records were produced during the course of the investigation, Mr. Landis never authorized DA Kearney or York County, Pennsylvania, to publish his medical information to the general public.

Finally, it is notable that in both the Williams and Landis matters, Sgt. Charles Mory essentially concluded that the officers’ poor decisions and actions caused the need for the use of force – a matter that will be addressed by the pending civil rights cases.  Regardless, since it is clear that justice cannot be had at the state level in York County, the Williams and Landis matters will be referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for a proper criminal investigation.”

Devon M. Jacob, Esquire
Boyle Litigation

 

Springettsbury Township Police Chief Thomas Hyers released this statement in regards to the ruling by York County District Attorney Tom Kearney not to charges two officers:

“I have been informed by York County District Attorney Thomas Kearney, that following an extensive investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police, and the District Attorney’s Office, that no criminal charges will be filed against any Springettsbury Township Officers resulting from the incident on August 5, 2012. As this incident is still in civil litigation, neither Springettsbury Township nor the Springettsbury Township Police Department will have any further comment regarding the matter at this time.  Thank you”

Chief Thomas Hyers, Springettsbury Township Police

The District Attorney just released a report detailing why he will not pursue charges against two Springettsbury Township officers accused of assaulting a York County man. District Attorney Tom Kearney’s conclusion is below.

“In the instant case, the issue is whether the force that was used by the officers was unreasonable under the circumstances. With regard to the mental state of the officers, both officers had ample reason to be concerned about their safety during the encounter. When Mr. Landis failed to comply with the request of Officer Moyer to place his hands behind his back, and instead took action in contradiction to the request of the officer, Officer Moyer was justified in using such force as necessary to force compliance. His use of the leg sweep was not unreasonable under the circumstances.

Once on the ground, the concerns of both officers regarding the possible possession of a concealed weapon in the area of Mr. Landis’s hands, and the refusal of Mr. Landis to place his hands behind his back in compliance with the officers demands, makes the use of the taser and compliance strike reasonable. This was confirmed by the police expert in use of force. Although the use of profanity by a professional police officer should never be condoned, the officers were justified in the amount of force used in this encounter to make the arrest. Accordingly, the conduct of the Officers does not merit the filing of criminal charges. The matter is now closed.”

Read more on District Attorney Tom Kearney’s conclusion, about Steven E Landis case, here.

District Attorney Tom Kearney will not pursue charges against Springettsbury Police Officers in the center of assault allegations. Kearney  concluded the use of force by the Springettsbury Township Officers was insufficient to bring criminal charges against them, related to the case of Debra Williams. This closes the criminal investigation in this case. A civil lawsuit is still pending.

Sgt. Charles S. Mory Jr. an expert in police use of force helped in the investigation. “It is my opinion that the actions of the 2 involved Springettsbury Police Officers were consistent with the accepted law enforcement theory, practices, training, and MPOETC standards in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Both officers responded to their individual perceptions of the threat during their arrest and custody actions. The female subject was agitated, sounded intoxicated, resistant, uncooperative and swearing while handcuffed, and in custody in the back of the patrol vehicle. The prisoner kicked at the interior areas of the vehicle, including the protective barrier between the front and back seats numerous times. This required that the subject be removed to the rear of the patrol vehicle for the application of leg shackles. The subject also kicked and spit at the officers during this encounter while handcuffed and leg-shackled in the back seat of the patrol vehicle. The kicks could have easily landed in the facial area of the custody officer causing injury.”

Sgt. Charles S. Mory Jr.’s full statement:
“I have been requested by Investigating Officer, Sgt. Matthew Nickey, Supervisor, Criminal Investigation Section, PSP, Troop H – Harrisburg to review an MVR file dated, April 2, 2013, and render opinions with regard to municipal police officer force options and arrest and custody procedures used by Springettsbury Township Police Department Officers during their encounter with subject, Debra Williams. The Pennsylvania State Police have been asked by the York County District Attorney to conduct an investigation into this highly publicized Use of Force Incident.

My qualifications are listed in my attached resume, and I also hold the credential of “Special Instructor” under MPOETC Certification in the category of “Application of Force”.
As a result of my training, background, and professional experience as an Instructor in Self-Defense and the Use of Force, I have been designated as a “Use of Force Expert” by the PSP for the Department from 1996 to present date.

It is my opinion that the actions of the 2 involved Springettsbury Police Officers were consistent with the accepted law enforcement theory, practices, training, and MPOETC standards in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Both officers responded to their individual perceptions of the threat during their arrest and custody actions.

The female subject was agitated, sounded intoxicated, resistant, uncooperative and swearing while handcuffed, and in custody in the back of the patrol vehicle. The prisoner kicked at the interior areas of the vehicle, including the protective barrier between the front and back seats numerous times. This required that the subject be removed to the rear of the patrol vehicle for the application of leg shackles. The subject also kicked and spit at the officers during this encounter while handcuffed and leg-shackled in the back seat of the patrol vehicle. The kicks could have easily landed in the facial area of the custody officer causing injury.

The contact could have been handled a little more effectively if the subject’s legs were secured with tie-ropes rather than leg shackles, to eliminate the kicking. Verbal interaction with the subject was limited due to her constant “yelling” regarding her “wish to die”.

The choice of force options by the custody officers created a chance of injury to the suspect, but appeared to be in response to the fluid, volatile encounter in the backseat of the patrol vehicle. Better force option choices, and a coordinated officer approach to secure the subject would have given better results. Force actions with a handcuffed and leg-shackled subject do not usually include strikes to the face, unless exigent circumstances present themselves.

Ultimately, the subject was contained and secured, but better force option choices, tactics, and verbalization could have prevented the volatility and subsequent struggle with subject, Williams, during the encounter.

My conclusions: In light of the United States Supreme Court Case, Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989), the two officers who used force in this incident did so reasonably under the totality of circumstances confronting them. Their perceptions and actions were reactionary in nature, and their force options, although poor choices, must be weighed against officer perceived threats, the volatility and fluidness of the situation, the need for immediate control, and sustained injuries. The actions of the two officers contained the subject with minimal injury.

Respectfully submitted,
Sgt. Charles S. Mory Jr.
Supervisor, PSP Academy Physical Education Unit”

Devon Jacob, attorney for Debra Williams released this statement:

“York County District Attorney Tom Kearney knew about the incident involving Debra Williams and the related video soon after the incident occurred and decided not to conduct a criminal investigation until after the civil lawsuit was filed. Therefore, it is not surprising that Mr. Kearney is opting now not to prosecute Officers Chad Moyer or Gregory Hadfield for assaulting Ms. Williams. It is a sad day when the highest ranking law enforcement official decides that in his jurisdiction, a police officer may lawfully punch, choke, and taser, a suicidal female who is handcuffed behind her back with her feet shackled. I fear for the safety of all York County residents; especially the mentally ill and female residents.”

William’s filed a civil lawsuit after an incident that occurred on April 2nd, 2011. Police were called to a domestic dispute. According to the Complaint, arriving officers found Debra Williams being restrained by a male on the floor of a residence in the township. Williams claims 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. According to a press release from Devon Jacob, this can all be seen on the video. Hadfield also admitted to tasering Williams while she was handcuffed prior to being placed in the car. Jacob says 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 documents sent out by Kearney do not include a ruling on allegations involving a second plaintiff, Steven Landis and an incident 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 the attorney claims is caught on dashboard camera video, Moyer is seen violently 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 release.

See the release here.

Statement from Police Chief Thomas Hyers:
“I have been informed by York County District Attorney Thomas Kearney, that following an extensive investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police, and a comprehensive review by this office, that no criminal charges will be filed against any Springettsbury Township Officer resulting from the incident from April 2, 2011. As this incident, which was recorded on our in-car video system, is still in civil litigation, we will have no further statement regarding the matter at this time. Thank you”

Chief Thomas Hyers, Springettsbury Township Police

Statement from Cpl. Greg Hadfield’s attorney:

“From the very beginning I’ve contended and told the district attorney’s office that I believed this criminal investigation had no merit. I commend Mr. Kearney and I commend the Pennsylvania State Police for doing a thorough analysis of the entire event and providing the details to the public. I think that will assure other individuals who originally lept to some conclusions based upon a snippet of video that this was in fact not a criminal event. It was handled professionally and admirably by my client. These encounters are violent, volatile, and fluent, and police officers just like any other individuals have to react to the situation at hand and they have to make quick decisions. And while not every decision is perfect , it’s certainly legal. And in this case that was the final decision and I think it was appropriate. It’s a stressful event and when you can have finality and closure through the analysis of the District Attorney’s office, puts my client at ease, which in turn puts me at ease for this young man who I think did nothing wrong.”

Springettsbury Township Police Chief Thomas Hyers has seen the police dash-cam videos in question. “I think they speak for themselves, and now the matter is under investigation,” said Chief Hyers.

Hyers held a press conference Tuesday morning to be open about how his department is handling the allegations. “I’ve taken several key steps to ensure we keep the public’s confidence,” Hyers said.

“I’ve been asked if I regret the camera being in the car, absolutely not. The cameras serve their purpose that they are meant to do. Other agencies choose not to use them, we choose to be open and transparent with everyone,” Hyers said. “The fact that we’re open and being very diligent in this investigation builds the public confidence. They can say we actually have a police department that is open and transparent and being right out there with us. That’s what the people demand. That’s what they expect, and that’s what we will give the people of Springettsbury and York County.”

He has asked District Attorney Tom Kearney and State Police to do an independent investigation. He has placed the three officers involved in the arrests, Patrolman Chad Moyer and Patrolman William Polizzotto Jr. and Cpl. Gregory Hadfield on administrative desk duty until the investigation is complete.

Attorney Devon Jacob, of Boyle Litigation, filed the federal civil rights lawsuits last week for Debra Williams and Steven Landis. He feels the investigation needs to be fair. “The problem is that the District Attorney’s office has already chosen a side of the case. In that regard they are already prosecuting or have attempted to prosecute Mr. Landis and Ms. Williams. The fact remains, common sense dictates that you can’t be on both sides of the case,” said Jacob. “They should have been taken seriously the moment this happened. The only reason anything is being done now is because there is civil litigation and granted that is part of the purpose of civil litigation.”

The first lawsuit stems from an incident that occurred on April 2nd, 2011. Police were called to a domestic dispute. According to the Complaint, arriving officers found Debra Williams being restrained by a male on the floor of a residence in the township. Williams claims Patrolman Chad Moyer punched and slapped her as she sat handcuffed in a patrol vehicle. Cpl. Gregory Hadfield is accused of grabbing Williams by the neck and slapping and punching her as well. According to a press release from Devon Jacob, this can all be seen on the video. Hadfield also admitted to tasing Williams while she was handcuffed prior to being placed in the car. Jacob says 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. Patrolman Chad 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 the attorney claims is caught on dashboard camera video, Moyer is seen violently throwing Landis to the ground. Moyer can be heard making explicit threats. He kneed Landis in the ribcage, breaking five ribs. Patrolman William Polizzotto Jr. held Landis down and tasered him, according to the release.  Both Williams and Landis were charged with resisting arrest for the incidents. William’s charges were dropped.

Civil Rights Attorney Devon M. Jacob, counsel for Debra L. Williams and Steven E. Landis, today issued the following statement in response to an announcement by Springettsbury Township Police Chief Thomas Hyers that he was placing Officers Chad R. Moyer, Gregory T. Hadfield, and William Polizzotto, Jr., on administrative duty:

“On behalf of my clients, I commend Chief Hyers for taking this action and for initiating an investigation into his officers’ troubling and violent conduct.  However, York County District Attorney Thomas Kearney knew this video evidence existed during the criminal discovery process, yet he did not prosecute these officers. Therefore, the detectives in District Attorney Kearney’s office cannot credibly conduct an independent investigation. If the Township and York County truly intend to regain the public’s trust, then District Attorney Kearney should refer this matter to Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane for a true independent investigation.”

Police Chief Thomas Hyers releasing this statement about the allegations: “As Chief of Police for Springettsbury Township, I have requested The Office of District Attorney Thomas Kearney, and Chief of York County Detectives Darryl Albright, conduct an investigation in the incidents involving Ms. Williams and Mr. Landis. They have agreed to handle the investigation and I have directed that all incident related material in both incidents be forwarded to their respective offices by the close of business today. Additionally, I have placed Corporal Gregory Hadfield, Patrolman Chad Moyer, and Patrolman William Polizzotto, on Administrative Desk Duty effective immediately pending the outcome of the investigation” said Thomas H. Hyers, Chief of Police, Springettsbury Township.

A press conference will be held on Tuesday and Fox43 will bring you the latest on this developing story.

Three Springettsbury Township Police Department Officers are being sued by two people claiming the officers used excessive force against them in two separate incidents. Patrolman Chad Moyer is 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. According to a press release from the plaintiffs’ attorney, Devon Jacob, portions of both incidents were caught on videotape which is being released today.

The first lawsuit stems from an incident that occurred on April 2nd, 2011. Police were called to a domestic dispute. According to the Complaint, arriving officers found Debra Williams being restrained by a male on the floor of a residence in the township. Williams claims 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. According to a press release from Devon Jacob, this can all be seen on the video. Hadfield also admitted to tasering Williams while she was handcuffed prior to being placed in the car. Jacob says 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 the attorney claims is caught on dashboard camera video, Moyer is seen violently 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 release.

“There is a serious problem with this police department,” said Devon Jacob. “As a former police officer, I know what constitutes a lawful use of force. However, you do not need to be a police officer to watch these videotapes and understand that the police officers’ conduct is both criminal and a clear violation of Ms. Williams’ and Mr. Landis’ civil rights.”

Response:

Springettsbury Township Police Chief Thomas Hyers issued the following statement this afternoon:

“At this point I have not received or been officially notified of any civil actions being taken against any member of the Springettsbury Township Police Department. As is our departmental policy, we will not comment on any active investigation or pending lawsuit until the matter is fully investigated or resolved.”

The township is also being named in both lawsuits.

“The township had an obligation it’s very clear here. If you have three police officers who feel comfortable using this level of force, approving the complaints, you have supervisors who received notice of the beating,” said attorney Devon Jacob.

“Any allegations of officer misconduct will be looked at by an independent agency, either by State Police or the District Attorney,” said Springettsbury Township Manager John Holman.

To read both Complaints in their entirety, click here: www.linkedin.com/in/devonjacob

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