Lancaster DA determines no criminal charges are warranted against Lancaster police officer in June 28 Taser incident

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LANCASTER -- After conducting a review of the June 28 incident in which a Lancaster City Police Officer deployed a Taser on a man on South Prince Street, the Lancaster County District Attorney's Office announced Wednesday that it has determined that no criminal charges are warranted against the officer.

Officer Philip Bernot was acting within the scope of Lancaster Bureau of Police Department policy regarding use of force when he used his Taser device to subdue Sean Williams in the incident, District Attorney Craig Stedman concluded. Thus, Stedman said in the announcement, there is not sustainable evidence to establish (Bernot) intended to commit a crime.

"Lancaster city officials have previously stated his actions followed policy," Stedman wrote in the announcement. "And we concur."

Stedman noted that to support a criminal charge, there must actually be criminal evidence, "rather than mere speculation," establishing that Bernot had a criminal intent when he used his Taser on Williams. Criminal intent on the part of Bernot was not evident in the incident, Stedman concluded.

However, Stedman said, during his office's review for criminal conduct, it discovered what his office calls "critical shortcomings" in Lancaster Police Department policy as it existed at the time of the Taser incident.

Stedman said he articulated those concerns in a detailed memorandum that was sent to Lancaster city officials and the police department this week.

Williams, who filed a federal lawsuit against Bernot and the Lancaster Bureau of Police over the incident in July, was also given a copy of the assessment, Stedman said.

Brian R Mildenberg, the lawyer for Williams, issued this statement: 

"The District Attorney's press release of today confirms that the City of Lancaster's use of force policies were deficient and inappropriate, and must be remedied.  This supports  Sean Williams' pending civil rights case against the City and the police officer.  We look forward to Sean's day in federal court.  We hope this case brings reform and halts the use of excessive force in Lancaster, and that a terrible incident of this nature never happens again."

Stedman's office will not make the memorandum public, he said, because "it discusses, in detail, the department's internal operation procedures and policies."

But, Stedman said, it is up to the discretion of the City of Lancaster and its police department as to whether they wish to make the document public.

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