A new class action lawsuit seeks reforms in the Philadelphia police department following the shooting death of a man during a police stop in December. The lawsuit comes on the heels of a Justice Department report that found the Philly police shot about one person each week since 2007, with the high rate attributable to mistrust by the public, training flaws and other system-wide problems.
Tanya Brown-Dickerson, the mother of Brandon Tate-Brown, filed the police brutality lawsuit, which asks a judge to put in place the recommended reforms outlined in the Justice Department report. The suit also seeks appointment of an administrator to ensure that city police comply.
Tate-Brown, 26, was fatally shot by a Philadelphia police officer after being stopped in Philadelphia’s Frankford neighborhood for operating his vehicle with the headlights turned off. The district attorney declined to file charges against the officer, ruling that Tate-Brown had been reaching for a gun in the car when he was shot. Both officers involved are back on duty, and the city’s police commissioner has refused to make their names public.
Differing Accounts of the Shooting
Investigators reported that within minutes of officers pulling Tate-Brown over, one officer began firing his weapon during an alleged violent struggle for a stolen and loaded handgun in the car, notes Philly.com.
However, Tate-Brown’s mother contends that officers pulled over the young man for “driving while black.” Tate-Brown was driving through a primarily white neighborhood in a rented, 2014 white Dodge Charger with Florida license plates. Tate-Brown’s mother states that her son was not armed when one of the officer’s bullets struck him in the back of the head.
Justice Department: Numerous Police Shootings
Nearly 400 times over the last eight years, Philadelphia police officers have fired their weapons at suspects, the Justice Department report noted. Most of the 454 officers involved were on patrol at the times of the shootings, and most of the suspects and officers involved were black, the New York Times reports.
Officers often said they believed the suspects were reaching for weapons, although suspects were actually holding mobile phones or other objects; 59 suspects were not armed at the time they were shot.
Lawsuit Aims for Disclosure
The new lawsuit alleges that police were unjustified in stopping Tate-Brown, that they wrongfully arrested him and that they used excessive force. In addition, police botched the investigation and subsequently covered up the details, the suit contends.
Lawyers for Brown-Dickerson also want the names of the involved officers released, along with additional evidence including surveillance videos. The suit also states that other citizens interacting with police may be in danger because of a persistent lack of training and poor investigation techniques.