PITTSBURGH (AP) – A police procedures expert testified he can’t believe three White city plainclothes police officers wouldn’t have identified themselves before confronting a young Black man who is now suing the officers for wrongfully arresting and beating him.
Joseph Stine, a former police chief turned expert witness, said Wednesday the officers accused of violating Jordan Miles’ civil rights would have been foolhardy and violating training that’s “beaten into their heads” had they jumped out of their unmarked car without telling Miles they were officers.
“Police officers from the very first day they’re in the academy are trained that it’s imperative that they identify themselves as police officers,” said Stine, the former chief in the Philadelphia suburb of New Britain Township. Failing to do that only makes things more dangerous for the officers, Stine said.
But Miles insists the officers didn’t identify themselves because, he claims, they assumed he was a drug dealer due to his race and dreadlocks about 11 p.m. on a frigid night in January 2010.
Miles, then an 18-year-old student at the city’s performing arts high school, has no criminal record and was walking to his grandmother’s house. He has testified that the only reason he ran and then fought to get away is because he thought the officers were mugging him.
Miles contends the officers performed what’s called a “jump out” – an aggressive tactic meant to startle a suspect – and asked him for gun, money and drugs, none of which he had.
Stine said that’s unlikely, too, because the officers were in a two-door car. Officer Richard Ewing was driving, Officer Michael Saldutte was in the front passenger seat, and Officer David Sisak was riding in the back. As such, only Saldutte could have “jumped out” on Miles, not all three officers as the plaintiff has claimed, Stine said.
“You’ve got a one-car jump out. That’s like a one-car traffic jam, it can’t happen,” Stine said.
Ewing was the last of the three officers to testify when he took the stand Tuesday. Like the others, he claims the officers saw Miles lurking near a house in a high-crime area, with his heavy coat pocket bulging with what officers though might be a gun.
The officers contend Saldutte identified himself as an officer and that Miles ran away when he asked the young man why he was sneaking around.
The officers acknowledge chasing, tackling and subduing Miles, but not without first beating him about the face and body to get him to comply with being handcuffed – only to find the bulge was a 20-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew.
Miles denies even having the soda and contends it was a ruse concocted to explain the officers’ assumption that he was armed.
A federal court jury two years ago rejected Miles’ claim that the officers maliciously prosecuted him on assault, resisting arrest and other charges, but deadlocked on his claims that the officers were wrong to arrest him in the first place, and used excessive force in doing so.
The deadlocked claims are the subject of the current trial before an all-white jury of four men and four women in U.S. District Court.
A city magistrate dismissed the criminal charges against Miles a couple months after his arrest, saying he didn’t find the police version of events credible.