A Pittsburgh man who filed a lawsuit last year claiming that Pittsburgh police officers violated his rights during an arrest in 2012 settled the suit with the City of Pittsburgh Tuesday and will receive $40,000.
In July 2012 Paul Parrish led officers on a car chase that began on North Charles Street and ended on Route 65, near the McKees Rocks Bridge. Upon surrendering, with his hands in the air and out the window, an officer, identified to the New Pittsburgh Courier in a previous reporting as Robert Ross, approached and began pistol whipping Parrish, pulling him out of the vehicle through the window and stomping him. The incident was captured on video by a police dash camera.
Parrish’s attorney, Todd Hollis, said, “I’m extremely elated for Mr. Parrish. Although we can’t turn back the hands of time and make what happened go away at least there is some reparation to which he’ll be able to move forward in his life, knowing that the City of Pittsburgh, to some degree, acknowledged guilt.” He added, “But the opposite of that is the sad reality that some of our City of Pittsburgh police officers cannot be trusted. …There is no justifiable reason why an experienced police officer would pistol whip an unarmed man who surrendered.”
While the video, released in 2014, shows one account, in a November 2012 hearing, Ross testified to a different chain of events. There were also discrepancies in the stories officers gave to the Allegheny General doctor who treated Parrish for his injuries sustained the night of the incident, which were documented in the medical records previously provided to the Courier.
While the case has been settled, Hollis said there are still questions that ring clearly in his mind. “How can a police officer pistol whip an unarmed man and not go to jail as any other private party would? How can this person pistol whip an unarmed man not be indicted? If (one) can answer those questions then ultimately we can get to the root of the problem,” he said. “I believe police officers should be held to the same standards that regular lay persons are held to. You can’t beat up an unarmed man that has not threatened you. There are laws in place, that’s the bottom line.”
Hollis said the only punishment that officer Ross received was a three-day suspension. He said he has been told that Ross has since retired from the bureau.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who was not in place at the time of this incident, said the city is currently dealing with several lawsuits from 2007-2014 that claim civil rights violations, first amendment violations and other violations against the police bureau.
He also cited Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McClay’s new initiatives as a way to lessen the number of cases, like Parrish’s, from occurring.
“The chief’s initiatives are to use training and professional standards to use a proactive approach of being positive by creating a leadership academy, and basically working all the way at the zone level to the individual officer to be able to get ahead of these,” said Peduto. “Our goal is to never see the amount of cases that we saw during the past seven years ever happen again.”
It has been reported that the city of Pittsburgh has paid almost $5 million since 2010 to settle excessive-force lawsuits against Pittsburgh police.