A public defender in Philadelphia alleges an officer hit her in the head before pummeling a 22-year old defendant who was yelling and cursing outside of a courtroom. Now, the defendant faces additional charges for terroristic threats.
According to Attorney Paula Sen, Anthony Jones was thrown out of a Criminal Justice Center courtroom after becoming upset about having to take off his hat. He continued yelling outside the room, so Sen rushed to calm him down. But as she was de-escalating the situation, six officers allegedly ran up to them, yelling. Sen contends she tried to stand between Jones and the police, before Officer David Chisholm hit her in the back of the head, knocking her to the ground. Then, three officers, including Chisholm, punched Jones, who was bleeding, before others piled onto him on the floor.
Sen believes Chisholm was trying to put Jones into a chokehold, but wound up assaulting her in the process.
Eyewitness Richard Hoy, a separate attorney who was sitting outside of the courtroom, verified Sen’s story, arguing the officers’ response to Jones was unjustified and constituted abuse. “There was obviously something [mentally] wrong with him. But [the] PD [public defender] had him 75 percent calmed down,” he told Philly.com. “He was no threat to anybody. He was loud and obnoxious. He wasn’t threatening them — or anybody.”
Sen was taken to Jefferson University Hospital for her wounds, but police didn’t seek medical assistance for Jones. Chief Jordan Barnett of the Defender Association’s Southwest Division, who was called to investigate the incident, alleges Chisholm threatened him, saying “If you keep pushing this, we are going to have a conversation.”
Jones was sent to jail “for terroristic threats, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct.” Meanwhile, a spokesman for District Attorney Seth Williams’ office, Cameron Kline maintains Sen “walked into the scrum” and “fell over.” The officers, including Chisholm, who faced a federal lawsuit for brutality in the past, will not face charges.
A recent DOJ report on the Philadelphia Police Department’s increased use of force found that officers are not thoroughly trained in de-escalation tactics. Recruit training often involves “little more than lecture and observations.” PPD officers are required to attend crisis intervention training (CIT), to learn ways of de-escalating situations involving people in crisis, including people with mental illness. But a common takeaway from CIT courses is that mental illness is actually a reason to use force.
Despite the rise of deadly force and policy inconsistencies within PPD, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey is often credited with sharp drops in crime rates. He also chairs the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Since joining the Task Force, Ramsey has doubled down on the importance of using armored vehicles, automated weapons, and other military equipment for tactical responses.