This one won't bring a Frank's wishniak summit to the Roundhouse.
The 31-year-old Hill has filed suit in federal court against Decoatsworth, the officer's partner, sergeant, captain and the city for violating his civil rights during a car stop after midnight in June.
A patrol car driven by Decoatsworth stopped behind Hill as he was dropping off a friend at 11th and Lindley, in Logan, around 12:30 a.m., according to the complaint and press reports. Hill indicated to cops that he was stopping for a moment, and they left. Hill drove off, and the police returned and pulled him over, the suit claims.
Decoatsworth's unnamed partner later said that Hill was stopped for "illegal discharge of a passenger and blocking the street." As charges go, that's lame enough to need crutches. No ticket was written.
It went downhill, Hill claims, when the cops searched his car and his person without a warrant or permission. Hill claims that Decoatsworth dragged him from the car, went through his pockets, slammed him against his black BMW and threatened to arrest him. Decoatsworth allegedly even snooped through Hill's checkbook.
That looks bad for the cops. (Internal Affairs investigated the stop and exonerated the officers.)
What looks bad for Hill is that he has no witnesses.
What's bad for Philadelphia is that racially charged "sides" are already forming - without benefit of all the facts. As usual, many partisans are rushing to the feast with a package of personal prejudice.
Last Thursday, when news of the lawsuit broke, radio host Dom Giordano used his show on WPHT (1210-AM) to basically exonerate Decoatsworth because he's a "hero cop" and because Hill is a vocal supporter of Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Yes, Decoatsworth showed his brass in the 2007 shooting, but has been involved in two other shootings. Those apparently were justified. That doesn't mean he wasn't overly aggressive this time. We don't know yet.
Yes, Hill is famously left-wing, and supports the infamous cop-killer, but that doesn't make him a criminal or a liar.
Not surprisingly, the Fraternal Order of Police is standing behind Decoatsworth "100 percent," Lodge 5 president John McNesby told me. Decoatsworth is "a good cop, an aggressive cop," who is "tasked with patrolling high-crime areas and dealing with things not many want to deal with," he said.
"You can have an officer put a blindfold on and never get into trouble in 20 years," McNesby added.
Friday morning, things heated up on the philly.com website, where cowards, haters and the deranged can leave anonymous droppings. "It looked like a Klan rally," one of my colleagues said. Comments soon were taken down and closed.
Until trial, Decoatsworth and his co-defendants enjoy the presumption of innocence. We can be sure that the cops' version will be very different from Hill's account.
But Hill's accusations are serious and can't be waved off as fantasy. Last year's Daily News "Tainted Justice" series proves that.
Even people who are reflexively pro-cop must be disturbed by the almost-daily stories about cop misconduct. Too many citizens have had run-ins with too-aggressive cops pushing harder than the situation requires.
In this case, I have heard allegations, but I have not yet seen any evidence. Nor has anyone else.
I haven't heard all the facts, and neither have the geniuses running their mouths - defending or attacking Decoatsworth or Hill. A trial would produce testimony and facts.
McNesby, however, doubts that there will be a trial. The city "never fights these lawsuits, they always settle," he grumped.
But will the spotlight-loving Hill deny himself his Mumia Moment in exchange for an out-of-court cash settlement? I doubt it.
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