Police lieutenant who hit woman will be fired, Ramsey says

Aida Guzman was punched by lieutenant.
Aida Guzman was punched by lieutenant.
Posted: October 05, 2012

Philadelphia Police Lt. Jonathan Josey, who punched a woman in the face in a video that drew national attention this week, will be fired, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said Wednesday.

Ramsey issued a direct-action dismissal, an immediate step the commissioner can take if he believes an officer has violated departmental policies or the law.

Also Wednesday, the District Attorney's Office announced that it would drop charges against Aida Guzman, 39, the Chester woman Josey punched. Guzman was charged with disorderly conduct because police believed she threw liquid at a group of officers at Fifth Street and Lehigh Avenue during a crowded street party that took place Sunday after the Puerto Rican Day Parade. Guzman actually sprayed Silly String in the air. In the video, a person near her could be seen tossing liquid at the group.

John McNesby, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, said the decision to fire Josey sent the message that officers on the street would be punished for using force to control unruly crowds. He said the union would fight Josey's dismissal.

"We're going to war on this one," he said. "We're not only going to fight it, we're going to win."

Guzman's attorney, Enrique Latoison, said Guzman was glad the charges would be dismissed. Though Guzman had never asked that Josey be fired, he said, she agreed with Ramsey's decision. Latoison emphasized that Guzman did not harbor feelings of ill will toward the police.

"We believe that this is the action of one police officer and not a reflection on the department as a whole," Latoison said. "She just does not want this to happen to anyone else."

Josey, 39, is a decorated 19-year veteran of the department who has been praised by some colleagues since the video emerged. He has declined to comment. As of Thursday, he had been suspended for a month with the intent to dismiss.

Earlier this week, Ramsey indicated that before he took any action, he would await the results of an internal investigation. It was not clear Wednesday what had changed, and Ramsey declined to comment.

Rochelle Bilal, president of the Guardian Civic League, the black officers' union, criticized the decision as unduly harsh. It would have been more appropriate to suspend Josey for 30 days without pay, she said.

"What we saw on that video was not good, but should it cost him his whole career?" she asked. "This is not in Josey's character. He made a mistake."

Ramsey has angered the union before with swift decisions to fire members of the department. A few months after he arrived in Philadelphia in 2008, he fired four officers who were videotaped beating several suspects on the side of a highway, and he has acted quickly in several other high-profile cases. Many of the officers Ramsey has fired were eventually, through arbitration, given back their jobs.

Contact Allison Steele

at 215-854-2641 or asteele@phillynews.com.

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