Video shows aggressive stop and frisk in Philly that ACLU calls 'abusive'

Posted: October 11, 2013

NO ONE GOT PUNCHED in the face - this time - but YouTube has given the Philadelphia Police Department another black eye, proving once again that smartphones are a bully cop's worst nightmare.

Let's just hope that Officer Philip Nace doesn't land in the city's tourism department when the dust settles.

"Don't come to f---ing Philadelphia. Stay in Jersey."

That's one of Nace's rage-induced zingers that were recorded in a disturbing 16-minute YouTube video of a recent stop and frisk.

The video, dated Sept. 27, shows Nace, 46, and another police officer from North Philly's 25th District stopping two unidentified men, apparently after they said hello to a third man on the street.

"You don't say 'Hi' to strangers," Nace said as he confronts the two pedestrians. "Not in this neighborhood," his partner added.

The cops then push one of the men against their cruiser. The second man, who is videotaping the incident and starts to walk away, is ordered to put his phone in his pocket and get against the car for a frisk. The phone, however, continues recording, apparently on the hood of the car.

"Don't f---ing fight . . . we'll kick your ass, too," Nace said. He threatened the other man, saying he would "split your wig open."

Nace called one of the men a "f---ing dirty ass." When they protest that they haven't done anything wrong, he shouted: "Why don't you shut the f--- up! Everyone thinks they're a f---ing lawyer, and they don't know jack s---."

"You're jaywalking, by the way," the second officer later added, apparently in an attempt to justify the stop.

At one point, Nace told one of the men: "We don't want you here, anyway. All you do is weaken the f---ing country."

"How do I weaken the country? By working?" the man asked.

"No, freeloading," Nace said.

When the man said he's a server at a country club, Nace responded, "Server. Serving weed?"

The video is titled "Police unlawful harassment and racial profiling," but the race of the two pedestrians is unclear. Nace and his partner are white.

The Daily News could not reach the person who posted the video or identify the pedestrians.

"This is exactly what the city of Philadelphia says its cops don't do," said Mary Catherine Roper, senior staff attorney for the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is monitoring the city's stop-and-frisk program. "The only way we stop it from happening is if the Police Department acknowledges that it does happen and takes steps to root it out."

Herbert Spellman, a retired cop who said in a cover story in yesterday's Daily News that he was subjected to a "demeaning" stop and frisk last month, called on police brass to send a message to patrol cops that verbally and physically abusive behavior won't be tolerated.

"It starts at the top," Spellman said.

Lt. John Stanford, a police spokesman, said Internal Affairs is investigating the Nace incident. He said that the investigation - not the video - would determine whether the officers "acted appropriate in all aspects of their job."

Last year, Lt. Jonathan Josey was fired after a YouTube video went viral of him punching a woman in the face and knocking her to the ground, but he's back on the job today.

"We train our officers to conduct lawful stops, and we continuously address this issue where necessary to provide the best service to the citizens of Philadelphia," Stanford said in an email. He declined to comment on the Nace video specifically.

In the video, Nace didn't provide a clear explanation of why the men were stopped. Roper questioned whether there was reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed.

The ACLU estimates that nearly half of the more than 200,000 annual pedestrians stopped are lacking reasonable suspicion, but the Police Department has disputed that.

"It feels like you're harassing me," one of the men calmly told Nace in the video. "I didn't do nothing."

"How do you know?" Nace asked.

"Whatcha mean? How do I know what?" the man asked.

"How do you know what we know?" Nace asked.

"I don't know what you know," the man says. "So? What did I do? I didn't commit a crime. I'm just walking."

"How do we know that?" Nace asked.

Nace was on the street last night, according to an officer in the 25th District, and could not be reached. At the end of the video, police gave one man his phone back, and it doesn't appear that he was taken into custody. It is unknown what happened with the second pedestrian.

Roper, who is also suing the department for alleged wrongful arrests of people who videotape police in public, said the Nace video is clear evidence that the department needs to impose better standards of behavior.

"Can we start with 'not thoroughly abusive' as an initial goal?" Roper asked. "I'd like to get to respectful, but let's start with not abusive."


On Twitter: @wbender99

Blog: ph.ly/DailyDelco

- Staff writer Morgan Zalot contributed to this report

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