Controversial ex-cop wants his badge back

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Former Philly cop Andre Boyer sued the city claiming he was fired because of a prior lawsuit.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Former Philly cop Andre Boyer sued the city claiming he was fired because of a prior lawsuit.
Posted: February 19, 2014

ANDRE BOYER says the Philadelphia Police Department did him wrong, over and over again.

After 17 years on the force, he was kicked to the curb in August by Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey at the recommendation of the Police Board of Inquiry.

The internal disciplinary board cited Boyer for a handful of departmental violations over the allegedly questionable way that he seized $6,000 in cash from a man during a 2011 arrest.

A few months before he was fired, Boyer saw the District Attorney's Office and others publicly question his credibility in an Inquirer article about a 2008 Internal Affairs investigation into dozens of arrest reports that he had allegedly filled out improperly.

The board of inquiry suspended him over that incident, and Boyer responded in 2012 with a federal lawsuit.

Boyer said the city settled his lawsuit for "a little bit less" than the $200,000 that he sought. The Nutter administration, however, said the suit was settled for $4,000.

But that payout isn't the end of Boyer's story.

For one thing, he filed a separate federal lawsuit against the city in the fall, alleging that his firing was retaliation for the previous lawsuit.

Boyer also said he wants to get back on the force, and expects his case will go to arbitration soon.

He wants to clear his name, too. He said his reputation was forever tarnished when the Police Department's various punishments against him - for infractions that he contends have reasonable explanations - became public.

"It's not about the money," Boyer said. "It's about my name. I teach my kids to do right, and it's hard when you got the newspapers, the media and everyone else saying bad things about you."

On the one hand, this sort of thing happens fairly often - a cop gets canned for reasons that he says are unjust. Maybe he files a lawsuit, maybe he bides his time and tries to get his job back through the arbitration process.

But Boyer's case presents some unusual complications.

In the months leading up to his dismissal, the D.A.'s office had taken the unusual step of refusing to prosecute arrests that he made. The office also reportedly dismissed a number of cases involving Boyer that were already making their way through the justice system.

If Boyer gets his job back through arbitration - and given the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5's track record of success in that area, it's certainly possible - would the D.A.'s office still refuse to prosecute his arrests or allow him to testify in court?

And if so, what would the Police Department do with a cop who couldn't make an arrest?

Aggressive street cop

Boyer was dressed in a dark suit last Monday afternoon as he sat on office furniture near the Daily News' newsroom, trying to retrace the sequence of events that had left him jobless.

He'd spent his law-enforcement career in North Philly's rough-and-tumble 22nd District, where he earned a reputation as an aggressive street cop.

"When I took this job, my father told me, 'Don't just be a cop. Be the best you can be,' " Boyer said.

The Inquirer reported last year that he had been involved in more than 500 criminal cases since 2009. Boyer said his former colleagues recently told him he recorded the second-highest number of arrests in his squad last year, despite being fired in August.

But he also racked up 25 civilian complaints over the years, said Internal Affairs Lt. Dan Angelucci. Most of the allegations were unfounded or not sustained.

A verbal-abuse allegation in 2006 was sustained by Internal Affairs investigators, as was a claim of unprofessional conduct the following year.

Between 2011 and 2012, four complaints led to Boyer being cited for departmental violations, Angelucci said.

"There are cops who have 35 complaints or more," Boyer said. "When that stuff becomes public, they don't tell you how many people [make an allegation] and then say they lied."

Boyer said he was disciplined earlier in his career for a dispute that involved a girlfriend at the time and one of her relatives.

In 2008, Capt. Branville Bard, then commander of the 22nd, asked Internal Affairs to probe the fact that Boyer's payroll number was showing up in the city's Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System (PARS) on reports for marijuana arrests, indicating that he had field-tested the substances.

Internal Affairs Lt. Karyn Baldini said she identified dozens of reports in which Boyer had seemingly made that indication, according to a copy of a deposition related to Boyer's now-settled lawsuit obtained by the Daily News.

"He did absolutely nothing wrong," said Brian Puricelli, Boyer's attorney.

"It was not like he lied on any forms or documents. He used the PARS system the way he'd been taught to," he said. "[Baldini] found a white officer who was doing the same thing, and he wasn't charged with anything. They made [Boyer] a scapegoat."

Baldini said she didn't interview any other officers in the district to determine whether the PARS issue was commonplace, according to the deposition.

She said she determined that Boyer hadn't been field-testing marijuana, but also found two instances in which marijuana that he seized was turned in a week late.

Boyer said that he dropped the seized marijuana off immediately at Central Detectives, but that officials there might have inadvertently delayed in getting the drugs over to the department's chemical lab.

Boyer was suspended for 20 days over the incident, but an arbitrator later reduced his suspension to six days.

Boyer said he filed an Internal Affairs complaint against Baldini - claiming that she looked up personal information about him, and tried to add information to his case long after the case was closed - but hasn't heard from any investigators.

Police Commissioner Ramsey said he was unaware of Boyer's complaint. Baldini could not be reached for comment.

The D.A.'s office told the Inquirer last year that it failed to properly review a report about a 2008 investigation into Boyer, or discuss sharing the information with defense lawyers.

"The District Attorney's Office had some issues with him as a police officer, if my memory serves," Ramsey said. "This wasn't just an Internal Affairs investigation."

According to that same Inquirer article, several local judges had also questioned Boyer's tactics, and his understanding of the law - criticisms that Boyer scoffed at last week.

More bad news

The hits just kept on coming.

Boyer said he and another cop stopped a car for a traffic violation in North Philly in 2011, only to find that it reeked of marijuana. They found a couple of bags of pot inside and arrested a female driver and a male passenger, who later claimed that Boyer unlawfully seized the $6,000 in cash that he had on him.

When Boyer was fired, Ramsey told the Daily News that the cop had failed to notify a supervisor about the large sum of cash, and didn't have legal justification to seize the money.

Boyer argued last week that he did have legal justification, because the money was near drugs, and the man didn't have a job and couldn't explain where he had gotten the greenbacks.

Boyer also said he notified a supervisor about the money when he arrived back at the district's headquarters with the two suspects.

Rapper Meek Mill added to Boyer's woes in January 2013, when he filed a federal lawsuit claiming that Boyer and Officer Michael Vargas had illegally detained him for nine hours in October 2012, and posted pictures of him on Instagram while he was in custody.

"I was just the backup officer that day," Boyer said. "I didn't do anything to him."

Getting his badge back

How this all plays out is anybody's guess, but it ought to be interesting.

According to city payroll records, Boyer's base salary in 2012 - before overtime - was $62,210. In 2011, records show, on top of the same base salary, he earned $36,017 in overtime.

It's unclear what will happen with Boyer's case once he goes to arbitration to get his job back, but typically, reinstated police officers are entitled to back pay for time lost.

Tasha Jamerson, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Seth Williams, said prior criminal cases involving Boyer were dealt with on a case-by-case basis, but couldn't offer a specific total of ones that had been dismissed.

The Public Defender's Association of Philadelphia, which praised the D.A.'s office last year for taking action over its concerns about Boyer, declined to comment.

"It could be problematic if you have an officer who can't testify and fulfill his full range of responsibilities," Ramsey said of Boyer potentially rejoining the force. "Hopefully an arbitrator will take that into consideration."

Boyer, who has six children, said he still keeps in touch with a number of his former colleagues, some of whom helped to raise money for him when he first lost his job.

Finding new work has proved difficult, because people recognize him from the spate of negative news stories that followed him last year.

Still, Boyer said, he expects to get his badge back.

"My father always told me, if you did something wrong, own up to it and take your hit like a man," he said. "But if you didn't, bite down like a pit bull and don't let go."


On Twitter: @dgambacorta

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