Ex-Philly cop files lawsuit against cops, city

Posted: June 13, 2014

A RETIRED PHILLY cop who says he was stopped and frisked by two city cops last year because he was black has filed a federal lawsuit against the officers and the city.

Herbert Spellman, 51, filed the civil-rights lawsuit on Tuesday against police officers Brad Momme and David O'Connor.

According to the suit and an interview Spellman gave to the Daily News last year, Spellman says that on Sept. 10, he was walking to a bus stop near Wister Street in West Oak Lane when Momme and O'Connor stopped their police cruiser in front of him and grabbed him.

Spellman told the cops he was an injured ex-officer, but they continued to frisk and verbally abuse him, the suit says.

When Spellman tried to use his cellphone to call a police supervisor, the cops "grabbed his phone and threw it on the trunk of the police vehicle," the suit says.

The cops told Spellman to put his hands on the hood of the vehicle. Spellman told them he suffered from an injury and it would hurt him to do so, the suit says. Then, the officers grabbed Spellman and "pushed him against the car, causing additional injuries and harms," the lawsuit says.

After being detained awhile longer, Spellman was released and no criminal charges were filed.

The suit contends the cops unlawfully stopped and frisked Spellman because he is black. Momme and O'Connor are white.

It says the city "has, with deliberate indifference, failed to properly train, supervise and discipline PPD officers with respect to constitutional standards and limitations in conducting stops, frisks, searches, detentions and the use of unreasonable force under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments."

Attorney Paul Messing, who filed the suit on behalf of Spellman, said yesterday: "Of concern here is the broader pattern, what continues to go on. The city and the Police Department have made some real progress . . . but we continue to see too many stops . . . nearly half being made without any legal cause.

"Most disturbingly," he said, "is the racial disparity that continues to persist."

Craig Straw, chief deputy city solicitor in the Law Department's civil-rights unit, said yesterday that his office had not yet been served with the lawsuit.

O'Connor was a defendant in another federal lawsuit dealing with the city's controversial stop-and-frisk policy. A jury ruled May 29 in favor of the plaintiff, Aaron Bell. Bell, who is black, claimed that O'Connor and Officer Colin Goshert, who is white, pulled him over while he was driving in East Germantown about 9:20 p.m. Aug. 5, 2010, and that they searched him and his vehicle without probable cause.

He sued the city and the cops.

Bell, 31, who represented himself at trial, could not be reached yesterday via a phone number listed for him in court records.

According to the verdict sheet, the jury found that the cops had violated Bell's right not to be subjected to an unreasonable seizure. It also found that the city's official policy caused the cops to violate his rights. The jury awarded Bell $100,000 in compensatory damages and $500 against each officer in punitive damages.


On Twitter: @julieshawphilly

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