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District Wants PA SRO Fired After Fight with Student

The Philadelphia Inquirer via YellowBrix

December 24, 2009

The Philadelphia School District is recommending that a school police officer who scuffled with a Frankford High School football player two months ago be fired and that a second officer be disciplined.

Jeffione Thomas, 18, a sophomore, said that when he arrived late for school Oct. 29, the officers followed him in, then jumped him. One handcuffed him, he said, while the other beat him, giving him a bruised eye and a torn lip that required six stitches.

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Thomas, a running back on the varsity team, was arrested and charged with aggravated assault. Since he was 17 at the time, the case went to Juvenile Court. He awaits a hearing Jan. 22.

The officers have said they were defending themselves.

Gregory Brinkley, president of the local chapter of the National Action Network, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, held a rally for Thomas this month, and criticized the district’s handling of the case to the School Reform Commission. At the time, Superintendent Arlene Ackerman said an independent investigation was being conducted.

In a statement yesterday, district spokesman Fernando Gallard said the district’s recommendation was made “based on the facts, eyewitness interviews, and review of the videotape of the unfortunate incident involving Jeffione Thomas.”

The punishment for the second officer has not been determined, Gallard said. Due process under the school police officers’ contract will be followed before any action is taken against either.

Michael Lodise, president of the officers’ union, said last night that he was “really upset over this.”

The first officer, who could lose his job immediately after a final hearing with a district official, is an eight-year veteran “with an impeccable record,” Lodise said.

Lodise said that he had examined the officer’s medical records, and that the officer required hospital treatment after the fight.

“He just defended himself,” he said. “That’s anybody’s right, to defend themselves when they’re struck.”

The officer “will definitely get his job back,” said Lodise, who declined to name him. “There’s no way this stands.”

He said that he expected the firing to be upheld in the next round and that he would then take the case to arbitration, which could take up to a year.

The second officer, whom Lodise also declined to name, is a 15-year district veteran, he said, also with a clean record. He also was defending himself, Lodise said.


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