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June 05, 2020

D.A. Krasner to charge Philly cop who allegedly hit protester with metal baton

Looting incidents steadily decreasing as city boosts response, Commissioner Danielle Outlaw says

Protests Police
Philly Use of Force Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia police have opened Internal Affairs investigations into several incidents involving the use of force during the week of protests that has followed the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The city also formalized procedures in its prisons to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as Philadelphia enter's the state's yellow phase of reopening.

A Philadelphia police officer who allegedly struck a protester with a metal baton near the Ben Franklin Parkway, seemingly without provocation, will be charged with aggravated assault and related offenses, District Attorney Larry Krasner announced Friday night. 

A widely circulated video of the incident allegedly shows Staff Inspector Joseph Bologna Jr. striking the protester – a Temple University student – on the back of the head during a demonstration against racism. 

The student suffered serious injuries, including a head injury that required 10 staples and 10 sutures, Krasner said. The protester was arrested and detained for more than 24 hours, but prosecutors declined to bring charges. 

Bologna will be charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, possessing an instrument of crime and reckless endangerment, Krasner said. 

"We are trying to be fair," Krasner said in a statement. "Accountability has to be equal. This moment demands a swift and evenhanded response to violent and criminal acts based on the facts and evidence."

The incident was among several being investigated by the Philadelphia Police Department's Internal Affairs division, Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Friday. The incidents involve officers who may have violated use of force policies during the past week of protests for George Floyd. 

"I am aware of several videos circulating on social media depicting applications of force by police officers," Outlaw said Friday.

While some of the videos appeared to depict conduct allowed by the department's guidelines, Outlaw said others show questionable actions by officers.

"Some of the images are disturbing and depict behavior that does not appear to be in accord with our policy. I am deeply concerned about this, and as a result, I have initiated several concurrent Internal Affairs investigations," Outlaw said. She declined to comment on the specific uses of force being reviewed. 

Earlier in the week, Outlaw opened a separate Internal Affairs investigation into whether 26th District police allowed armed vigilantes to gather in Fishtown on Monday night. Outlaw said all investigations will be conducted thoroughly and without bias, and announcements will be made as the department reaches determinations.

Protests for Floyd, the unarmed black man killed while in the custody of Minneapolis police on May 25, continued in Center City, North Philadelphia and Fishtown on Thursday night into Friday. Outlaw said these protests have remained almost entirely peaceful. Another curfew was enforced at 8 p.m. Friday and ends at 6 a.m. Saturday.

Philadelphia police have made a total of 759 total arrests since last Saturday, when peaceful protests turned to chaos in various parts of the city. At least 27 Philadelphia police officers have been injured, Outlaw said.

Looting events across the city have slowed down considerably in recent days since the police department deployed teams across six geographic divisions. Over the past week, authorities reported 29 commercial burglaries on Saturday, 247 on Sunday, 411 on Monday, 181 on Tuesday, 89 on Wednesday and 47 on Thursday.

For reference, there were three commercial burglaries in Philadelphia last Friday, before the protests began.

Outlaw said police are investigating one alarming burglary that occurred Thursday morning in the 2300 block of Church Street, near the Bridesburg section of the city. Investigators learned that an unknown number of suspects removed 29 canisters of acetylene and oxygen gases, which are normally used for welding, but could be dangerous in the hands of criminals.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call 911 or the Philadelphia Police tip line at (215) 686-TIPS.

Philadelphia enters COVID-19 yellow phase amid protests, curfews

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said Friday that protests in the city don't appear to have suppressed COVID-19 testing to any significant degree. 

"From Saturday, May 30 through Wednesday, June 3, an average of 1,562 Philadelphians were tested each day, compared to 1,771 during the previous Saturday through Wednesday," Farley said. "I believe that the number of new cases is truly continuing to drop as Philadelphians follow the guidance that we’ve been espousing: Stay at home if you can, wear a mask if you’re around others, stay 6 feet away from others, and wash your hands frequently.”

The Philadelphia Department of Prisons also announced the results of a systemwide screening of all inmates for COVID-19, a process that began two weeks ago.

To date, 3,855 asymptomatic individuals have been tested at PDP facilities. The test results found that 223 of these asymptomatic incarcerated individuals tested positive, or about 6%. By comparison, in Montgomery County and the whole state of Ohio's prison system, there were double-digit percentages of asymptomatic inmates who tested positive for COVID-19.

As a result, the city's prisons will also enter the yellow phase of the state's COVID-19 recovery plan alongside Philadelphia at large. This will gradually allow inmates to spend more time outside their cells and resume some services that were curtailed at prison facilities.

The city has now entered into a partial settlement agreement regarding measures taken by the PDP to mitigate the introduction and transmission of COVID-19 in its facilities, resolving litigation. The agreement provisions address matters such as access to personal protective equipment, cleaning and disinfecting of facilities, personal hygiene, social distancing and access to counsel.

Philadelphia reported 126 additional cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the city's total to 23,407. An additional 17 fatalities raised the city's death toll to 1,394, including 744 nursing home residents.

Philadelphia hospitals currently are treating 343 patients for COVID-19, while hospitals across Southeastern Pennsylvania are treating 674 people with the infection.