11/20/2013Pennsylvania: Man Arrested For Criticizing Cops Speeding Sues
Speeding Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania cop sued for arresting a man for standing while black and criticizing police for speeding.
A school teacher is seeking compensation after he was arrested in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for criticizing police officers who violated the speed limit. The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit on Tuesday on behalf of Dennis Henderson, who spent twelve hours in jail.
On June 26, 2013, Henderson left a community meeting and was standing on the side of the road talking with New Pittsburgh Courier photographer Rossano Stewart. Officer Jonathan Gromek zipped past in his squad car close to the men, so Henderson jumped back and yelled, "Wow." Officer Gromek made a U-turn and confronted Henderson.
"I don't even know how he heard that," Stewart said on the day of the incident. "He came back and said, 'You got a problem with the way I'm driving?' ...He got out of the car and he started being aggressive. He started walking towards us."
Henderson told Officer Gromek that he wanted to file a complaint and he wanted his badge number. The officer grew angrier.
"So he said, 'I tell you what, both of you, you got ID?'" Stewart recalled. "So I showed him my ID. 'You got a problem with that, you can talk about it downtown. Both of you are now under arrest.'"
Henderson and Stewart were handcuffed, more police arrived and a crowd gathered. Stewart was released, but Henderson was booked at Allegheny County Jail where he was forced to spend the night on charges of obstruction of highways, disorderly conduct by means of unreasonable noise, and resisting arrest. The city itself admits the arrest was bogus and the charges were dropped.
"Based upon our investigation, Officer Gromek was found to have violated the following Pittsburgh Bureau of Police policies; conduct toward the public, conduct unbecoming and incompetency," Pittsburgh's Office of Municipal Investigations Manager Kathy Kraus wrote in an October 1 letter to Henderson.
A social studies teacher at Manchester Academic Charter School, Henderson filed the lawsuit to serve as a lesson for more than just the local police.
"I want to show my students that, regardless of your neighborhood, ethnicity, attire, age, or socioeconomic status, no one should be harassed, arrested and placed into the criminal justice system by a police officer who operates under a code of profiling, provoking and arresting individuals without just cause," Henderson said in a statement.
The ACLU lawsuit alleges Officer Gromek violated Henderson's First Amendment right peacefully to express himself, his Fourth Amendment Right not to be falsely arrested and imprisoned, and his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection under the law.