Update: Four days after Police Commissioner Outlaw originally tweeted about the incident, she replied to her own tweet and provided a statement that cleared the officer of the accusations of using a racial slur.
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Last Friday, Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw tweeted about “concerning behavior” regarding an arrest in which police officers surrounded a vehicle in a standoff with a suspect who was ultimately arrested for firearms and narcotics charges. Outlaw’s tweet was in response to a viral video on an anti-police Instagram page on which the person recording the video stated an officer used racial slurs when demanding the suspect comply with their orders.
In response to the viral video, Outlaw placed the officer on desk duty pending an internal affairs investigation, stating to the Inquirer that he was “allegedly caught on video twice saying a racial slur during an attempted arrest of a person who had a gun.”
(Viewer notice: the videos contain strong language).
Within the next 24 hours, tweets from throughout Philadelphia’s elected political class seemingly condemned the officer’s behavior. However, despite Outlaw publicly placing the officer under investigation and stating her concern over the behavior in the video, sources within the Philadelphia Police Department leaked body-worn camera footage to Broad+Liberty as well as journalist Ralph Cipriano that clearly shows the officer never used a racial slur in the encounter.
The same police sources also alleged that Outlaw and Internal Affairs leadership have reviewed the exculpatory bodycam footage from the officer and the others on scene within 24 hours from Outlaw’s tweet and have definitive evidence with a clear chain-of-custody, that the officer involved had never used a racial slur.
Regardless, Outlaw’s original tweets stay up, and she has yet to make any statements to clear the air – allowing this innocent officer to become the unwarranted face of racism in Philadelphia.
“We are aware of the recent video on social media that depicts a @PhillyPolice officer conducting a car stop of an individual who was subsequently found to be in possession of a handgun,” Outlaw announced Friday on Twitter. “The conduct displayed by the officers [present] is highly concerning, and I have ordered an Internal Affairs Investigation into the incident. All of the officers have been identified, and the primary officer has been placed on restricted duty pending the outcome of the investigation,”
– Commissioner Danielle Outlaw via Twitter.
The Philadelphia Police Department said the incident remains under review.
“To be clear, at no time did P/C Outlaw or the department state that the administrative investigation into this incident was initiated solely due to the alleged use of a racial slur,” Sgt. Eric Gripp said to Broad + Liberty reporter Todd Shepherd, by email.
“The totality of this vehicle stop remains under investigation by the PPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau,” Gripp continued. The purpose of this investigation is to ensure that the involved officers followed departmental policies while effecting the arrest of the suspect.
Gripp then noted that the suspect, Warren Martin-Williams, was arrested on three felony charges of aggravated assault, posession of a controlled substance, and a firearms charge (commonly known as VUFA) , along with six other misdemeanors.
On Friday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the allegedly incriminating video was “re-posted the video on an Instagram account called ‘phillyspotnews,’ which has 134,000 followers and appears to be associated with a local attorney.” In comparing the Instagram video with that from the police bodycam footage from the five officers on-scene — which officers are not able to tamper with — it is clear that the Instagram footage includes utterances and misapprehensions of the person recording it, which makes it appear that the officers used racial slurs.
Since the video has emerged, the officer highlighted in the Instagram video has received death threats on social media, as well as being condemned by Philadelphia City Council member Cindy Bass, Mayoral candidate Cherelle Parker, State Senators Sharif Street and Art Haywood.
Sen. Street did not respond to a request for comment as to whether he had seen a video version of the incident that positively showed a racial slur by the officer. Haywood and Bass responded, but only pointed Broad + Liberty to a version of a joint statement already delivered to the public (the statement being quoted further down in this piece).
On the evening of March 22nd, the five officers in question were patrolling the high-crime Germantown section of the city when they observed two vehicles running while parked, which could indicate any number of potential issues from car theft to narcotics activity. Upon investigating these vehicles, officers observed a large amount of crack cocaine in one, and a suspect in the other who was attempting to conceal a Ruger semiautomatic handgun in the other.
In reviewing the bodycam footage, not only can one hear that the officer never used a racial slur, but that the officers used incredible restraint – being in a position where deadly force is warranted, but not firing their weapons. This is because the suspect, of whom the officer in question had observed in possession of a handgun, was refusing to obey commands while driving toward the officers, striking their police car. The officer is heard on the body cam video yelling, “I’m seeing your fucking gun,” “There’s a gun on you. It’s right there in your fucking waist, in your fucking hand.”
Instead of shooting the armed suspect, the now-demonized officer bashed a hole in the driver’s window with his baton, using his Taser on the suspect instead of his firearm.
As if the Instagram video was edited or ends prematurely to paint the suspect in a better light, the video causing this firestorm ends just as the driver rammed his Dodge Durango into the police car, before backing over the sidewalk toward the other officers. The bodycam footage then shows the suspect driving in reverse down the block, striking a pole and parked cars into a nearby home before ramming another police car.
The suspect, identified as 30-year-old Warren Hakeem Martin Williams, was taken into custody for possession of a firearm, 34 grams of crack cocaine, marijuana, and paraphernalia, as well as injuring the officer in the second car who suffered chemical burns on his wrist when his airbag went off. The report by Cipriano revealed that Williams was involved in an incident in October 2022 where he fled police into the woods on Lincoln Drive from a vehicle where a AR-15, a handgun and his ID were found. At the time, Williams had an open arrest warrant for Maryland traffic violations.
Despite this officer’s work in bringing an alleged armed crack-dealer to justice, the city’s political establishment appear to be attempting to hang him out to dry.
“While reviewing the footage, law enforcement confirmed numerous code of conduct violations, involving actions that would needlessly instigate an escalation of engagement,” wrote Bass, Street, and Heywood. “We expect the Philadelphia Police Department to follow through with appropriate disciplinary action following the conclusion of the internal investigation,” the three politicians concluded.
Escalation? An armed suspect rammed a vehicle at officers and didn’t get shot. How was this not de-escalating?
“We have a City Council member and other officials engaged in attacking our Philadelphia Police Officers on the job.” said FOP Lodge 5 President John McNesby in a video statement recorded for Facebook. “Sometimes policing isn’t pretty, but the officer did do his job out there that day, and in fact we’ve found out that Council Member Cindy Bass has viewed that body camera last week on Friday which essentially clears that officer, but still released a statement attacking that officer and essentially praised the criminal…further widening the gap between the community and police.”
As of Monday, there have been no statements by Outlaw or the elected leaders exonerating the officer who never used the N-word on the videos we believe these leaders saw.
As Philadelphia suffers from three years of record crime rates? Why are the city’s collective leaders seemingly defending a career criminal over one of their own officers, and why the unfounded — and now disproved — accusation of a racial slur is seemingly worse than an armed narcotics suspect assaulting police officers and destroying property with a vehicle?
UPDATE: This article was edited from the original version to include comment from the Philadelphia Police Department, Sen. Haywood, and the outreach to Sen. Street and Councilwoman Bass.
UPDATE II: This article was edited from the original version to include comment from Councilwoman Bass. Communication difficulties prevented the timely publication of her comment, which was, “I stand by my statement,” referring to the joint statement with Senators Street and Haywood.
A. Benjamin Mannes, MA, CPP, CESP, is a Subject Matter Expert in Security & Criminal Justice Reform based on his own experiences on both sides of the criminal justice system. He has served as a federal and municipal law enforcement officer and was the former Director, Office of Investigations with the American Board of Internal Medicine. @PublicSafetySME