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Does Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Have a Police Brutality Problem?

Dusti Sparks-Myers, Yahoo Contributor Network

Mar 8, 2010 "Share your voice on Yahoo websites. Start Here."

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Post a commentJordan Miles is an 18-year-old honor student and violinist currently attending the prestigious Creative and Performing Arts High School located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. On January 11, 2010, Jordan was accosted and beaten by three men dressed in ordinary clothing. Believing he was a victim of an attempted abduction or robbery, Jordan Miles fought back. He was attacked so viciously that he suffered an assault with a stun gun, a tree branch shoved through his gums, and a clump of dreadlock hair physically pulled out of his scalp.

The men in the ordinary clothes turned out to be three plainclothes police officers. The officers claimed they had identified themselves as police, but that Jordan Miles attacked them first. They also claim they believed he had a weapon based on a heavy object in his coat that turned out to be a bottle of Mountain Dew and which Miles contends was not in his pocket at the time. Additionally, Officer Michael Saldutte, who claimed he thought the bottle was a gun, did not keep it as evidence because he said it was not important as evidence, stating, "it wasn't evidence." Then again, he claims never saw either of the other two officers pull dreadlocks out of the scalp of Jordan Miles, either.

The beating against the young man was so severe, that the police had to seek medical attention for him immediately after he was subdued and arrested for assault and resisting arrest. After his release from custody, Miles had to return to the hospital due to his injuries. Is it any wonder the young man is now suffering from nightmares and flashbacks and has had to start counseling because of the incident and the injuries he suffered?

What exactly did Jordan Miles do that resulted in a beating by police officers in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania? What crime was he originally presumed to be guilty of and that instigated the attack by the police officers?

According to the officers involved, it was simply because he was walking in a high crime area near a house and he could have been guilty of a burglary. Since when has the mere possibility of a crime being a committed become a criminal offense worthy of arrest based solely because a person is walking in the vicinity? Jordan Miles, who has no criminal record, was in the yard of another school friend and only 70 yards from his own home.

Astonishingly (or is it?), two of the three police officers involved in the case were already facing lawsuits in which they are defendants. Officer Michael Saldutte, who is also a martial arts instructor, is accused in a civil complaint of using excessive force during the arrest of Jamil Gray last February. In the complaint, Gray claims he was assaulted and suffered severe injuries. Officer David Sisak is named in two civil complaints, involving allegations of false arrest and malicious prosecution. James Stringer contends that Sisak stopped him because of his race. The other complaint, filed with the Citizens Review Board, accuses Officer Sisak of using excessive force while restraining a woman with mental health issues. These officers are currently assigned to paid, uniformed duty, though it does beg the question why are they still employed at all.

Does Pittsburgh have a problem with officers who resort to physical police brutality and combat when dealing with citizens? Given the facts of others cases in the western Pennsylvania area, the impression is a real possibility that police brutality does exist, even in Pittsburgh, PA. The following are just two cases of several that can be found online.

On September 24, 2009, during the G2 Summit in Pittsburgh, PA, approximately 300 students who were peacefully protesting late in the evening were told it was an unlawful assembly and faced rubber bullets, batons, pepper spray, and tear gas. Unfortunately, whether the protest was lawful or not, the 1,200 member Riot police also used their weapons against people who were purely bystanders or trying to help injured students.

On August 4, 2008 Andre Thomas, a 37-year-old man unarmed Swissvale, PA resident, who was allegedly acting "erratically", was shot with 50,000 volts from a Taser by Swissvale police. After he was on the ground in handcuffs, Thomas, also a dialysis patient, was then kicked and stomped in the back by one officer, had his wrists twisted violently, and then punched in the head by another before he vomited and died from cardiac arrest. An autopsy performed later also showed evidence of multiple areas of severe bruising.

Medical Examiner Williams and District Attorney Zappala of Pittsburgh, PA is questioning eyewitness allegations of possible police misconduct regarding the death of Andre Thomas. According to Williams, he said: "'Beat up' is a subjective term. Sure, so is 'excessive force.' You've seen the photographs, so I can't say there was no trauma." He refuses to say the police were guilty of anything more than "reasonable force" to subdue Thomas.

The examinations of these alleged victims offer conflicting testimony to what happened. The differences between what the police are saying against that of other third party independent, trained, and professional individuals is 180 degrees in many instances. Excessive force? Police brutality? Beatings? It would appear that it all depends on one's perspective, along with who committed the alleged crime, about who is protecting whom, and to what extent a cover-up or Public Relations operation may be necessary to negate some of the societal view of the crime. Otherwise, it would seem that the injuries suffered by these victims are self-evident and certainly shows extreme force was used.

In Jordan Miles case, Judge Oscar Petite Jr, after listening to the facts in the case, dropped all charges against the student on March 4, 2010. There was sufficient evidence to prove that Jordan Miles was telling the truth and that the testimony of the police was indeed in question.


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