Philadelphia officer with history of complaints charged, suspended
By Mike Newall and Aubrey Whelan | The Philadelphia Inquirer | Published: March 13, 2014
For nearly a decade, the complaints against Philadelphia Police Officer Kevin Corcoran just kept coming.
There's one for allegedly entering a man's house in South Philadelphia without permission, and breaking his face with punches and kicks. There's another for allegedly slamming a man headfirst into a newspaper box in Old City, beating him bloody after the Phillies' World Series parade.
The nine-year veteran has been sued four times for excessive force - with the city twice settling for undisclosed amounts. All told, the police Internal Affairs Division has launched a dozen investigations into Corcoran - six in 2009 alone.
But none of those allegations stuck. The stocky officer with the seemingly hair-trigger temper remained on the beat.
That is, until Wednesday, when he was stripped of his gun and badge, suspended with intent to dismiss, and charged with several counts in connection with a heated Center City confrontation captured on video nearly a year ago.
Hours before dawn last Easter morning, Corcoran made an illegal turn in his police SUV near 13th and Lombard Streets, and a bystander chided him.
Videos of the encounter that followed - one that authorities say was provoked by Corcoran alone - show the irate officer storming toward a group of friends recording his advance. It also shows him slapping a cellphone and shoving a man into his police SUV, all the while screaming, "Don't . . . touch me!"
An 11-month joint investigation by the District Attorney's Office and Internal Affairs concluded Wednesday that no one had in fact touched Corcoran.
Instead, according to a statement from the District Attorney's Office, Corcoran illegally detained an Iraq War veteran - driving him, handcuffed in the backseat of his SUV, to a dark street away from his district.
There, they say, the man, who had committed no crime, pleaded with Corcoran to release him, informing him he was a veteran and had never been arrested. After 16 minutes, they say, Corcoran let the man go.
On Wednesday morning, Corcoran, who at the time of the incident was assigned to the 17th District but has been on desk duty since, was charged with unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, and official oppression, all misdemeanors. He was being processed Wednesday night.
Neither Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, who was traveling, nor police union president John McNesby could be reached for comment.
Police spokesman Lt. John Stanford said the arrest was "another example of how the department will work with the District Attorney's Office to investigate any type of allegation, no matter the outcome."
Kevin Mincey, who represents Roderick King, the man Corcoran is charged with detaining, said he was pleased by the arrest.
"It's good to see the city is finally, after 11 months, firing [Corcoran] for something that was clear as day to see," he said.
King, an Air Force veteran originally from Lansdale, has since left the state. Mincey said his client no longer felt safe here. He is suing Corcoran and the department for $1.5 million.
The cellphone videos, which made it onto YouTube, are shaky but unmistakable: There's Corcoran storming toward King and his friends about 2 a.m., while King backs up, palms raised, cellphone in hand.
"Way above and beyond, officer," King tells Corcoran. "I have a right to videotape. You're grabbing me, and I'm not doing anything to you."
"Don't . . . touch me! Don't . . . touch me!" Corcoran yells on camera.
"I'm not touching you, Officer," King responds.
Then Corcoran slaps the phone from King's hand.
King's friends caught the rest on their own cellphones:
Corcoran violently shoving King, then grabbing him by the shirt and pushing him against his police SUV. Corcoran handcuffing him and throwing him into the back of the vehicle.
Corcoran drove to a dark side street near North Broad Street, all the while telling King he was arresting him for public intoxication, the district attorney's statement said.
"My first thought was that I was getting ready to get beat up. It's dark, I don't know where I am, I feared for my safety," King said in a statement provided Wednesday by his lawyer.
It was only after King told him of his military service that Corcoran drove him back to his friends, uncuffed him, and released him without charges. The entire incident, including the time inside the vehicle, took 16 minutes.
On Wednesday, police said that there was no evidence that King was drunk, and that Corcoran never filed any paperwork required for a public-intoxication arrest.
It was unclear Wednesday how much the city has paid in previous lawsuits involving Corcoran.
In one suit, a Grays Ferry man said Corcoran and other officers punched and stomped him after illegally entering his house, breaking his nose and bones in his face.
In another suit, a Point Breeze man said Corcoran illegally entered his girlfriend's house, forced him outside in his underwear, and "roughed him up."
Corcoran made headlines in 2008 when Philadelphia CityPaper published a reporter's eyewitness account of Corcoran's allegedly beating a drunken Phillies fan in Old City after the World Series parade.
According to the article by Andrew Thompson, Corcoran punched the then-25-year-old Michael Foley without any physical provocation.
Then, while cuffing him, Thompson said, Corcoran slammed Foley's face into the sidewalk and a newspaper box. One witness testified that Foley's hands were cuffed when Corcoran allegedly smashed his face into an iron trash can.
Foley was eventually found not guilty of disorderly conduct.
An Internal Affairs investigation found Corcoran guilty of not filing a use-of-force report.
Kelvyn Anderson, executive director of the Police Advisory Board, said Wednesday that other than the departmental violation for the Old City incident, none of the other excessive-force allegations against Corcoran was sustained.
Wednesday's charges, Anderson said, are in keeping with the city's efforts to root out police corruption and abuse in recent years.
"It's clear that the department is serious," he said, "about taking care of this kind of misconduct."
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