Philly Transit Police Chief Shocked That No One Came To The Assistance Of A Cop Being Assaulted By A Suspect

from the to-those-insulated-from-their-own-actions,-this-can-be-considered-'shocking& dept

If you’re looking for evidence of the disconnect between law enforcement’s mentality and the public’s, you need look no further than the comments made by Philly Transit Authority police chief in response to the fact that no one jumped in or called 911 as one of his officers was being assaulted by the person he was trying to arrest. (Video of both incidents at linked site, but not embeddable.)

“I was horrified. I’m frightened for my cops,” Chief Thomas Nestel said reacts [sic] to surveillance video.

Police said the suspect, Ernest Hays, was avoiding arrest and threw SEPTA police officer Samuel Washington on the ground and then pinned him under a bench.

Officials said he was wanted in connection with a SEPTA ticket scam when Officer Washington stopped him. The chief said not a single SEPTA passenger called for help but this lady did take out her phone to record the fight.

Eventually, a cashier at the station did call 911, once she was “apprised” of the situation by the officer kicking the glass while underneath the bench.

“To go out every day they work really hard and try to make it easy for people and make people feel safe but they rely on people to help. It’s starting to take its toll and it’s really concerning me,” Chief Nestle said.

To experience the disconnect in full, all one needs to do is read the comments accompanying the article.

Yeah, I wouldn’t have called either. These cops are thugs and they shouldn’t be surprised when the people aren’t on their side.

All I see in that video is gang on gang violence. Cops don’t make people feel safer, neither is that their job by dictate of the supreme court. There is a new video every week, almost every day, of cops forcing people to stop filming (and in some cases calling 911) when cops are abusing citizens. I can totally understand citizens saying they’d help- to a camera and after the fact… but in the moment, thinking, “meh… its a cop. Cops arrested my family member. Cops stole my property. Cops scared my family last week. Cops were rude to me yesterday. That’s probably a corrupt cop anyway. Someone else can help him.”

If the below comments suggest anything, it’s that the Philadelphia police department has a bigger problem than folks not calling the police when they’er out manned. They appear to have lost the respect and trust of the citizenry.

The fact is that a certain number of citizens aren’t going to come to a cop’s defense simply because they’ve seen too much abuse occur at the hands of cops. When law enforcement struggles with an arrestee, they’re not too shy about bringing in several more officers to help out, or just sending an attack dog after them. They’re also in possession of several more weapons than most citizens carry — including pepper spray, batons, tasers and guns.

The odds are stacked in favor of police officers. When one is suddenly unable to avail himself of all the weapons at his disposal, police leadership seems to think the public should jump in and save their “heroes,” or at least call 911.

Over at PINAC’s writeup of the event, the oft-arrested/hassled photographer Carlos Miller points out why that’s a bad idea.

I admit I would be the one video recording, not necessarily because I wouldn’t want to help the cop, but because pulling out my camera and recording is very instinctive for me, while dialing 911 is anything but.

In fact, my instinct is to avoid calling 911 at all costs because I don’t trust police enough not to turn me into a suspect when they arrive, which we have seen happen numerous times in the past.

Beyond the chilly relationship between citizens and cops are further factors, legal and otherwise, that Chief Nestle isn’t considering when he expresses his shock at the public’s inaction.

First, there’s the Bystander Effect. Very basically, the more people present in a situation, the less likely that someone will offer aid. Two factors that came into play during this beatdown are empathy and the “diffusion of responsibility.” Many people simply don’t empathize with cops, even when a citizen has gained the upper hand. This disconnect leads directly to less altruistic behavior. The more someone empathizes with the victim, the more likely they are to respond. Judging from the majority of the comments under the news report, it’s very unlikely that any crowd would be filled with empathetic individuals.

The diffusion of responsibility makes this lack of empathy even worse. While no one would be willing to risk injury and help the cop out, one would think it would be simple enough to call 911 and report the fight. The problem is that it’s too easy. The overriding assumption by many in the crowd would be that, with so many people around, surely one of them had called 911 already. Why tie up the line by calling it in again? Not only that, but the public is well aware that there are numerous CCTV cameras in use at the station. If nothing else, they would likely assume that whoever’s monitoring those has already called for backup. Why be redundant?

A third factor is liability. Deciding to help the officer out by attempting to subdue the aggressor opens that person up the all sorts of problems. In addition to the chance that said “hero” could be seriously injured or killed, that person could also find themselves facing a personal injury lawsuit in the future if the subdued person sustains any sort of debilitating injury (or can find a doctor willing to sign off on something debilitating but objectively unverifiable). Does anyone honestly believe the city would jump into that lawsuit and pay for the legal defense/settlement in return for the person’s assistance? Highly doubtful. Most cities work as hard as they can to minimize liability exposure. Inserting itself into a personal injury lawsuit doesn’t minimize exposure. Encouraging people to come to the aid of distressed officers, as Nestle seems to be doing, certainly doesn’t do that either.

So, while Nestle expresses shock and distress over the fact that a cop was beaten up while others went on with their lives, he fails to consider there’s more to it than simply, “People don’t care about cops.” That’s an undeniable factor but it’s hardly the only one.

Nestle also points to another situation earlier that week when two plainclothes officers were less than successful in subduing a single perp. Again, no one jumped in and no one called 911. I’m not sure what sort of sympathy he’s trying to elicit here, but why should anyone be tempted to come to the assistance of three people fighting? If these cops were any good at disguising themselves, no one would know they were cops. How many people would call 911 to report a fight in the subway, much less jump into the fray, even without all of these other factors considered?

There’s that disconnect again. Somehow the chief feels the public isn’t doing enough police work. They should be willing to call 911 and break up random fights just in case some plainclothes officers are involved. It’s so far past reality, it’s almost delusional. But most troubling is the fact that Chief Nestle simply doesn’t realize how damaged the relationship between cops and citizens really is. And if he doesn’t see that, then it’s impossible to fix.

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Comments on “Philly Transit Police Chief Shocked That No One Came To The Assistance Of A Cop Being Assaulted By A Suspect”

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mariush (profile) says:

There’s also the case of the last posting on Pinac showing several cops jumping and beating a kid who was shouting at them from across the street.
Apparently, the kid was so hard to control that a cop with a dog had to come and unleash his dog on the kid injuring him.

See the post and videos in the links in the post:

I wonder what would have happened if a regular person were to jump in, to try to “help” the four cops.

Stuart Gray says:

Re: Re:

Do not forget another major reason why very few people would help.
Police have been training citizens for decades now that as a citizen they have no business getting involved. Stopping crime is the exclusive domain of the police now. They wanted it that way and now they have it.

Ohh. And in general.
Police in big cities are just another rival gang.

PRMan (profile) says:

More comments

“In the past I would have automatically helped the officer but after three officers stormed my business pointing guns at me only to find out they had the wrong address, I would definitely want to know the situation and if the punk was in uniform or if it was the other guy!”

“Calling for what? So the police while responding in such a high level of intensity can maim or kill 3 or 4 innocent bystanders?”


John Fenderson (profile) says:

There was a day

There was a day when cops were generally perceived as being part of the community, as being neighbors (excepting for certain areas and communities, but they were the exception, not the rule).

Then cops decided that they needed to become essentially a domestic military and started looking at the non-cop population as just “criminals that haven’t been caught yet” and started treating them accordingly.

The us vs them mentality that dominates the relationship between the public and the police (and it exists on both sides) was started by the cops. They are reaping what they’ve sown.

AzureSky (profile) says:

Re: There was a day

you mean like when a guy is accused of anything by a woman, and the cops assult and arrest him no questions asked….

then when they find out the guy was 3000 miles away, they beat him up some more, then tell him hes free to go…and walk 5-10-15-20-30-40-50miles home….oh and no, you cant use the phone to call a ride….

happened to me…..and i wasnt even the guy she accused….it was a friend of mine….i hadnt seen in almost a year…..
tunes out, he was in jail during the alleged assault…..

That One Guy (profile) says:

It's called 'Consequences of your actions and reputation' chief

Depends on the city mostly, but if the police in a given area have a reputation for being just as bad, just as dangerous, and just as indiscriminately violent as the criminals they are dealing with, it’s not surprising that no-one would feel like helping out when they get in trouble, for the same reason you’d be hard pressed to find someone willing to jump between two gang members beating the crap out of each other.

Anonymous Coward says:


“To go out every day they work really hard and try to make it easy for people and make people feel safe but they rely on people to help. It’s starting to take its toll and it’s really concerning me,” Chief Nestle said.

At this point in time I feel more threatened by the law than I do the common criminal.

I can at least pull out a gun and shoot the first criminal stupid enough to accost me or mine, but I cannot do the same against an officer of the law. They could instead shoot me right in the face and they get a citizen funded vacation for their trouble.

As a previous commenter said… it works both ways. You will find how fast your local serfs will turn their back on their lords when it becomes convenient.

Anonymous Coward says:

I totally understand and sympathize with the commenters and the witnesses who didn’t help.

That said, it’s still really sickening. I am strongly opposed to the direction law enforcement has chosen in this nation, and I am offended and frightened by the way they view me as a regular citizen. But still – a human being was being attacked and nobody helped them. That’s just completely cold and personally I’m more than a little disheartened by all the people that seem to be happy about it.

It’s possible to oppose the system, even to the point of outright rage, without losing one’s humanity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

That is a very immature view to take, and doesn’t explain the sheer joy some of you seem to be taking away from this story. Or am I to believe the poster above who wrote under the subject “HA!” was personally caused pain by the officer beaten in this story?

Nobody has any empathy these days. What a shame.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I am the guilty Anon Coward that wrote Ha! This was not said in mirth, it was said for emphasis.

I was not personally injured by this particular officer, “that I know of”, but I have had more than my share of malevolent law enforcement because I happen to have a miscreant for a family member. And since the general rule of law enforcement is that you are guilty by association, I can only return the same rule to them. A dirty cop beaten by a dirty criminal is not much for me to care about.

Now when you can prove to me that cops have cleaned up their act, then you can sure bet I will be once again rooting for the boys in blue. Until then… please forgive the indifference of the wronged.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

What do you mean? I have empathy! The guy who dropped the cop probably bruised his knuckles, maybe even strained something. Poor fellow. Had to do it all alone.

But I’m pretty sure that a few years down the road, when a cop goes down, the crowd will join in. It’ll just take a few more instances of these blue jacketed thugs breaking and entering the wrong address, shooting the family pet, all “excused” by someone, somewhere, making a personal choice about what to take into their own body.

Yeah, it’s just great, arrest records public to everyone, felons subjected to never being forgiven, forced into a permanent lower class…. 3 million behind bars, most of whom are going to get out and be unable to find legitimate work and anything even remotely resembling legal and legitimate upwards mobility… yep, I’m sure that’s going to work out real well. Nothing could go wrong there, right?

For all you looky-loos that love the perp photos and cry out to never forgive a felon, one day you’re going to wake up and smell the consequences of your actions. Probably right from the armpit of one of those permanently disadvantaged you helped create.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I wonder, if the roles had been reversed and it was the lone cop beating the crap out of the suspect he was arresting, if you would still feel the same way? Should someone have helped stop it then? Until the answer to that is an unequivocal yes and responding as such wasn’t a guaranteed one-way ticket to, at minimum, a holding cell and at worst a criminal conviction I’m OK with how this turned out.

RadialSkid (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No, it wasn’t a human being, it was an officer. They sacrifice their humanity the moment they pin their badges on. Police cannot be spoken to nor reasoned with, and do as much as possible to distance themselves fromn their personality. Mindless automatons, operating off of fixed protocol that they won’t go against, unless it’s it deny a citizen his or her rights.

NEVER think of them as human. Not until the badge comes off.

Matthew A. Sawtell (profile) says:

When we bare witness to a reflection of ourselves...

… can we lock gaze or merely stare at the ground until the reflection goes away? Having had front row seat to the cycles of violence in Detroit and Chicago, and the ‘code of silence’ that has accompanied it, I dare say that we have. ‘Bread and circuses’ only distract so much, as it appears that we have no totally succumbed into a group malaise that cultural fabric, like what I have personally witnessed in P.R. China. Yet the ghost of Kitty Genovese and still stalks the collective mind of the general public.

Anonymous Coward says:

Here is how it would happen

Citizen goes to the aid of cop.

Other police officers arrive.

They presume that both citizens are attacking the cop and deploy batons, tasers, attack dogs, boots, fists and pepper spray.

They continue to beat BOTH citizens until they’re unconscious, then handcuff their hands behind their backs and beat them some more.

IF either citizen survives this torture, then they’re charged with assault, resisting arrest and whatever else they can come up with.

At trial, all the cops lie about what they saw and what they did. Members of the public bring in their video recor….oh, no they don’t because the cops confiscated all the phones and somehow the recordings got accidentally erased.

Conviction on all counts follows swiftly, as does incarceration. Generously assuming either survives that, they’re now not only a convicted criminal, but an easy target for any cops that want to do what they do best: sadistically beat, rape and torture a helpless citizen that nobody will ever believe.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Re: Here is how it would happen

Just the fact that the above comment got rated insightful is further proof of how all of those here as well feel the same as the citizenry there.

We all just feel that the cops are no longer on their side. We don’t feel this way just because, but we feel this way because cops around the country are working overtime to make sure that we feel this way. If they can’t see why, then maybe they should take some time to reflect and possibly read these discussions online. Might help them figure things out of their aren’t overly closed minded.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

Scenarios like this were bound to happen and I’ve been warning people about this for the longest time.

When you have police officers arresting Americans because they are videotaping cops in public and confiscating the video footage and deleting them or you have police officers who keep killing Americans such as that cop who ran over a little girl and then shot and killed the father who jumped to defend his daughter by attacking the cop who ran over his infant daughter or the homeless man in Michigan who was shot to death by a hail of bullets, 69 bullets flew and the man presented no danger.

Then, what about that homeless father who was beaten to death by several city cops, state police and sheriffs deputies …

If the police officers in the city where I live acted like that, I wouldn’t jump to the assistance of that officer either. But, we happen to have a respectable police department who doesn’t act that way. But, our police department where I live is rare, indeed.

Anonymous Coward says:

As many times as I have read of wrongly executed warrants, often mistakenly taking place at the wrong address, of family pets shot in the process, of people thinking they were being burglarized and shot for attempting to protect their property, of items such as what happened with Occupy Wall Street across this nation, and of the many intrusions such as recording all in your cell phone for being stopped for a traffic violation, not to mention police somehow thinking they need APCs for their duty, yeah, I have a problem with the attitudes of cops as well as their methods.

If there is any mistake in this, it is on the part of policemen now turned into a paramilitary force willing and able to shoot on sight and ask questions later.

If the mayor of this city or any other thinks that somehow the citizens are going to stand up for the cops when they carry out their duties this way, he’s been living in a cloud of never never land.

People help people who deserve it. Right now the cops of this nation are jailing ever more people to the point that now states are seeing a problem with their budgets in this.

Under these circumstances, cops have created their own problems. They are receiving the same help they have offered to citizens. There is a strong disconnect between how they view themselves and how they view the citizens they are supposed to serve, not lord it over.

Nick (profile) says:

It’s been drilled into us enough times that if we do anything heroic or out of the ordinary, we can be found liable for just about anything. Someone drowning in the river? Jump in and save them? City sues you for swimming in a public water-way. Help police subdue a fleeing criminal? Arrested for “interfering with police business.”

What’s to say the civilian wouldn’t have a case against us for assault? Very VERY basically police can get away with subduing since they need to do it for their jobs, but even then people have been known to try suing anyway after being arrested and fighting back during, say, a drug bust. We as a random hero citizen would have NO protections at all, and the police have told us way too often that vigilantism is NOT to be supported.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Good Samaritan laws are limited in scope. For example, I’m certified in wilderness first aid — but I’m not a wilderness EMT. So if I act within the scope of my certification, I’m covered, but if I step outside it (even with the best of intentions) I may well be screwed.

Moreover, those laws don’t prevent people from being sued. They may help them win in court, but they still have to go through that entire process, with all the upfront expenses, all the stress, etc. to be vindicated.

And those laws don’t exonerate anyone from criminal charges. If, in this case, an intervening citizen tackled the pair and broke the cop’s rib, that citizen would be screwed, because there’s no way the City of Philadelphia is paying for that: they’re going to prosecute the citizen and THEN try to extract damages from them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I'd have helped

Didn’t btr1701 mention in some comment many moons ago being from some sort of law enforcement agency (forgot which one)?

That would mean he has the kind of training that not only would allow him to intervene effectively, but also would predispose him towards intervening.

It would also mean that he could probably get out of any trouble he might get into by attempting to help, just by showing the correct kind of identity document at the right time.

Normal citizens do not have either the training or the “get out of trouble for doing the right thing” identity document.

Jared (profile) says:

Do unto others

In New York a guy was getting stabbed and the transit police were on the other side of the door and they said they were under no obligation to help the man. Why is the public under obligation to help the officers?

As others who said, why would we interevene when one is armed and his armed buddies are on the way. You may get thrown in jail as they may think you are attacking the officer as well. Its a tough call but no good deed goes unpunished in this litigious society.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Do unto others

While NYC has treated a resident contemtably, It could have done better, does NYC have a victim of crime fund? NYC could have made this member of the public happier by letting him know the officers were disciplined, with say a loss of 5 years seniority, maybe the city doesn’t bill the fellow for the ride to the hospital on a city ambulance he needed so he could get the stab wound sown up. and just for the small price of not suing the city

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yes and no, the biggest factor that makes it so people don’t trust any cop is simply: how do you tell the good from the bad before it’s too late?

Given the ‘good’ cops have shown effectively no desire at all to curb the actions of the bad ones (hello blue wall of silence), they all, rightly or not, get treated as untrustworthy at best, a potential threat to life and limb at worst.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“How do you tell the good from the bad with ANYONE?”

You can’t. But, the fact that there exist situations where “bad” cops are apparently working for years, then let off with paid suspensions for crimes that anyone else would be jailed for, means that people assume the worst.

“It seems like cops are the ones where it’s OK to reduce an entire, diverse group of people to their lowest common denominator, and to be PROUD OF IT”

A chosen profession isn’t a protected class. If you choose a career, be prepared to either accept or fight to improve the image of that profession.

“Any other group and you’d get your face chewed off.”

Rubbish. people talk the same way about Muslims, politicians, gang members, meth heads, lawyers, bankers, etc.

The difference is, one of those groups have the legal right to remove your freedom, and even shoot you, if they feel they have a reason. Trust is earned, and if a group who is meant to be trusted hasn’t earned it, that’s not on the heads of the people who don’t trust them.

As I write this, the newest story on TD is of a normal citizen who was harassed because he was out at the “wrong” time of night on a regular basis, became paranoid about said harassment to the point he started recording the confrontations, was then arrested for daring to record them and then spent 3 years trying to get an injunction to protect him in future. If that’s the sort of interaction people have with police when they’re doing nothing wrong, of course people are going to talk shit about them.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Actions, reputation, that sort of thing, and sorry to say, but police as a whole these days tend not to have that great of a reputation, as even the ‘good’ ones don’t seem interesting in reigning in those that present real dangers to the public, their property, and their rights.

If you can’t trust the police to keep themselves in check, and you can’t trust the courts(In a cop vs. suspect statement clash, the court will almost always side with the cop’s version of things, unless presented with clear, irrefutable counter-evidence) to keep them in check either, assuming the worst, while possibly unfair to the ‘good’ cops, is the safer course of action sadly.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You can’t, of course.

It seems like cops are the ones where it’s OK to reduce an entire, diverse group of people to their lowest common denominator

The difference is that it’s a matter of self-preservation. Cops wield a lot of power and authority. Mistaking a bad one for a good one comes with real, life-altering consequences. Making that mistake with most other groups of people does not.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“How do you tell the good from the bad with ANYONE?

It seems like cops are the ones where it’s OK to reduce an entire, diverse group of people to their lowest common denominator, and to be PROUD OF IT.”

As you say, there are bad cops and good cops. However, if the good cops don’t do anything about or cover for the bad cops, we have to recount how many good cops there are.

If the citizens cannot trust the good cops to protect them from the bad cops, then the citizens cannot trust any cop.

Bergman (profile) says:

No special relationship

The courts, all the way up to the US Supreme Court have repeatedly ruled that police have no duty whatsoever to protect or defend individual citizens unless some sort of special relationship exists (dad’s a cop and his kid is attacked, paying an off-duty cop as a security guard, etc).

But the reverse is also true. Private citizens have no special relationship to the police either. And without such a special relationship, citizens have no duty to aid police.

John Nemesh says:

Are we REALLY going to help the police?

I dont know about other ares, but Seattle area police have gotten so bad, they have to have a special monitor to ensure that they don’t abuse their power. There has been a consistent pattern of abuses for YEARS! They intimidate, they abuse their power. They KILL people without cause! My reaction to watching a cop get beat down by the suspect would be to cheer the suspect on!

There is a HUGE disconnect here. And it’s the fault of the government, local, state and federal, that it’s there. We have turned into a true police state, with every communication monitored, every move we make tracked by our cell phones, every monetary transaction logged. Step out of line, just a little bit, and you get thrown in jail or prison for a long time. Hell, just driving to work is an exercise in paranoia! Especially if your skin isnt a happy shade of pink! Heaven forbid you wear a turban or a head scarf or look any different from the majority! Then you are REALLY in trouble!

If the police want the citizens respect, they are going to have to quit their unconscionable behavior, stop the harassment of innocents, and EARN our trust back! Until then, they can all burn in hell for all I care.

Anonymous Coward says:

never help police just call 911 if u want

if you help there is no way to know if you will be seen as helping or as helping the bad guy and if the bad guy wins did you assist him killing the pig?

if backup arrives they don’t know your not the main bad guy you might die before that is cleared up in a back room somewhere

helping in person is a great way to die or life in jail

there is no reason to die or jail

Anonymous Coward says:

They should be willing to call 911 and break up random fights just in case some plainclothes officers are involved. It’s so far past reality, it’s almost delusional.

I think this goes way too far. If you see three people fighting, then you should always call 911, because three people are fighting. Who cares if they’re undercover cops or not?

All of the above rationale really only justifies not physically involving yourself in the situation. Calling for help is only the sane, decent thing to do.

Luke says:

This story tells a lot more about the public’s view of the police force than what’s presented at first glance. To me it’s interesting that there was no emotional connection between the everyday citizens and the police force that is there to “serve and protect”. I think that in this day and age many people feel like the police aren’t people that they actually know on a personal level.

Luke |

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m not sure why anyone is surprised by this. People are assaulted daily and no one helps, most people don’t even call 911. We had flash mobs of teenagers running the streets in Center City Philadelphia, attacking and beating people, no one stepped in to help and no one bothered calling for the police. This is what society has become.

Bob Hennesey says:


Believe it or not there are not that many cops killing people. This is based on the statics. Just in Philly alone this year young and old people are gunned down on the streets. Like over 300 homicides just in Philly, add Chicago, Detroit, and a few other city’s and the numbers are out of control. No matter how talented and honest the cop is sometimes it goes bad for them. You can hate them, and hate other people too. But would I ever let anybody die or get hurt and killed in the streets without helping them. No I would not. Id ask first if I could help you, definitely call 911. I don’t care if your black, white orange or purple I can let somebody get assaulted like that. Everybody please be safe. lets all look out for each other. Make it a better world.

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