Sep 10, 2018

Firing The South Whitehall Police Officer


The officer involved in the fatal shooting at Dorney Park has been fired by South Whitehall.  He was a rookie, still in the evaluation period.  While that status makes his dismissal a non issue from a legal or union point of view,  it doesn't rest well with me.  Those supporting it cite the fact that he didn't first attempt using less lethal options,  such as his taser or baton.  I think that view somewhat dismisses the circumstance....  the victim had been just earlier on the hood of his patrol car pounding the windshield with his fists.  Tasers have a reputation of not stopping drug induced rage,  which seemed to be in play on that day.

The Morning Call article announcing the firing states that the decision was made by the leadership of South Whitehall.  While the announcement mentions Chief Dorney,  it is not clear who made the decision.  In South Whitehall the leadership is the township commissioners.  New commissioner Mark Pinsley was actively supporting the protestors and local NAACP,  who viewed the incident as racial.

I cannot imagine that the decision to terminate the patrolman does much for force morale.  While I do not outright condemn the decision,  it certainly illustrates what a hard job these officers have.

33 comments:

Aaron White said...

The guy wasn’t threatening any civilians. He didn’t hurt anyone. He was just walking slowly toward the officer.

The officer could have just walked away from him.

michael molovinsky said...

aaron@5:36, i understand that this post is very politically incorrect, and I will receive pushback. i'm willing to say things that others will not even anonymously admit to. he certainly was threatening civilians only minutes earlier, that is why the police were called. he was jumping on moving cars, and in one instance punched out a side window. if he would have followed the officers instructions to stop, he wouldn't have been shot. the officer was charged and will be tried for manslaughter.

Unknown said...

I think the decision was a little premature, given that I don't think the toxicology results on Mr. Santos are available yet.

Maybe keeping the officer employed longer moves him up from probationary (employee) status, and the Township didn't want that to happen.

If not, I doubt that the Township's firing the officer will help them in the ensuing civil suit.

P.S. - I do agree Santos was a threat to civilians, as stated in the 6:01 comment. The cops were called for a reason.

Scott Armstrong said...

He wasn't threatening any civilians? Really? If someone jumps on the hood of my car and pounds on the windshield what do we call that? Good clean fun?

Aaron White said...

Mr. Santos was lumbering slowly toward Officer Santos killed him. Mr. Santos had previously been on top of a car, but was not at the time he was killed.

Scott Armstrong said...

Aaron,

Take a look at the route 33 shooting of two troopers by a single male who managed to out wrestle the two trained officers. Clearly this suspect was acting in an unusual and aggressive manner suggesting drug use.
But apparently if Officer Aaron had been there, in a split second, he would have been able to handle the situation without putting his own life and the lives of others on the line.
With people like Aaron, casting judgments from a point of ignorance, I have to wonder why anyone would want to serve and protect the public.

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

It may be time for Dorney Park to provide their own security. It is a known fact that Dorney Park has the largest number of calls for Police in the township. This was the case 20 years ago and is still true today. You can bet South Whitehall officers will be reluctant to put themselves in a vulnerable situation in the future. They may feel they they should only respond after people are injured.

JoshLCowen said...

MM's last sentence in original post says it all.

Monkey Momma said...

Having watched the video of this incident, I have to take issue with the characterization of the (now deceased) man "lumbering slowly" towards the officer. He was walking rapidly towards the officer, and he was blatantly ignoring loud verbal commands to stop. This happened immediately after he was jumping on multiple vehicles, including a police vehicle, and had smashed a window of one car. So, I can understand why the officer was terrified. It was a large, clearly unstable man, walking at a very steady clip towards him with no intention of stopping as commanded.

But, using deadly force - as opposed to a taser or pepper spray, both of which the officer had on his body at this time - was not required. The officer himself reportedly said, multiple times, "I f'ed up" when other officers arrived at the scene. I believe he was a "green" officer who lacked field experience. Furthermore, his time in a theatre of war may have trained him to shoot to kill in an identical situation, and it would be hard to turn that part of the brain "off," I'd imagine. I'm not surprised the officer used deadly force, but I believe he'll be found guilty of manslaughter.

(Also, Dorney does have their own security. They would presumably not be the appropriate personnel to call for a disturbance in the middle of Hamilton, even if it was a park patron who was causing the ruckus.)

Bartee said...

Dorney Park is private property. They have their own security in the park and on the parking lots, but DO NOT have any jurisdiction outside of their property lines. They would not respond to activities outside their jurisdiction. That is left up to the appropriate police department.

Unknown said...

Monkey Momma 10:00 am said:

"Furthermore, his time in a theatre of war may have trained him to shoot to kill in an identical situation, and it would be hard to turn that part of the brain "off," I'd imagine."


This "theory" was first put forth in a Morning Call article and should be offensive to all, particularly to anyone who has served in the military.

Veterans are not walking timebombs with internal kill switches just waiting to be triggered. In fact, the vast majority of veterans are among the most responsible people in our communities, and typically possess excellent decision-making skills - particularly in stressful situations. Many veterans serve on police forces across the country without incident.

This may be a novel theory floated by defense lawyers to soften up a jury pool, but it is an insult to reality.

Unknown said...

BTW, if the officer "f'ed up", it was likely in allowing the suspect to get as close to the officer as he did.

Another commenter reminded us of how quickly a traffic stop went bad for the State Police last year, and Mr. Santos could have easily closed the distance between him and the officer well before the officer could have reacted (with any option).

In addition, non-lethal options are great when you have other officers on the scene pointing their weapons at the suspect in case the non-lethal method fails. This cop didn't have any other backup at the time of the shooting

"I f'd up" can have many meanings, as we will surely hear during the trial.

Geoff said...

It is well past time that municipalities address training deficiencies among our police forces. If every 2-bit town is allowed to have its own police, then it is time for the Commonwealth to reinforce common standards of use of force, de-escalation, crisis management, etc. Shooting fellow citizens is impossible to take back, so training is critical to avoid these tragedies. Sadly, many municipalities seem to think it's easier to just put money towards manslaughter defenses.

It is a shame that a young man was put in a situation where he seems to have had litte recourse to assistance. Where's the police leadership's review of the matter? What could have been done better in the operations center, among shift leaders, and by peers? I find it impossible to believe that a responsible force would just say an officer "f*ed up" and wash their hands of it.

I can only echo Monkey Momma's comments on the military. The public has the right to expect good judgement.

Don said...

I believe "Herd Mentality" is ruining our rights and our nation's health.
Firing this cop in response to a loud mob is a cave in. Why not just lynch this cop now instead of ruining his life in steps??
What happened to"innocent until proven guilty??" Are there no real MEN in South Whitehall leadership?

doug_b said...

It is not a police officers job to physically engage with the citizenry. A crazed person on drugs - is responsible for his own actions. By consuming illegal drugs, the person is accepting the risk. What's even more irresponsible: if you want to 'do' drugs, do them at home - why the hell get high in public?

If this person's actions would have caused the death of a child - can you imagine the uproar when they said the cop stood aside?

You don't have many seconds to react when someone is coming towards you, and they won't obey orders to stop.

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

It is apparent that many would like a equal fight between the police and the those they interact with. They would like to see the police engage in wrestling and fighting with suspects. When suspects charge, threaten and do not obey lawful commands, they are putting themselves in danger. It is disgusting to listen to all the Monday quarterbacks, who have never been in these situations. The police do deserve the support of the community or you will soon see that the police will avoid responding to these types of situations. Possibly take the long way to the call, let the the assault actually harm or kill someone and then they will not be in jeopardy and will be able to act without risk. I suspect this officer will be acquitted or at least a hung jury.

SPEEDSTR21 said...

Let's not forget the officer allowing him to walk towards the crowd. But as soon as he turned around and walked towards the cop he was a threat? Not hard to see the blind support for bad cops. Keep up the good work bigots!!!!

SPEEDSTR21 said...

So that guy was armed. Hmmm That should be compared to this situtation. Smh

SPEEDSTR21 said...

False, the rules of engagement Bud look it up.

SPEEDSTR21 said...

So no other officer worked that day for south whitehall? He was a coward.

SPEEDSTR21 said...

Oh God, you guys make so many excuses for bad officers.

SPEEDSTR21 said...

Do normal citizens get to be after killing someone? Clearly they felt he did the wrong thing. But of course the snowflakes come to the rescue of this poor man. Lol

SPEEDSTR21 said...

It is a police officers job to protect and serve. That is for the everyone. This cop was a coward like his supporters.

SPEEDSTR21 said...

Comply or die. You people are the reason for bad apples. Keep protecting them.

SPEEDSTR21 said...

Oh what a tuff job. Bouncers deal with this daily. It's called balls. Clearly you, and this cop don't have any.

michael molovinsky said...

speedstr21, please consider in the future combining your thoughts into 1 or 2 comments

Aaron White said...

If someone were lumbering slowly toward me and was not immediately threatening me or anyone else, I would walk or run away. Maybe that makes me a wimp. But I'd rather be a wimp than a killer. If the situation changed and he started to threaten me or someone else, then that would call for a different course of action. And even if I did need to shoot the guy, I wouldn't empty my weapon into him.

If this officer had been following his training, he wouldn't have been fired or charged with manslaughter. Police departments don't hang their officers out to dry at the drop of a hat.

Unknown said...

Speedstr 21 -

Santos would be alive today had he listened to the officer. There is NO evidence of ANY racial motivation on the part of the officer.

Nobody's saying non-compliance gives an officer a blank check to shoot someone, but bad things can happen to those who don't comply.

Everyone here would be saying the same thing if the person shot was white and it was a black cop doing the shooting.

Go spew your racist cop-hate somewhere else.


Unknown said...

Aaron White said:

"And even if I did need to shoot the guy, I wouldn't empty my weapon into him."


Aaron, it's obvious that you're not interested in facts, or familiar with weapons.

From all reports, the officer fired 5 shots. That's well below the capacity of his service pistol.

So I think we can all be happy that you're not a police officer.

Also, the officer was a probationary employee, so I wouldn't assume that his dismissal is "hanging him out to dry". We have a court system designed to get all the facts and come to a reasoned decision based on those facts. It's a system that assumes those charged are innocent until proven guilty.

Why don't we let that system work and do what it was designed to do?

Unknown said...

Geoff 12:47 said:

"I can only echo Monkey Momma's comments on the military."


So military veterans can't turn the "shoot to kill" part of their brain off?

I'm guessing you never served.

Aaron White said...

The system is already working. The officer was fired and charged with manslaughter. We don't need police who indiscriminately kill unarmed people.

Whethervain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Whethervain said...

...and we don’t need a citizenry who APPEAR to be unsympathetic to the plight of what it means to be a law enforcement officer in a society that continues to exhibit its confusion with what the normal bounds of acceptable behavior are - and how to deal with its random/unpredictable outcomes.