Philadelphia also has a deep and ugly history of rough rides. There they call them nickel rides.
In an investigation they called "Battered cargo: The costs of the police 'nickel ride' In city patrol wagons, suspects slam into walls and slide across the floor. Paying the price are the injured and the taxpayers—not the police," the Philadelphia Inquirer, all the way back in 2001, called these rides an "enduring tradition" of the Philadelphia Police.
An Inquirer investigation documented injuries to 20 people tossed around in wagons in recent years. Thompson was one of three who suffered spinal injuries, and one of two permanently paralyzed.
Most of the victims had clean records. They were arrested on minor charges after talking back to or arguing with police. Typically, the charges were later dismissed.
Terrible story after story in Philadelphia was documented with people receiving injuries that resemble tragic diving accidents or automobile crashes. Because people have their hands cuffed behind their back, their heads and necks are exposed to sudden crashes against the walls and floor.
In spite of so many injuries in Philadelphia, not one single officer was convicted of anything. In fact, none were even charged with crimes.
Yet many wagon injuries go undetected by Internal Affairs - even some that resulted in legal settlements.
Of the 20 cases documented by The Inquirer, 11 were never investigated by the Police Department. Norris said he was not aware of the injuries until reporters asked about them.
Of the nine cases that were scrutinized by Internal Affairs, the department took disciplinary action against the wagon officers in only one - the Thompson case - and then for infractions committed after the wagon ride, not for the injury itself.
The punishment: a three-day suspension for the driver, Officer Demetrius Beasley.
A year later, Beasley was promoted to sergeant.
The stories of what happened to men and women in Philadelphia are awful.
Gino Thompson stepped into the police van an able-bodied man.
He emerged paralyzed from the waist down.
Thompson had been arrested outside a North Philadelphia convenience store after a drunken argument with a girlfriend over a set of keys. Police put him in the back of a patrol wagon, his hands cuffed behind his back.
"They took me right out of the store and into the wagon, and that's the last I walked," said Thompson, father of 11 children. "That wagon changed my whole life."
Back in Baltimore, Jeffrey Alston became paralyzed after receiving a speeding ticket when he was thrown into the back of a police van
Jeffrey Alston was left paralyzed and in need of constant nursing care after his arrest in 1997. He argued city police threw him head first into a police van in 1997 after being stopped for a speeding ticket. He suffered a broken neck. The city settled his lawsuit for $6 million.
Hands cuffed behind his back and given a rough ride by the Chicago police, plumber Freddie Franklin bit off his entire bottom lip
. A police chaplain there testified that he knew it was a common practice for area police officers to deliberately injure people in rough rides.
Until today, no known officer has been charged or convicted for one single rough ride. Maybe the pursuit of justice for Freddie Gray will change all of this.
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