The Philadelphia police officer seen in a TV news video striking a civilian after a car chase—at least once while he was handcuffed—was identified yesterday by department sources as Michael Collins, a 14-year veteran.
The civilian, who in the WCAU-TV (Channel 10) news video is seen being struck eight times by the officer, was identified as Charles Baum, 30, of Kensington.
This week’s airing of the tape on NBC’s Today Show and on other networks brought national attention to the incident, which occurred last Thursday night and echoes a 2000 incident when a TV news crew taped 14 city police officers involved in beating another suspect, Thomas Jones.
In that instance, the suspect was black and most of the officers were white. In the latest case, the suspect is white and the officer is black.
The Channel 10 news helicopter crew made the video while responding to reports of a police chase. The video, which was made near Roosevelt Boulevard and the Woodhaven Road Expressway, shows two police officers apparently struggling with Baum, who is on the ground. A third officer jumps out of a patrol car, runs to join the other officers, drops to his knees, and strikes Baum seven times.
Seconds later, as Baum is being led in handcuffs to a police car, the third officer jumps forward and hits him on the side of his head.
Baum was later given traffic citations but not charged with a crime. Police have said he was a burglary suspect.
The Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission, created in 1994 to investigate complaints of police misconduct, says it gets 160 to 180 complaints a year, but few alleging police beatings.
“Maybe 10 or 15 might be characterized as a serious-physical-abuse kind of complaint,” Calvin Anderson, the deputy director, said yesterday. “Incidents similar to the one we saw on videotape are relatively rare.”