PENN HILLS, Pa. (KDKA) — Leaders in Penn Hills say police officers were justified in how they handled an arrest last week.
An online video showed officers holding Jamal Bowles-Wilds, 21, face down on the street after a traffic stop. Bowles-Wilds is held in a headlock and even bitten by a police dog.
The video sparked demonstrations. Critics said that officers used an excessive amount of force. And Tuesday morning, officials in Penn Hills held a meeting regarding the footage.
“We have a good reputation that we want to uphold, so when we see things like this, obviously we are concerned and we understand the public’s concern,” says the township’s municipal manager, Scott Andrejchak.
Officials say the video doesn’t show the events that led to Bowles-Wildes being taken down by police.
Penn Hills Police Chief Howard Burton says it started after the young man made an illegal U-turn and was stopped by police. According to the chief, Bowles-Wildes’ windows were tinted and he would only roll them down a few inches.
“The officer could smell marijuana coming out that crack in the window,” Burton says. “So the officer asked the individual, he said, ‘Hey, I can smell marijuana coming out of your car, please step out of the car.”
Police say Bowles-Wildes ignored several orders before finally showing his license and getting out of the car. Then, they say, things turned violent.
“The officer tells him, ‘Put your hands up on the roof of the car,’” Burton explains, “pat down, for officer safety.” But, he says, “the individual refused to do that and instead tried to walk past the individual officer.”
Then, Burton says, “the officer said you got to stay here and talk to me, and he pushed him — he shoved the officer — and tried to leave.”
Chief Burton says his officer responded appropriately.
Ken Huston, with the Allegheny East NAACP, says that young men must learn to cooperate when stopped by police. “If you’re stopped, obey what they ask you to do,” Huston says.
“If they ask you to put your hands out the window, put your hands out the window. If they ask you to turn your car off, turn your car off. Don’t give them any reason to say that you’re disobeying orders.”