NAACP calls for firing of city officers in beating of high school student


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The NAACP Wednesday called for the firing of three police officers it says beat a high school student who was guilty only of "walking while black" in Homewood.

The Pittsburgh branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said at a Hill District news conference that the officers accused of beating Jordan Miles should be terminated and charged criminally with violating the 18-year-old's civil rights.

Mr. Miles' mother, Terez Miles, described the officers as "thugs" who attacked her son based on racial profiling.

"Every assumption that they made about my son was wrong," she said in calling for others who have been the victims of police brutality to "fight for change."

Mr. Miles was arrested Jan. 12 on charges of aggravated assault and resisting arrest.

He said he was walking to his grandmother's house when the incident with undercover officers Richard Ewing, Michael Saldutte and David Sisak occurred.

In a criminal complaint, the officers said they spotted Mr. Miles on Tioga Street at about 11 p.m. and saw a heavy object in his coat that they suspected was a concealed weapon. They said they identified themselves as police and ordered him to stop.

When he ran, the complaint says, the officers struggled with him, shocking him with a Taser and hitting him several times. The object in his coat turned out to be a bottle of soda, police said.

Mr. Miles has denied that the men identified themselves.

The officers, who ride around in what police call a "99" car, are assigned to aggressively rid problem areas of guns and drugs.

They have been removed from that duty and put in uniform while the city's Office of Municipal Investigations examines the case. The FBI, which is responsible for investigating civil rights violations, is also monitoring developments.

Pittsburgh Councilman Ricky Burgess Wednesday demanded that the officers be placed on paid leave.

"As long as these officers are active, the community will not feel safe," said Mr. Burgess, whose district includes Homewood.

The Fraternal Order of Police on Tuesday praised the officers for their efforts at removing guns from the streets and said their actions in arresting Mr. Miles were "correct and law-abiding."

But M. Gayle Moss, president of the Pittsburgh NAACP, said that "when a young man is simply walking down a street to get to his grandmother's house and is savagely beaten almost beyond recognition, we must speak out."

She also said the officers' personnel files, which she said the NAACP has, indicate that they have a history of violating people's civil rights. She wouldn't share specifics of any incidents, however.

Mr. Miles, she said, is a "good boy" who had never been in trouble. John Lewis, a lawyer representing the Miles family, said Mr. Miles has no criminal record as a juvenile or an adult.

His mother said he hopes to return Tuesday to the Creative and Performing Arts High School, where he is an honor student.


Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510. Rich Lord contributed. First Published January 28, 2010 5:00 AM


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