Lower Merion Officer Charles Murphy pulled over Chaine Jordan on Jan. 8 for the relatively mundane infraction of following a car too closely.
What happened next resulted in Murphy’s suspension and generated protests by his fellow officers, who believe the punishment meted out to him went beyond what was fair and just.
After pulling over during the stop, Jordan refused orders from the officer to get out of the vehicle or roll down her tinted windows. Murphy said he would break the window and threatened to use a Taser. He tased her twice when Jordan refused to cooperate and provide officers with proof of insurance and her driver’s license.
Police officials initially moved to suspend Murphy for one day due to minor department policy violations. But on March 8, the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners extended it to 10 days.
“We had no words,” local Fraternal Order of Police President John Iushewitz told DVJournal regarding the lengthy sentence.
Between 125 and 150 Lower Merion officers protested on Wednesday in support of Murphy, with a particularly strong presence from the Fraternal Order of Police.
“I would like to thank the FOP members who showed up,” Iushewitz said, praising them for “support[ing] our brother who is being unjustly punished.”
Iushewitz claimed this is the first controversy of its kind in the town since the police department was created in 1900. To Iushewitz’s knowledge, no board in Pennsylvania has ever overturned a punishment in this manner.
“We agree the officer should face discipline, but the discipline has to match the details,” Iushewitz said on Police 1. “There was no excessive force, no bias. I’ve asked anyone to explain why 10 days, and nobody can.”
Meanwhile, local NAACP President Brian Reese-Turner argued that Jordan’s civil rights were violated. Jordan is Black, while Murphy is White.
“We’re post-George Floyd,” Reese-Turner told a local PBS station. “And I think anybody in this community has to recognize what that means when anybody is in that type of situation and the level of stress that they’re under. ”
Iushewitz indicated an overzealous environment is handicapping police from doing their work.
“The officers are afraid to do the job they love,” Iushewitz said. “Not afraid of the criminals but in fear that one viral video will lead them to be treated unfairly or unjustly.”
“They are fearful they may be seriously injured or killed,” he continued. “The officer is fearful they may have to use force to protect themselves or others and fearful they will be crucified on social media by people who have never walked in their shoes.”
Jordan was ultimately charged with resisting arrest, fleeing an officer, driving with a suspended license, and drug charges after oxycodone was allegedly recovered from the vehicle, police said.
Iushewitz said he understands public concerns with proper policing but points out that a police officer never knows if the driver of a car he pulls over might pull out a gun and be prepared to use it.
“What happens to the next officer who gets fired from this?” Iushewitz asked. “This was not about race. There were no unlawful actions taken.”