Monday, October 6, 2014
Off-duty Yardley cop called 'Officer Do Nothing'
Posted: Sunday, October 5, 2014
The conduct of a Yardley police officer has been brought to the attention of local officials after he testified in a criminal case that, while off duty, he did not intervene before, during or after his roommate bit off a man’s ear during a fight outside a Newtown Township restaurant earlier this year.
On the witness stand Tuesday, Officer Charles Gillock testified in Bucks County court that he saw the attack while at the Green Parrot restaurant for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration but he did nothing to stop it or provide aid to the injured man.
Yardley Mayor Chris Harding, who oversees the police department, on Friday said that he is aware of the testimony his full-time, first-class patrolman gave during the James W. Worthington trial last week. But he said he will not comment further because the situation is a personnel matter.
Council President Joe Hunter also declined comment Friday for the same reason. The newspaper was unsuccessful in attempts to reach other council members for comment.
Yardley Police Chief James O’Neill declined comment, too, when reached Friday. He said he was driving and didn’t want to talk on the cellphone. He added that he was headed out of town and unavailable to speak until Monday. A Yardley police representative contacted about Gillock’s testimony Wednesday declined to give his name or to comment.
The newspaper was unsuccessful in reaching Gillock for comment, after sending an email and calling him at the police station Friday evening.
But a University of Pennsylvania Law School professor called Gillock’s “lack of action” surrounding the assault “highly questionable.”
“I’d be surprised if he didn’t violate some internal rules,” added attorney David Rudovsky, who practices public interest law.
Gillock, who said he is training in crowd control, testified that he never called 911 even though he yelled toward the crowd gathering at the scene of the assault that police were contacted. He told the court that he then went back into the bar and remained there after police — who were called to the scene by someone else — conducted interviews with witnesses outside the restaurant.
He told the court that he was aware of the “ear situation” while he was in the bar, but didn’t provide police a statement, saying that he “didn’t want to get involved,” according to prosecutor Robert James.
Gillock also testified that when he returned to his apartment shortly after the attack and found Worthington there, he again didn’t call police, even though he knew they were looking for his roommate in connection with the assault.
He added that he told Worthington that he should turn himself in. Worthington, 24, of Newtown, eventually did surrender, and on Wednesday was convicted in a non-jury trial of aggravated assault and recklessly endangering another person. His sentencing was deferred.
During the trial in Doylestown, Gillock also testified that he didn’t hear police knocking on his apartment door the night of the assault because his dog was barking.
Gillock refused to provide investigators with a written statement, according to James, but did testify after being subpoenaed for a grand jury and at Worthington’s trial. When he appeared before the grand jury, James told the court, Gillock laughed when shown images of 28-year-old Anthony McGeehan’s injuries, including the loss of most of his ear. Gillock blamed his reaction on nerves.
Gillock’s testimony prompted James to refer to him as “Officer Do Nothing.”
“He shouldn’t be a police officer,” said James. “He did nothing. He stood by.”
After the Worthington trial, James said Gillock did not commit a crime for failing to intervene, and that his office considers Gillock’s testimony a matter for the Yardley Police Department to address. The prosecutor declined comment on whether the District Attorney’s Office notified the borough police department, mayor or council members about the testimony.
The executive director of the Pennsylvania Police Chiefs Association in Harrisburg said police departments typically don’t take administrative action until after a criminal investigation is done in a case involving an officer’s testimony.
“I’d watch to see if anything is done, now that the criminal case is over,” Dane Merryman added.
The newspaper was unsuccessful in attempts to reach the Fraternal Order of Police Pennsylvania State Lodge for comment on off-duty officer protocol. The newspaper has requested a copy of Yardley’s code of conduct or protocols for its police department.
Generally, police departments establish their own protocols and regulations involving police conduct and ethics for officers on and off duty, said Rudovsky, the Penn law school professor, also considered one of the nation’s leading civil rights and criminal defense attorneys.
The Philadelphia Police Department, for example, he said, tells its officers they are “never” off duty, and at a minimum they are obligated to notify police if they witness a crime, Rudovsky said.
“In most departments, the rule is if you see criminal conduct make sure the police are called right away,” he added. “If you can, intervene safely before police come, do it, but if it’s a personal matter, wait for the police arrive. That is the Philadelphia (police) motto.”