By Joshua Albert
Last week the city settled a law suit that netted James McKenna $490,000 after police gave him the good ol’ nickel ride. McKenna was arrested back in 2011 after a quarrel happened with an off duty officer in a bar. McKenna was arrested and charged with assault charges, and later acquitted, but that’s not where things got messy writes Craig R. McCoy for The Inquirer :
“Handcuffed, but otherwise unrestrained, his suit says, McKenna was taken on a jolting and dangerous ride in the back of a police wagon. His experience echoed a practice that has a long and dishonorable tradition in Philadelphia. He alleged that he was given what police once called “a nickel ride.”
A “nickel ride” is what some police do when they want to rough you up without actually having to lay their hands on you. They put the handcuffed victim in the back of the car and make sudden stops and turns that leaves the defendant tumbling around banging against the police vehicles interior like a shoe in a dryer. In McKenna’s case, it left him him hospitalized for 11 days with three broken neck vertebrae amongst other injuries.
The events that led up to McKenna’s nightmare police ride are a little murky with officers involved and McKenna both having two different stories about what happened that night, but McKenna claims that the off duty officer involved told the transporting officer to “fuck this guy up.”
Police officials initially claimed that McKenna tried to break his own neck, however an expert medical witness that testified said his “injuries were far too serious to have been self-inflicted.” Furthermore, the officer who drove the van said in his disposition to defense attorneys that ” he had never driven a police wagon before that night.”
“128 plaintiffs received nearly $14 million in settlements from the city last year from civil-rights lawsuits filed against police.That marked a huge jump from the $8.3 million paid out for such suits in 2012, and an even bigger increase from the $4.2 million paid five years earlier. Those figures don’t include the millions paid annually to settle lawsuits from police-involved car accidents or labor and employment claims.”