Springettsbury Township Police Chief Thomas Hyers said he's viewed the police dashboard-camera videos of two people who have sued the department in federal court, claiming they were beaten during their arrests by township officers.
"I think they speak for themselves," the chief said of the tapes. "And now the matter is under investigation."
He declined to elaborate on what he meant by the tapes speaking for themselves.
Hyers held a press conference Tuesday morning at the station to let the public know what his department is doing about the allegations.
"I've taken several key steps to ensure we keep the public's confidence," he said.
Hyers asked District Attorney Tom Kearney to order an independent investigation into
"It should be looked at by an independent outside agency," he said.
He also has placed the three officers directly involved in the arrests on administrative desk duty until the investigation is complete, which Hyers called standard practice. They are Officers Chad Moyer and William Polizzotto Jr. and Cpl. Gregory Hadfield.
Dashboard cams: The chief said he's glad there are cameras mounted on the dashboard of township police cruisers, and noted not all police departments want to use them.
"The cameras did exactly what they're supposed to do," Hyers said. "We choose to be open and transparent."
The cameras also allow police supervisors to gauge the performance of patrol officers, he said.
To build the public's confidence, a police department must be diligent about being transparent, according to Hyers.
"People demand it," Hyers said, adding he intends to deliver.
But Hyers also noted that people violently resist arrest on a daily basis.
Independent? Attorney Devon Jacob, who filed the federal civil rights lawsuits last week on behalf of the two people who claim to have been beaten, questioned whether an investigation into the allegations headed up by the York County District Attorney's Office can be independent at this point.
That's because the tapes previously were "readily available" to the DA's Office, which took no action, according to Jacob.
"Common sense dictates you can't be on both sides of the fence," he said.
Jacob -- who spent three years as a cop in State College and nine years defending police officers in York County -- said he thinks the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office should conduct the investigation.
The attorney also said a family member of Steven E. Landis, one of the two lawsuit plaintiffs, went to the Springettsbury Township police station less than 48 hours after Landis' arrest to complain about excessive force.
"Nothing was done," Jacob said.
No conflict, DA says: But Kearney said something was done. Prior to the lawsuits being filed at least one, perhaps both, of the tapes were brought to his attention.
"(The tapes) were of enough concern that we sent them back for Springettsbury to conduct an internal-affairs investigation," he said.
He said his office was poised to investigate at the department's request, even before the lawsuits were filed last week.
Kearney said Jacobs is wrong in thinking the DA's Office can't be independent.
"If I did not feel comfortable making the decision, I wouldn't be doing it," he said. "That's what people pay me to do - make the hard decisions. I don't see any conflict."
Kearney said it would be inappropriate at this point to share his opinion of the videos: "I'll have plenty to say after I've reviewed the completed (state police) investigation."
Protesters: Steven Kline, 28, of Yoe, said he heard about Tuesday's press conference and decided to organize a small protest in front of the Springetts police station.
He held a sign that read, "Stop police brutality," while his young son Zachary Kline held a smaller sign reading, "Lead by example."
Steven Kline pumped his fist in the air when passing drivers honked in support.
He said he has no ties to either of the people who've sued the department, but said that shouldn't matter.
"Why should I wait until something bad happens to me?" he asked, noting that from 4 to 6 p.m. nearly every day, he and brother Lewis Kline stand outside their Yoe home holding the signs.
He said he's hopeful Springettsbury Township Police are taking the brutality allegations seriously.
"I'm not anti-cop -- I love cops," he said. "But they're supposed to set an example."
The lawsuits: Landis, 57, claims in his lawsuit that while being arrested on a warrant in August, Moyer kneed him in the side, breaking five of his ribs, and that Polizzotto shocked him twice with a stun gun, according to his lawsuit.
Landis remains charged with resisting arrest for the incident.
The second federal civil rights lawsuit was filed by Debra L. Williams, 42, who alleges that during her April 2011 arrest she was punched and grabbed by the neck by Moyer and Hadfield. The lawsuit also alleges the two officers filed false incident reports about the arrest.
Prosecutors dropped the charges against her, including aggravated assault on a police officer and resisting arrest, after she agreed to plead guilty to simple assault for scratching a person prior to police arresting her, according to Jacob.
Both Williams and Landis are seeking damages, costs and legal fees.
-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.