Kearney
Kearney (.)

York County's district attorney now says his office didn't send two videotapes allegedly showing police brutality back to Springettsbury Township Police for internal review.

District Attorney Tom Kearney told The York Dispatch on Tuesday that one of, or perhaps both, the tapes "were of enough concern that we sent them back for Springettsbury to conduct an internal-affairs investigation."

On Thursday, Kearney said although he instructed a member of his staff to refer one of the tapes back to the police department, the referral didn't happen.

"That was an error on the part of this office and the responsibility rests with me," he said. "We are taking internal steps to correct that error.

Hyers
Hyers
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Kearney said after his remarks were published, he was called by Springettsbury Township Police Chief Thomas Hyers, who said he hadn't received the referral.

Mistake: Kearney said at that point, he looked into what happened and determined a mistake had been made.

He said he apologized personally and publicly to Hyers.

"It didn't cause me any difficulty whatsoever," Hyers said, adding he's appreciative Kearney set the record straight. "With all the things that go on in our public lives, these types of things happen sometimes."

Hyers said he believes being open always helps to move a community forward.

"In my 10 months here, I've been trying to establish a culture of transparency and openness," he said.


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Dashboard videos: Hyers held a press conference Tuesday morning to discuss his actions in the wake of federal civil rights lawsuits filed against township officers by two people they arrested in separate incidents.

The attorney representing the two plaintiffs last week released videos of the alleged brutality, recorded by the police department's dashboard video cameras.

At the press conference, Hyers said he asked Kearney to order an independent investigation into both incidents. Kearney said state police will conduct that investigation, then turn over their findings to him.

Hyers also placed the three officers directly involved in the arrests on administrative desk duty until the investigation is complete, which he called standard practice. They are Officers Chad Moyer and William Polizzotto Jr. and Cpl. Gregory Hadfield.

No AG probe: Camp Hill-based attorney Devon Jacob, who represents plaintiffs Steven E. Landis and Debra L. Williams, has questioned whether Kearney's office can be independent, because the tapes were "readily available" to the office, which took no action.

Jacob said he thinks the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office should conduct the probe.

On Thursday, Kearney said he did ask the state office to handle the investigation, but the office declined.

"The reason is, they didn't see it as a conflict of interest," Kearney said.

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.

Landis remains charged with resisting arrest for the incident.

Williams, 42, alleges in her lawsuit that during her April 2011 arrest she was punched and grabbed by the neck by Moyer and Hadfield. The lawsuit also claims 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.

Names added: Jacob on Thursday afternoon announced he's amended the lawsuits, adding new defendants to each.

York County is now named as a defendant in both lawsuits, and Hyers is named in the Landis suit, according to Jacob. Hyers wasn't added to the Williams lawsuit because he hadn't yet been hired as chief when she was arrested, the attorney said.

"This (move) is in direct response to the statements made by policymakers in York County in the past week," Jacob said.

He alleges Hyers had prior knowledge of the videos but failed to take action until the lawsuits were filed.

Jacob also said York County, "through its proper policymakers, should have taken action" against the officers involved, but didn't. Because of that, the county "essentially ratified the conduct," Jacob said.

-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at levans@yorkdispatch.com.