by Rob Taylor Jr., Courier Staff Writer
A video showing two West Mifflin police officers involved in a physical confrontation with a 15-year-old Black female student, of which one of the officers is seen pulling the girl’s braids, jolting her head backward, has local councilors calling for charges to be filed, and a local organization calling for the officers to be immediately terminated.
The cellphone video from Dec. 18, 2019, posted to the social media platform Instagram by the unnamed girl’s attorney, Paul Jubas, shows the two officers restraining the girl on a West Mifflin school bus, following reports of a fight on the bus. One of the officers then pulls her braids, prompting the girl’s head to jolt backward, which was followed by a strong verbal reaction by the other students on the bus toward the officers.
The video is about 15 seconds in length.
Advocacy group Take Action Mon Valley said in a Jan. 17 statement sent to the New Pittsburgh Courier that they “demand the immediate termination” of the two officers, “and that the Allegheny County DA (Stephen A. Zappala) file charges against the officers for excessive force.”
The statement also read: “If this was a parent, or teacher, they would be fired or placed in jail. These are children who are now traumatized by the very people who are supposed to keep them safe…this is a 15-year-old petite child who has never been in trouble with the law. She takes college-level courses at West Mifflin High School, studies Culinary Arts, is a budding entrepreneur and works at a fast food restaurant…Black women have survived the trauma and violence that comes with being a Black woman in this county…however, we will continue to reject this notion that such violence is normal…we will advocate to assure that this young lady gets justice and to send the message that we do protect Black women and girls in Allegheny County.”
Allegheny County Councilors Olivia Bennett and Bethany Hallam, in a Jan. 17 statement, are also calling on Zappala, the county DA, to file charges against the officers. “This brutal treatment of a young Black girl by officers who are supposed to protect and serve is inexcusable,” their joint statement read. “Incidents like these show us how much work we still have to do to end the school-to-prison pipeline. The attack of this young lady is further evidence of the work that still needs to be done…we stand with the family…and will do everything in our power to ensure a thorough and transparent investigation.”
Paul Jubas, the family’s attorney, also wants the officers to be fired immediately. He later said in a statement that he provided the videos of the incident to Zappala, and “we ask the District Attorney to review the eyewitness videos to determine whether one or both of the West Mifflin Police Officers should be criminally charged.”
But as of Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 21, no charges have been filed against either officer by the DA’s office, and neither officer has been fired by the West Mifflin Police Department. West Mifflin solicitor, attorney Phil DiLucente, told WPXI-TV in a Jan. 2 report that the girl in the video was charged with assaulting a police officer, and that the West Mifflin Borough police officers “acted properly at all times.”
(ABOUT THE TOP PHOTO: This screenshot photo shows a West Mifflin police officer pulling the hair of a 15-year-old Black female West Mifflin High School student, followed by an additional officer attempting to restrain the girl. The incident occurred Dec. 18, 2019.)