and Jeremy Kahn Current and former University Police officers said yesterday Police Chief George Clisby and other public safety officials routinely attempt to prevent officers from testifying in court cases. Former Police officer Mary Terry, who was recently fired from the force, testified in Philadelphia Municipal Court yesterday that Clisby ordered her not to appear in court several times over the last four months. Terry, who said she refused to follow Clisby's order, was testifying in the trial of Scott Schuman, the College sophomore who was charged with hitting Terry in the jaw last April. Schuman was acquitted in the case. Officer Peggy O'Malley, chief shop steward of the University local of the Fraternal Order of Police, said last night the union has a class-action grievance currently pending against the department for interfering with officers' ability to appear in court. Thomas Seamon, managing director of Public Safety, said he had no knowledge of any FOP grievance or Terry's allegations and denied there was any departmental interference with officers' testimony in court cases. But Terry said in a telephone interview last night that she filed a formal grievance against Clisby alleging that he tried to keep her from testifying in Schuman's trial. The grievance was upheld by an arbitrator. And Terry said she knows several other police officers who have also had difficulty with either delayed or lost subpoenas -- a claim O'Malley confirmed. According to University Police policy, all subpoenas for University Police officers are delivered to Clisby's office and then distributed to the sergeants, who are responsible for giving them to the officer being asked to testify. Seamon said all subpoenas are given to officers quickly. "It is in our best interest as a law enforcement agency and as a matter of law that people get duly processed subpoenas in a timely manner," he said. But one police officer said last night that the department had a financial incentive to keep officers out of court. The officer said union rules specify that every officer who takes time to testify in court must be paid for at least four hours of work, even if they spend only minutes at the trial. "The main thing is the fact that they don't want to pay the officers overtime," the officer said. Seamon called such accusations "nonsense." "If an officer makes an arrest, we want the officer to pursue that in court," he said. "Money is not an issue at all regarding the administration of justice at the University." Terry cited several examples of ways in which police administrators have made it more difficult for officers to get their subpoenas. For instance, she said the department used to keep all the subpoenas in a book that was readily accessible to officers so they could check for upcoming court dates. But, according to Terry, Clisby told officers in January they could no longer look at the book, which he had removed. Clisby is currently on vacation and could not be reached for comment yesterday.Comments powered by Disqus
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