Officer Involved in Philadelphia Airport Incident is Up for Promotion

A Philadelphia police officer who has cost the city and an insurance company nearly $1 million in legal settlements is up for promotion to detective, a police spokesman acknowledged yesterday.

If approved, Officer Kenneth Fleming - who last week was the subject of a disciplinary hearing for an incident in which he nearly paralyzed a minister at Philadelphia International Airport - would be promoted at a Dec. 19 ceremony.

"Fleming is going through the process of pre-promotional training," Inspector William Colarulo confirmed.

As part of the process, Fleming, 45, will go before a pre-promotion interview board, which will assess his record. He also may be subject to a physical examination.

"The board then makes a determination of whether [a candidate is] suitable for promotion," Colarulo said.

Fleming could not be reached for comment. For a previous story, he did not respond to several requests for an interview.

A representative of Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police, the city police union, was unavailable for comment.

When someone seeks a promotion to detective, the person must apply, must meet certain eligibility requirements, and then must pass a written examination. The exams are graded and the candidates ranked on an eligibility list.

Colarulo declined to discuss Fleming's rank or his chances of getting the promotion.

Fleming, a 24-year veteran of the force, has been the subject of more than a dozen Internal Affairs investigations.

He has been called a liar by Internal Affairs investigators. He also has been the subject of an investigation into whether he provided false testimony in court cases. Internal Affairs did not sustain the complaint.

Internal Affairs investigators found that he punched a court officer before a sitting judge while court was in session in 1995. The District Attorney's Office investigated the incident for more than a year and then declined to prosecute. The Police Department suspended Fleming for three days.

In 1999, Fleming was caught on videotape conducting a strip search in public of a man during a car stop in North Philadelphia as part of a narcotics investigation. As a result, Fleming was suspended for 30 days without pay and transferred to the auto pound, where he would have minimal contact with the public.

He challenged the transfer in arbitration and won, and subsequently was reassigned to the airport.

In 2003, Fleming had an altercation with Jorge Granados, a 52-year-old pastor who had just returned home on a flight from the Dominican Republic.

Fleming was ticketing a minivan driven by Granados' wife. While the minister attempted to load luggage into the minivan, Fleming alleged that Granados grabbed his arm and "stepped into my personal space."

Fleming later testified that he used a "control hold and a take-down maneuver" to slam Granados to the ground and arrest him.

Three days later, Granados required spinal surgery to prevent the possibility of paralysis. He still has a plate screwed to his spine from the operation. A company insuring the airport for the city paid Granados $750,000 in August to settle a lawsuit.

Late last month, a police disciplinary board held a hearing - which was closed to the public - on Fleming's alleged use of excessive force on the minister.

The board has made a recommendation, but it has not been disclosed. Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson will make the department's final decision on whether Fleming's action warrants any punishment.

In the meantime, if Fleming is promoted, under departmental practice he would be transferred from the airport to a new assignment.

Philadelphia Inquirer

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