What Happens When Police Officers Aren't Aware of the Law?
Mark Fiorino resides in Pennsylvania, and has been mugged more than once, so he exercises his right to bear arms. Mark keeps a Glock .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol on his hip at all times. Pennsylvania allows open carry, without needing a permit under the Open Carry Law. Mark has been stopped by police in Lansdale, where the police officer knew that Mark had the right to open carry, the officer told him to have a nice day, that was that. Or they would ask Mark if he has a permit, if asked to show it, Mark would explain the Open Carry Law, and that would be fine. That is how it should be, the officer was aware of the law or would listen to Mark, and Mark was left to his business.
“There’s no law saying you can’t do it. As long as it is legally in your possession, you can carry it openly,” Fiorino said. “You need a license to carry a concealed weapon or in your vehicle, or in a city of first class status. The only one is Philadelphia.”
In Philadelphia a first-class city, to carry there one must have a permit. Mark does possess such a permit, yet he still had issues with Philadelphia officers over his open carry. Now with the help of the ACLU Mark is suing the Philadelphia police. Mark has had 3 separate disagreements with Philadelphia police over the Open Carry Law.
“They weren’t aware of it before, but they are now,” Fiorino said. “Prior to this, it seemed the officers on the street, all the way up to the gun permits division of Philadelphia, were unaware of the legality of this. Lt. Lisa King went on record that she was unaware open carry was legal until the whole thing was going down. And she’s the person in charge of the gun permits unit.”
The first was a 15 minute altercation, the officers told Mark he could not have his weapon, Mark said he could, they called in, found out they were wrong, Mark was on his way. Same issue happened in August 2010, this time they confiscated Mark's firearm, it took him 5 months to get it back. The ammo was gone, so he lost $50 in ammo. He was told the ammo was destroyed, but also told that they were holding onto it for safekeeping.
February 13, 2011 was the worst altercation. Mark was walking down the street, heard someone say "Yo Junior, what are you doing?" When he turned there was a police officer with his service weapon pointed at Mark.
Fiorino said his offer to show his License to Carry was ignored. Dougherty allegedly ordered Fiorino to get on his knees or “I am gonna shoot ya,” according to the ACLU.
The ACLU said Fiorino was verbally abused and humiliated by several other Philadelphia officers who showed up at the scene. Fiorino told police several times he was legally allowed to carry a weapon and referred to the new policy, according to the ACLU.
After 45 minutes, with Fiorino handcuffed and face-down on the sidewalk, according to the lawsuit, Fiorino was released with no charges. Most of the incident was audio-taped.
Mark would later post the audio recording on youtube. This resulted in charges of disorderly conduct and recklessly endangering another person against him and equal jail time. Officers came to Mark's place of work to serve the warrant for his arrest, Mark was away on vacation. When he found out about it, he turned himself in and spent 16 hours in a jail cell before being released on bail. A week later he would be arrested again due to police not clearing the warrant.
The lawsuit seeks damages for Fiorino’s monetary losses, the violation of his rights and additional harm, according to the ACLU.
“My biggest issue is lack of training and the fact that I was harassed repeatedly and abused and treated like a criminal when I’m exercising my right as an American,” Fiorino said. “Not to mention the fact that frivolous criminal charges were brought against me in retaliation because Philadelphia Police were exposed for not knowing the law.” From the Lower Gwynedd-Ambler-Whitpain Patch.