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PHILADELPHIA CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION v. WILSON (05/25/53)

May 25, 1953

PHILADELPHIA CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION
v.
WILSON, APPELLANT



Appeal, No. 141, Jan. T., 1953, from order of Court of Common Pleas No. 6 of Philadelphia County, March T., 1952, in No. 5512, in case of Civil Service Commission of Philadelphia v. James R. Wilson. Order affirmed.

COUNSEL

Leon Rosenfield, with him John Patrick Walsh and Walsh, Tubis & Dunn, for appellant.

Abraham L. Freedman, City Solicitor, with him Richard H. Markowitz, Assistant City Solicitor and Robert M. Landis, First Deputy City Solicitor, for appellee.

Gilbert Stein, with him Joseph E. Gold, for interested parties, under Rule 46.

Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Bell, Chidsey and Arnold, JJ.

Author: Stern

[ 373 Pa. Page 584]

OPINION BY MR. CHIEF JUSTICE HORACE STERN

Appellant, James R. Wilson, was a detective in the Police Department of the City of Philadelphia. In the early morning of January 5, 1952, he was off duty and in plain clothes driving his own automobile behind a truck that was collecting garbage along the street. He followed it for several blocks, blowing his horn in order to pass it, but he was unable to do so because of its maneuvering. When it came to a stop, Wilson asked the driver to show his credentials. While he was producing them Wilson walked to the front of the truck to note its license number, whereupon it started up, allegedly swerved toward Wilson, and drove off. He thereupon fired five shots in the air and a sixth shot at the truck, but it continued on its way.

Wilson had a hearing before the Police Board of Investigation. The truck driver, his wife and a garbage loader testified that Wilson had shouted at them and threatened them. The driver testified that Wilson

[ 373 Pa. Page 585]

    pointed his gun at him and then fired several shots as the truck drove off, one of which struck the tailgate.*fn* The Police Commissioner dismissed Wilson for conduct unbecoming an officer. Wilson appealed to the Civil Service Commission, which upheld the action of the Police Commissioner. It found that Wilson's own admission that he had fired five shots in the air and the sixth "in the direction of" the truck established just cause for his dismissal because the firing of the five shots in the air was "quite unjustified" and the firing of the sixth shot at the truck was "outrageous." Wilson filed exceptions to the decision of the Commission and appealed to the Court of Common Pleas. His contention was that the Police Commissioner had specified as the reasons for dismissal that Wilson had cursed and acted in an unbecoming manner toward the operator of the truck and had fired six shots at the truck one of which pierced the tailgate, whereas no evidence was presented at the hearing before the Civil Service Commission of any such cursing or that he had fired six shots at the truck; his own story was that five of the shots were fired in the air and only one at the tires, and that this last shot did not hit the tailgate. The court pointed out there was nothing in the actions of the operator of the truck to justify. Wilson in firing his gun, and that he apparently did so only because of his annoyance at not having been able to pass the truck, there being no ground whatever for any suspicion that the operator had committed a felony. The conclusion of the court, therefore, was that the Police Commissioner and the Civil Service Commission were

[ 373 Pa. Page 586]

    amply justified in the decision they made, and that Wilson's appeal should be dismissed. He now appeals ...


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