Wednesday, September 21, 2016 at 9:56 a.m.
Andrew Mossberg says he thought he was stopping a mugging when an undercover Miami Beach cop kicked him in the face.
Screencap via YouTube/Courtesy of Andrew Mossberg
When Andrew Mossberg, then 50, stumbled upon what he says was a man beating a woman in Miami Beach in 2013, he immediately assumed the man was a thieving bandit. So Mossberg stepped in to help. It turned out the man, Philippe Archer, was an undercover Miami Beach detective — but Mossberg says the cop still didn’t think twice about beating his face to a pulp.
After a lengthy complaint process, Mossberg sued the City of Miami Beach this past January. Yesterday he and the city settled the case — and the city paid him $100,000.
Though he says his client feels satisfied the matter is over, Mossberg’s attorney, Ray Taseff, tells New Times he hopes the settlement will compel Miami Beach (and other local police departments) to reform their discipline policies. Taseff says there were a host of red flags in Archer’s past that should have warned Miami Beach Police to remove the cop from the street. In 2012, he says, Archer was sued four times for misconduct, but the department’s “early warning” system to detect bad cops didn’t alert anyone to the suits.
“The ‘early warning’ system is a joke,” Taseff says. “It does not pick up lawsuits. Any business or any organization, if you have an employee being sued who’s costing your organization thousands, aren’t you going to look at that?” He added that this mirrors concerns civilians have with police across the nation.
Late yesterday, Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police President Bobby Jenkins issued a statement defending the undercover Beach cop.
For over 20 years, Det. Phil Archer has done an outstanding job of serving the community of Miami Beach as a member of our elite crime suppression team and gang unit. This job entails dealing with some of the city’s most dangerous and violent criminals including murderers, rapists, drug dealers, terrorists, and burglars, among others. As such, officers who work this detail are much more likely to find themselves in precarious situations that can lead to altercations with the subjects who they encounter.
But Taseff makes a strong case that Archer’s career has not reflected entirely exemplary work.
On June 26, 2013, Mossberg says, he was out on a regular evening walk with his son and dog when he saw Archer attacking the woman. Mossberg called 911 and says Archer beat the woman to the ground while the call was ongoing. Mossberg says the cop then beat him to prevent him from speaking to dispatchers.
Mossberg says the cop “judo-kicked” him twice in the head, punched him, and then threw him into an SUV’s front fender. He says three witnesses observed the attack.
Despite this, Mossberg was charged with assaulting an officer. (The charges were later dropped.) When police took Mossberg and the assaulted woman to the station, Archer posed for a photo of himself smiling with his arm wrapped around his alleged victim:
Courtesy of Ray Taseff and Andrew Mossberg
Mossberg then filed a complaint, but the department said his excessive-force complaint was “unsubstantiated.” Archer also apparently decided to kick the woman while she was back at the station — this, however, was caught on video and led to Archer’s suspension. In all, he was suspended for 160 hours.
“That was only because he was caught on camera kicking that woman in the face,” Taseff says. “This ‘trophy photo’ is indicative of the animus, the complete disregard he has. He thinks he can have his buddy take a photo like that. It’s just outrageous.”
But Taseff says there was ample evidence Archer should never have been on the street in the first place. He says that Archer was the subject of 55 internal affairs misconduct investigations and that 30 of those cases involved excessive force and false arrest. Taseff says Archer had also been sued nine times for civil rights violations.
Jenkins, the union head, disputed Taseff’s claims about Archer’s background in his statement yesterday. He accused the lawyer of making up facts to make a name for himself.
[T]here were never 55 IA investigations involving Det. Archer, and this is a gross mischaracterization on behalf of Mr. Tasseff. As always, all incidents are investigated thoroughly, and we are proud to say that Det. Archer has never done anything less than exceptional work for the department and we stand by him 100 percent as a member of our force.
It is really unfortunate that Mr. Taseff has turned the sacrifice of officers like Det. Archer into an opportunity to make a name for himself while suing cities for tax payer money, misinforming the public and tarnishing the name of good men and women who put their lives on the line to ensure that we are all safe.
In a statement, Mossberg himself said he was disappointed the city would choose to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to avoid disciplining its own officer.
“As a long-time Beach resident, I’m disappointed that the City would kowtow to the FOP and protect a violent officer who should’ve been fired years ago. The City did everything possible to avoid accepting responsibility for the heinous actions of their employee and to cast aspersions on the victims of his misconduct.” He added, “Every taxpayer in the City should be outraged that this City employee has not been fired, and demand that police officers be held as accountable as any other City employee would be.”