A Pennsylvania police officer who was recorded using a Taser on an unarmed black man in a widely shared video will not be fired or suspended, officials said.
Danene Sorace, the mayor of Lancaster, Pa., acknowledged at a news conference on Friday that some members of the community would find the decision “extremely upsetting.”
“So who is accountable?” she asked. “I am. I am accountable, as mayor, for existing policies, procedures, training, hiring practices and more. It’s on me.”
The episode, which took place on June 28, remains under investigation by the police and the prosecutor’s office. Preliminary findings showed that the officer complied with use of force and Taser policies, which allow an officer to use force when a suspect fails to respond to multiple verbal commands, Ms. Sorace said.
Video of the episode has been viewed more than 2.8 million times on Facebook and more than 6.2 million times on Twitter.
The footage showed the officer, Philip Bernot, repeatedly asking Sean D. Williams to straighten his legs as Mr. Williams was sitting on a curb.
“Legs straight out or you’re getting Tased,” Officer Bernot said.
Mr. Williams started to straighten his legs. Another person can be heard yelling, “Put your legs straight out and cross them now.”
Mr. Williams started to bend his knees, bringing the soles of his feet together, and Officer Bernot, who was standing behind Mr. Williams, used the stun gun on him.
Officer Bernot could not be reached for comment on Saturday, but the Lancaster City Bureau of Police described in a statement what happened in the moments before.
Officers stopped Mr. Williams after receiving a 911 call about a man with a baseball bat, the police said. When one of the officers arrived, there was no bat to be found, but the officer saw three people telling Mr. Williams to get away from them, the statement said.
The officer told Mr. Williams “several times” to sit down and he refused to comply, the police said. Instead, he kept asking a woman in the group to give back his Social Security card.
A couple of minutes later, Officer Bernot arrived and instructed Mr. Williams to sit on the curb, the police said. The group of people later told the police that Mr. Williams had exhibited “erratic behavior” and “wanted to fight.”
The police said Mr. Williams was found to have an outstanding criminal warrant for possession of a controlled substance and public drunkenness. He was arraigned and released on $5,000 bail.
One of Mr. Williams’s lawyers, Brian R. Mildenberg, said on Saturday that it was “outrageous” Officer Bernot would not be “removed from the streets” pending an investigation, and that the commands Mr. Williams received from the officers were inconsistent.
“On behalf of my client, I reiterate our respectful demand that this police officer be suspended pending this investigation,” Mr. Mildenberg said. “He was completely peaceful and compliant and there was absolutely no reason to use violence upon his person.”
The Lancaster branch of the N.A.A.C.P. also rejected Ms. Sorace’s account of the officer’s actions.
Mr. Williams is suing Lancaster and Officer Bernot for violating his civil rights and using excessive force, according to a complaint filed in federal court on Monday. Mr. Williams’s lawyers also hope to obtain a federal court order mandating police reforms and additional training, Mr. Mildenberg said.
According to Ms. Sorace, the city’s use of force policies were already being revised before the episode involving Mr. Williams. Under the proposed new policy, “an officer will only be able to use a Taser when faced with direct physical confrontation,” she said.
She also vowed to introduce body cameras and recruit a police force “that looks more like the community that it serves,” among other changes.
“I am sorry for the hurt, pain and turmoil this incident has caused for all involved,” she said.