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Mayor: Officer seen Tasing man sitting on curb won't be suspended

Stun gun incident caught on camera

LANCASTER, Pa. -- A Pennsylvania mayor says a police officer seen on video using a stun gun on a man as he was sitting on a curb last month will not be suspended or fired. Lancaster Mayor Diane Sorace said Friday that the officer has not violated current use of force policies, but those policies are being updated.

According to Lancaster Online, while the Lancaster Bureau of Police's internal investigation ongoing, Sorace said it's clear officer Philip Bernot complied with current use-of-force and Taser policies.

According to the website, Sorace said the current policy allows for the use of a stun gun when a person ignores multiple commands.  Sorace says the new, updated policy will allow stun gun use only when an officer is "faced with direct physical confrontation."

"I am accountable as mayor for existing policies, procedures, training, hiring practices and more," Sorace said. "It's on me."  

She says she was sorry for "the hurt, pain and turmoil this incident has caused for all involved."

Sorace reportedly said the city's investigation, when complete, will be passed to the Lancaster County District Attorney's Office to review whether the incident constituted a crime.

Twenty-seven-year-old Sean Williams, who is black, has filed suit against the officer and city police department alleging excessive force and racial profiling. The lawsuit calls the officer's actions "shockingly violent."

Williams' attorney, Brian Mildenberg, told Crimesider "it is outrageous that this police officer will not be taken off the streets pending investigation."

Bernot is seen in a video of the June 28 incident in Lancaster telling Williams to straighten his legs in front of him before deploying the stun gun as Williams is sitting and facing away from him. Williams appeared to move his legs closer to his body before he was Tased.

Officers had been responding to the report of a man with a bat, but no bat was found at the scene. Police have said that Williams didn't follow their instructions, but Mildenberg told Crimesider that Williams was "fully compliant and peaceful at all times" and was receiving inconsistent instructions from two different officers on scene, including from a second officer who told him to bend his legs.

Mildenberg said there was no reason for the stun gun to be used.

The incident has caused outrage in the community. Lancaster NAACP president Blanding Watson said "no reasonable justification" has been provided for the officer's behavior.

Lancaster Police haven't responded to CBS News' Crimesider request for comment. Police Chief Jarrad Berkihiser told Lancaster Online the mayor's statement was clear and he could not comment further pending litigation.

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