The way Armando Porto tells it, he was arguing with his girlfriend on a steamy September morning in a Miami Beach parking lot when three men approached. Before he knew what was happening, one pushed him to the ground and another handcuffed him. Then the third man — a larger, muscular guy — began brutally punching him in the face, over and over.
That man, Porto would later learn, was a plainclothes Miami Beach cop named Philippe Archer. Porto’s allegations were filed in 1997 in federal court, but his tale is remarkably similar to a story that landed Archer back in the news last week.
This time, the veteran officer was caught on video punching a handcuffed woman in the face — the same abuse that Porto had detailed 18 years earlier. In fact, Archer has been named in four federal lawsuits alleging abuse. Through it all, he has kept his job as a cop and avoided any criminal charges.
“In the midst of everything happening in the country right now, with the public rightly outraged about police abusing their authority, it astonishes me that Philippe Archer is still a police officer,” says Menachem Mayberg, an attorney representing Megan Adamescu, the woman punched by Archer.
Porto’s was the first federal case against the cop. He said Archer and other officers had beaten him until he lost consciousness in a lot near 16th Street and Drexel Avenue September 14, 1997. He also said that Archer had falsified a police report to justify charging him with burglary and battery and that prosecutors later dropped all charges. Porto then voluntarily dismissed his lawsuit; it’s not clear if he received a settlement from the city.
Archer’s next accusations came in 2008, courtesy of a French family on vacation. Guy Moulin, a 54-year-old car mechanic who lived on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, had come to South Beach with his 11- and 17-year-old sons. As Moulin tried to get a parking meter to work on Collins Avenue, Archer and another officer in plainclothes accosted his sons, suspecting they were drug dealers. When Moulin ran to intervene, Archer and the others — who he says never ID’ed themselves as cops — punched him repeatedly, leaving his face bloody and swollen. Moulin reportedly later accepted a $60,000 settlement from the city.
That same year, Archer allegedly accosted a lawyer outside Mango’s Tropical Cafe. Miguel Lawson, a Brazil-based American attorney, had been eating at the Ocean Drive mainstay during a stopover on the way to El Salvador when Archer and two other cops allegedly confronted Lawson after he had argued with a manager. When Lawson complained he was a “Harvard-educated attorney and had studied with Barack Obama,” one cop muttered “Fuck Obama,” he claimed in court filings, and then threw him in a police van and booked him. A judge later ruled they’d had no probable cause, Lawson contends; his arrest caused him to miss his work trip and lose business. (Lawson voluntarily dismissed the complaint; it’s not clear if he received any settlement.)
Three years later, Archer was one of 12 officers who fired more than 115 rounds into a tourist’s car during Memorial Day weekend, killing the driver and wounding at least five innocent bystanders. One of those men, Carlson St. Louis, has sued Archer and the other officers involved after a bullet shattered his femur and pelvis. That case remains open in federal court.
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On May 1, Archer was suspended for 160 hours for punching Adamescu on camera in a Miami Beach Police Department parking garage. But Miami-Dade prosecutors and FBI investigators both declined to charge criminally him in that incident. They also declined to punish him for viciously punching Andrew Mossberg, a Good Samaritan who had earlier intervened in his arrest of Adamescu after thinking the plainclothes cop was trying to mug her.
“We have to have some accountability for bad cops in our society,” Mayberg says.