Andrew Mossberg was taking a stroll in Miami Beach one summer evening three years ago when he thought he saw a man mugging a woman outside a West Avenue condominium.
So the diminutive Mossberg — just a smidgen over five feet and weighing 120 pounds — called police and tried to intervene. For his benevolence, Mossberg said he was punched in the gut and judo-kicked twice in the head — by a Miami Beach cop.
The man he blamed turned out to be police officer Phillipe Archer, who had just escorted a belligerent model outside a building when he ran into Mossberg. Mossberg said he suffered bumps and bruises to his head and nerve damage where two of his teeth were cracked.
This week, Miami Beach made amends, settling a civil rights lawsuit filed last year by Mossberg for $100,000. Though Phillipe was suspended for a month without pay for his mishandling of model Megan Adamescu, he was never disciplined for his interaction with Mossberg.
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The city chose to settle with Mossberg, despite investigations by the FBI, the state attorney’s office and Miami Beach internal affairs, which all cleared the 20-year veteran of any wrongdoing.
Miami Beach first assistant city attorney Robert Rosenwald said the city chose to settle the case because it became publicly entangled in the mess with Adamescu.
“The case was tied up in public discussion,” Rosenwald said. “It was thought best to pay what we would have paid to put it behind us. [Archer] did absolutely nothing wrong.”
Mossberg, a 51-year-old audio-visual specialist and father of a teenage son, said he wasn’t thrilled with the settlement but was glad he was able to put it behind him.
“It didn’t address what I wanted to happen,” he said. “They should have fired him immediately.”
Although the agreement was reached in August, Mossberg and attorney Ray Taseff issued a news release this week listing a history of the police detective’s “troubled” past, a history that is also disputed by Miami Beach officials.
Mossberg claims Archer has been the subject of 55 internal affairs complaints over his career, 44 of which were for excessive use of force. Rosenwald counters that the 44 were standard reports, turned in by Miami Beach police officers any time they are involved in a use-of-force situation. Archer was cleared in all but one of the remaining 11 incidents.
Mossberg also claimed that Archer has been sued nine times in federal court for civil rights violations at a cost to the city of close to $500,000. Rosenwald pointed out that although technically true, four of the lawsuits were the result of Archer’s involvement with dozens of other officers during the Memorial Day shooting death of Raymond Herisse. Four others involved multiple police officers.
Also weighing in Tuesday was the Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents Archer. President Bobby Jenkins called the internal affairs figures provided by Mossberg’s attorney a “gross mischaracterization.” The union president said Archer has spent most of his career on the crime suppression and gang unit teams, two of the most dangerous units in the police department.
“Detective Archer has never done anything less than exceptional work for the department, and we stand by him 100 percent,” Jenkins said.
Archer’s beef with Mossberg began on June 26, 2013, when during a walk along West Avenue, Mossberg observed what he thought was a mugging. What he actually saw, investigators determined, was Archer responding to a disturbance call at the South Bay Club while on plainclothes duty. A worker there had called police because Adamescu was drunk in the lobby and refused to leave.
But it was when the group reached the police station on Washington Avenue that Archer’s problems really began. Once there, video surveillance shows Archer dressed in a blue shirt passing Adamescu, who then kicks him.
Archer’s quick response: a roundhouse right punch directed at her head, then a full kick with his left foot. Archer, who is black, claimed Adamescu used racial slurs directed at him.
Later, a picture appeared that didn’t help Archer in his defense: In it, the detective can be seen smiling as he drapes his right arm over Mossberg’s shoulders. But you can’t see Mossberg’s face because of the white bandages and gauze that cover it.
The picture was widely circulated during a time when Miami Beach police were suffering through a string of embarrassing incidents that attracted international headlines. Among them were the Herisse shooting, the death of a graffiti artist after being stung by a Taser and the running-over of a couple at night on the beach by a cop joyriding on an ATV with a bride-to-be.
For his response to Amadescu’s kick, Archer was suspended for a month with no pay.
“That,” said Rosenwald, “is the highest level of suspension an officer can get without being fired.”