On September 21, 2022, former Philadelphia Police Officer Eric Ruch Jr. was found guilty by a jury of Voluntary Manslaughter and Possession of an Instrument of Crime for the killing of Dennis Plowden, who was unarmed, after a vehicular pursuit on December 27, 2017.
During Ruch’s trial, multiple PPD officers and Ruch himself testified that Dennis Plowden’s inability to immediately remove his right hand from his jacket pocket justified his shooting as police officers are trained that “the hand you can’t see is the hand that can hurt you.” The events surrounding Eric Ruch’s killing of Mr. Plowden underscore long standing issues of how police are trained, and an all-too-common narrative that all civilians, especially in communities of color, pose an immediate threat to police officers.
The Commission knows the PPD has many police officers that do their best to make the right calls in split second decisions that could ultimately cost them their life. However, when the wrong decision morphs into criminal action, as was the case when Eric Ruch shot and killed Dennis Plowden, the officer and the Department must be held accountable for those actions.
While the judicial process has been a long five-year journey, it ultimately has provided some accountability for Ruch’s actions. CPOC is hopeful that this verdict further establishes the potential benefits of police oversight in the years to come. Criminal trials like this in Philadelphia are extremely rare – Ruch’s trial is the first murder trial against a PPD officer in nearly 40 years. This verdict will serve as an example of how the City and its Police Department can and should hold officers accountable when they violate the most important Department policy.
This verdict will not make up for the loss of Dennis Plowden’s life, but it will provide some comfort and justice to his loved ones and to Philadelphia residents. Dennis was a father, son and brother and his loss has caused immeasurable pain to his family, who were still coping with the murder of Dennis’ brother Darryl that occurred in 2016. His wife Tania has described him as a man who was true to his word and at the time of his death, he was learning to rehab houses and was a few credits away from earning his high school diploma at Northeast High School’s Twilight School program. The night Dennis was killed, he was going to see his mother and drop off Christmas gifts. Ruch’s decision, has robbed Dennis’ family of the bright future he had.
As police reforms continue and officers are held accountable for their actions, CPOC will serve to provide oversight of the Philadelphia Police Department and provide Philadelphia residents with the necessary transparency they deserve from the Police Department sworn to protect them. The Commission extends its sincerest condolences to the family and loved ones of Mr. Plowden.
*Some information on the life of Dennis Plowden was taken from The Philadelphia Obituary Project.