Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Scenes from a City Council hearing on Philly Police corruption

According to city officials, there were 725 civilian complaints against police officers between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30. Last year, there were 697 complaints.

Every witness acknowledged that there are plenty of good officers on the city's 6,500-plus police force, who do hard and dangerous work. But several asked for more transparency in police investigations and their disposition, for an end to stop-and-frisk, and for more officers to be reprimanded, fired, and convicted in cases of misconduct.

Since March 2009, 15 officers have been arrested, including two on murder charges stemming from off-duty shootings. One officer was fired this year after admitting that he fabricated a story about being shot; the officer had shoe himself. In September, three police officers were arrested on federal charges of robbing a drug dealer. And Kenneth Crockett, on the force 26 years, was charged with stealing $825 from a Northeast Philadelphia bar.

The department also has faced a string of tragedies, with five officers killed in the line of duty since 2008.

Let me suggest that the number of civilian complaints against the police is probably something of a significant undercount. There are lots of people who probably don't bother to make the complaint because the investigation process is slow and often unsatisfying, and because maybe it's not worth it to draw additional attention from the department.

Commissioner Ramsey seems to be taking the challenges seriously. And one does have to acknowledge that the vast majority of Philly officers are honest. But it's good that City Council is poking around now. It'll be interesting to see what -- if any -- action develops from the inquiry.

No comments: