Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Philadelphia is not a Constitution-free zone (oh, the irony)

This post has been on my mind for a while: My first thought after seeing the Philadelphia police beating (link includes video) a few weeks ago was, 'These are the people that some city officials want to give more power.'

Now comes the latest news. Two Philadelphia police officers are wanted on criminal charges that they beat a man after catching him in the act of spray painting the side of a building. The man spent five days in the hospital with a broken jaw and other injuries.

The reaction from the FOP was predictable:
"This is a disgrace," McNesby said yesterday. "It can't get any worse... Instead of tracking murders in Philadelphia, we should be tracking the persecution of police officers. It's open season on police officers. Not only do we have to watch out for the criminals on the street, but we have to watch out for the people we work for."

Memo to Mr. McNesby: The city in which the Constitution was crafted and signed is not a Constitution-free zone. The police do not have a right to beat people at will.

We know that most police officers work hard and do their best to maintain proper law enforcement techniques. Those who violate the citizenry's civil rights need to be held accountable.

And last week our friends at Equality Advocates released data showing an increase in anti-LGBT hate crimes in 2007 with a noticeable spike in police misconduct complaints of mistreatment of LGBT persons, especially in Philadelphia.
Most notable in Pennsylvania is the spike in reports of police misconduct. Numbers for offenders in the law enforcement officer category increased from nine reported offenders in 2006 to 48 offenders in 2007. Coupled with this information is an increase in bias incidents occurring in police precincts, jails and police vehicles. Additionally, incidents where the victim reported unjust arrest increased from one in 2006 to eleven in 2007. Over half of the reported police misconduct incidents occurred in Philadelphia.

"Equality Advocates is greatly concerned by the spike in police misconduct incidents across the state," said Jesse White, Legal Clinic Manager/Hate Crimes Victim Advocate for Equality Advocates Pennsylvania. "We are especially concerned regarding the statistics in Philadelphia. We hope that the current administration will look closely at these statistics and will work with the community to address these issues."

It's not all bad news. There are early indications that an increased police presence in southwest Philly is aiding in a drop in crime numbers. The ACLU has long advocated for community policing. When our last legislative director left, he gave me an op-ed he wrote on the issue from 1995. For community policing to be effective, officers need to walk the streets and become a part of the fabric of the community. It's not clear yet if that is happening.
(Neighborhood resident Karl Kelly), too, noticed more police cruisers, he said. But he's unimpressed with the heightened police presence, he said. It would help the community more, he said, if cops were visible - outside their police cruisers.

"Everybody got back in their cars," he said, referring to 12th District police officers, who he said used to patrol his neighborhood on foot.

This will be an ongoing story and a long-term process.

Andy in Harrisburg

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Blogger Pete.Moss said...

The Pike County jail (DWI) has coerced me and others into a religious indoctrination program requirement therein.

10:05 PM  

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