Media Jumped On Goode For May 13, But Ignored Rizzo

Posted: March 28, 1986

The rapaciousness with which the Philadelphia media and ambitious politicians have attacked Mayor Goode following the MOVE Commission report has caused fair-minded people discomfort.

If these editorial writers, columnists, commentators and politicos were honest, they would apologize for the predictions that a Goode-appointed panel would not criticize the mayor.

Although those trying to oust Mayor Goode have short memories for what they said in 1985, those who voted for Goode, based on a belief in his integrity and commitment to human rights, have no such amnesia.

When Frank Rizzo was police commissioner from 1967 to 1971 and mayor from 1971 to 1979, more than 75 people were shot each year by police (according to U.S. Justice Department statistics). Most were unarmed; some were in handcuffs or in police custody.

During the years when hundreds of complaints of police brutality were on record, not one editorialist, columnist or politician demanded that Mayor Rizzo resign. Not even after the widely supported "recall Rizzo" petition movement failed through legal nullification of the City Charter recall provision. Resignation wasn't even raised during the 1978 charter change attempt by Frank Rizzo to run for a third term, or following the first assault on MOVE which resulted in a police officer's death, the savage beating of Delbert Africa and wounded firefighters.

When Bill Green took office in 1980 on a promise to end rampant police brutality, the federal suit was withdrawn. But the abuse continued, though on a smaller scale than during the Rizzo years.

Wilson Goode inherited a Philadelphia Police Department which still carries out many of the unconstitutional "policies, practices and procedures" cited in the suit, which constitute "a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin." Thus this 1979 legal document anticipated the MOVE Commission's charge that racism played a significant ''conscious or unconscious" factor in the May 13 events.

Named in this suit were two individuals in key decision-making positions that fateful day and the next, when evidence of cause of death was gathered: former Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor (then a chief inspector) and Marvin E. Aronson, the recently retired medical examiner. Thus the MOVE Commission's criticism of Dr. Aronson for "unprofessional" conduct and for not acting ''independently" of the police department was also anticipated by an outside investigative authority back in 1979.

Instead of focusing on Mayor Goode, District Attorney Ron Castille's investigation should uncover how the police department's intelligence misled Mayor Goode into believing MOVE had a tunnel escape route from which to fire upon police and firefighters.

Those who provided the explosives (the FBI) and those who constructed the mis-named "entry device" we now call the bomb need to be investigated as to their intent. For they had technical knowledge no big-city mayor - black or white - has ever needed in deciding how to preserve life and save a neighborhood from groups making terroristic threats. That knowledge was not communicated to Mayor Goode.

Those policemen who made key on-the-spot decisions that day (Commissioner Sambor and his subordinates) - like unleashing 10,000 rounds of deadly firepower and instructing firefighters not to turn on the hoses - need to be identified, because they acted without civilian authority and without respect for Afro-American life and property.

If Castille does not have the courage to probe the inner workings of the police department and associated intelligence agencies, a federal investigation is in order.


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