Family of slain officer sues Parole Board for 'systemic breakdown'

Officer Moses Walker Jr.
Officer Moses Walker Jr.
Posted: November 14, 2012

The family of Moses Walker, Jr., the Philadelphia Police Officer killed in an attempted stickup last August, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, saying state officials caused Walker's death by allowing his alleged killer to roam the streets when he should have been behind bars.

"Officer Walker's murder occurred as the result of a systemic breakdown," said Michael F. Barrett, one of the attorneys representing Walker's family, at a news conference at his Center City office. "Officer Walker would not have lost his life if the Chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole and his subordinates had done their jobs."

Walker, 40, was killed in the early hours of Aug. 18 as he walked home from an overnight shift at the 22nd Police District in North Philadelphia.

Rafael Jones, the 23-year-old man charged in the killing, was released from prison 10 days earlier. Jones, who served four years in prison on a gun charge, was supposed to be under electronic monitoring as a condition of his release, but the monitoring was never set up. Jones also remained free after he failed a drug screening - despite a judge's order that he be arrested after even one positive test result.

The suit also alleges that Jones was allowed to remain on the streets due to an "unwritten policy" employed by the board to limit probation and parole arrests. It is a tactic that board employees say is employed to create the appearance that the recidivism rates for parole and probation offenders are lower than they actually are, according to the complaint.

"It has been reported that [the board] designates specific days/times during which it will not seek and/or issue arrest warrants," the lawsuit states, citing reports from board employees who have come forward to speak out in the wake of Walker's death.

The suit alleges wrongful death and civil rights violations, and seeks damages and a jury trial. In addition to the board, the suit names: Probation and Parole Board Chairman Michael C. Potteiger; Walker's parole officer, Jose Rodriguez; and Rodriguez's supervisors, Rosa Hernandez and Michelle Rivera.

Sherry Tate, a board spokeswoman, said the board had not seen the lawsuit and had no comment.

If the board had arrested Jones after the failed test, Barrett said Tuesday, Jones would have been taken into custody days before Walker was killed. But when Jones's parole officer requested a warrant for his arrest, he was turned down by his supervisors for reasons that have yet to become clear, Barrett said.

After Walker's murder, the policies of the state board came under fire by politicians, members of the police department and community leaders. Potteiger admitted that parolees are sometimes allowed to go without monitoring for a period of time after release, and announced that the board would conduct an internal investigation into the matter.

Walker's mother, Wayne Lipscomb, sat beside Barrett Tuesday, blinking back tears and clasping her hands in front of her. She declined to speak, but had Barrett read a statement on her behalf.

"Moses was every mother's dream come true," the statement read. "A good man, a kind, caring and gentle man, deeply devoted to our family, his friends, fellow police officers and above all, his faith . . . Moses, you are loved every minute of every day."


Contact staff writer Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or asteele@phillynews.com

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