July 20, 2016
By Margaret M. Russell In the understandably volatile aftermath of the killings in Baton Rouge, La., Falcon Heights, Minn., and Dallas, the role of citizen-recorded videos has been at the forefront of debates over police tactics. On one hand, civil rights activists know the videos simply make "viral" a level of brutal misconduct that has existed for a long time. On the other, skeptics say the videos are evidence of a piecemeal and potentially misleading nature. In my view, both perspectives are valid, and both are convincing reasons that citizen videos promote justice in potent and irreplaceable ways.
July 11, 2016 |
"Cops will do and can do whatever they want" - but be prepared anyway. That was the message Saturday afternoon - not at a protest, but at training to prepare for one - at the Arch Street United Methodist Church. It was the first of four training sessions in preparation for the Democratic National Convention. About 50 people - mainly white, of mixed ages, and looking forward to demonstrating - gathered at the church on North Broad Street to discuss filming the police, supporting people who are jailed for protesting, and knowing your rights if you're one of them.
June 12, 2016 |
A Camden County police officer has been charged with filing false police reports and simple assault in two incidents in Camden over the last year, leading prosecutors to dismiss 18 cases in which he was involved. County Prosecutor Mary Eva Colalillo said her office had tossed cases in which Officer Douglas Dickinson would have been the only witness called to testify. She said in a statement that her office was still reviewing the officer's work and expected more dismissals. "Our office has a legal obligation to dismiss cases tainted by the possibility of police misconduct," Colalillo said.
May 24, 2016
By Adam Bates Our cellular phones, the U.S. Supreme Court recently opined, contain "a digital record of nearly every aspect of [our] lives - from the mundane to the intimate. " Indeed, many of us use our cellphones to privately convey our love, our insecurities, our fears, our locations, and our most sensitive relationships. Yet right now, across the United States, law enforcement agents have secret, unfettered access to all of it, and the government is trying to keep it that way. It was recently revealed that the FBI has been colluding with the Oklahoma City Police Department to conceal the use of equipment capable of powerful, surreptitious, and constitutionally dubious cellphone surveillance.
January 20, 2016 |
In the name of protecting privacy, Pennsylvania's legislature is holding up a bill that could protect people from police misconduct, and the police from unfounded complaints. State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf (R., Montgomery) wants to amend the state's wiretap law to let police use body cameras on private property. Those objecting want to exempt body-camera footage from the state's public records law, which would undermine the very purpose of the cameras. It would also be redundant.
November 15, 2015 |
Philadelphia Police Officer Michael Spicer, recently acquitted of corruption charges after being implicated in a wide-ranging federal investigation of police misconduct, was promoted to sergeant Friday in a special ceremony at City Hall. Sgt. Joseph McCloskey, who supervised Spicer and five other narcotics officers charged in the criminal case and testified on their behalf, was also promoted Friday to the rank of lieutenant. A law enforcement source said the Police Department had opposed the promotions, so the ceremony was held at City Hall and coordinated by Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison in lieu of a representative from the department.
October 19, 2015 |
For two decades, the Police Advisory Commission has battled abuse by Philadelphia officers but felt powerless to do its job. Despite being the official civilian oversight agency for police misconduct, it had no regular access to the department's own investigations of shootings - and little recourse. That's changed. Under the Police Department's new rules on shootings by officers, the PAC's director will have equal standing with four deputy commissioners in deciding whether or not police actions are justified.
October 16, 2015 |
WHEN YOU'RE resigning your job and your boss the mayor is in tears and the president sends you an attaboy, you've done well. Mayor Nutter's eyes welled up announcing Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey's decision to retire and President Obama thanked him for almost 50 years of leadership with large law enforcement agencies, including Philadelphia. A soft-talking, low-key, straight shooter, the 65-year-old Ramsey is our most popular public official. An astounding 75 percent of Philadelphians approve of Ramsey's job performance, while 57 percent approve of Nutter's, according to a recent poll (commissioned by Nutter, by the way)
August 10, 2015 |
In the context of events outside professional football, accusations that racism played a role in Eagles coach Chip Kelly's decisions to trade several black players are understandable, though not believable. In recent months, this country has seen evidence of the unequal treatment African Americans face at the hands of police, at times resulting in death. It has heard charged rhetoric in defense of an odious emblem embraced by racist groups, the Confederate battle flag. Meanwhile, schemes persist to further erode protections provided to blacks by the Voting Rights Act. With such evidence of racial discord playing in the background, Kelly traded running back LeSean McCoy in March and cornerback Brandon Boykin last week, only to have them echo wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who suggested after being traded last year that race played a role in Kelly's decision.
August 5, 2015 |
Philadelphia suburb Deptford Township has the wrong perspective on New Jersey's effort to equip all state troopers and police officers with body cameras, which local officials criticize as an unfunded mandate. Body cameras are fast on their way to becoming as ubiquitous as guns and body armor in police departments. While a number of high-profile recent cases have shown that cameras can create valuable records of police misconduct, they can also protect officers from false allegations.