June 7, 2013
It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer . - Sir William Blackstone That principle, expressed by an English jurist more than 250 years ago, is crucial to the way the laws are applied in the United States, where the presumption of innocence is considered sacrosanct - most of the time. At other times, our zeal to find the guilty can run roughshod over our constitutionally protected rights. Such is the case with the Supreme Court decision this week approving DNA collection from anyone arrested for a crime.
September 7, 2010
Armed government guards got on trains near the border to interrogate capriciously selected passengers about their citizenship and then carted away those who could not produce papers. The Soviet Union? East Germany? Well, no. It was the U.S. Border Patrol on an Amtrak in Rochester, N.Y. - close to the Canadian border. Border Patrol agents can question any person believed to be an alien concerning his or her right to be in America. They can do so within 100 miles from our external boundaries, including the one 12 miles off the coast.
April 7, 2010 |
IWAS HAVING coffee with a friend at 15th and Sansom not long ago when, out of nowhere, a group of teens burst onto the scene. The energy that came with them was palpable. Tense, wired, high-strung - it literally crackled, and we felt it. As it turns out, we'd witnessed a tiny part of a would-be flash mob from Broad Street, and I thought to myself - as I have every time this happens in Philadelphia - "They should be dancing. " Bill Wasik, the senior editor at Harper's who created the flash mob, uses it as a tool for playful social gatherings.
September 30, 2009 |
The world economy may or may not have emerged stronger from last week's G-20 summit in Pittsburgh. And the first non-capital city to host the summit enjoyed the public-relations boon of showcasing its Phoenix-like rise from the ashes of the steel industry. But the Constitution took a hit. Government officials decided a massive, preemptive police presence was necessary to avoid the raucous demonstrations that marred past economic summits. They established a virtual police state that quickly extinguished any spark of dissent, and a federal court ruling gave them free rein to do so. To begin with, there was an oxymoronic requirement that groups get permits to march and demonstrate during the summit.
August 7, 2008 |
For nearly 90 years, state troopers have patrolled rural New Jersey, responding to medical emergencies, car crashes and burglar alarms. So when state officials detailed their plans last week to begin charging towns for the service, the reaction was largely anger and, in some communities, confusion. In Mansfield, which the state wants to bill $264,000 for what it considers "full-time" police patrols, administrator Joseph Broski said the town hadn't relied on state police for two years.
April 9, 2008
Rau's ruling Judge Lisa Rau's acquittal of a man who police eyewitnesses testified was involved in a drug transaction affirms a vitally important point about our criminal justice system ("Judge's verdict draws criticism from police," April 7). Various legal protections - including burdening the prosecutor with proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt - ensure that for every innocent defendant who is found not guilty, there are guilty defendants who go free. Rau did not have to conclude that the police witnesses were lying, or that the defendant was telling the truth in asserting his innocence, in order to find him not guilty.
October 23, 2007 |
The New Jersey Attorney General has zeroed in on the Camden and Atlantic City Police Departments for a crimefighting overhaul, giving the beleaguered cities top priority to get the computerized policing tools that have been in use in New York and Philadelphia for more than a decade. In recent weeks, state Attorney General Anne Milgram sent consultants to the two cities to begin work on upgrading computer systems so they can eventually conduct strategic policing with the crime-mapping system known as Compstat.
June 4, 2007
EVER SINCE the Daily News published my letter about the proposed stop-and-frisk campaign that mayoral candidate Michael Nutter has proposed, I've been inundated with responses from members of the black community. Many have been positive, some negative, and I want to share them. Some people are afraid of a police state, many have concerns about abuse of power by the police and fear a return of practices like those of the Rizzo era. Although many black people fear the police, I grew up when Frank Rizzo was mayor, and we have more to fear today than at any time back then.
February 6, 2007 |
Later this month, the United Nations Secretariat will hold its yearly exam to recruit staff from among member states for the U.N.'s worldwide professional service. Among those now eligible are nationals of North Korea. Which raises a question unlikely to be included in this exam: What is North Korea doing in the U.N. in the first place? If recruiting North Koreans to work inside the U.N. sounds like a good way to integrate the rogue regime of Kim Jong Il into civilized and responsible company, think again.
January 5, 2007 |
I promise not to use the word dystopian. Whoops. Children of Men, Alfonso Cuaron's stunning adaptation of the P.D. James book, is set in near-future Britain, an ominous place where illegal immigrants are corraled for deportation, where the government surveils all, where the police are a paramilitary operation, infiltrating, arresting and occasionally killing any person, or group, opposed to its cause. The very near future. It's hell-in-a-handbasket time. By a cause unknown (carcinogens in the food chain?