Who Polices the Philadelphia Police?

I read this cover story by Andrew Thompson in the City Paper today.

I read things like this and similar to my other post about another article, I wonder why I live here. It’s not the fact that it happens but the systematic and system-wide institutional lack of addressing of the problem.

And the thin facade of doing something about the problem, by creating committees and then not holding the people who head these committees responsible for not doing their job of taking a look into these abuses of power.

  • The Police Advisory Committee, supposedly and independent body to review disciplinary matters and penalties as well as enforce guidelines, has not released a report since 2004. The executive director since 2005, William Johnson, says this is because, “cannot release any information about an investigation or its conclusion without the consent of the complainant.” Convenient. And ridiculous.
  • The governmental counterpart to this, the Integrity & Accountability Office, has not released a report in two years. The head of the agency, Curtis Douglas, claims the reports are “internal to my office, and subject of discussion between the police commissioner and myself.” Convenient. And ridiculous.
  • The city’s blatant and repeated refusal to hand over records and documents when asked via right-to-know requests.

(I tried to dig up links, emails and phone numbers for the above people and bodies, but couldn’t locate anything quickly. Feel free to pass any information on.)

Interestingly too, I was curious about the complexities and possible conflicts of writing this, from an editorial standpoint as well as from a journalist’s perspective. The online article directed me to EIC Brian Howard’s addressing of this here. I will probably shoot Thompson an email too about his methodology and process. God knows they don’t teach us shit like this in journalism school at Temple.

I thought the piece was pretty fair. It didn’t condemn all cops or give all complaints merit. But I did think it begged a very poignant question.

After all, Officer Corcoran was not punished for his treatment of Foley in a highly populated area, where his actions were witnessed by dozens of tourists and diners. Just imagine what happens in the city’s darker crevices.