In the "Tainted Justice" case, there's been real progress since the stunning news a couple of weeks ago that members of a rogue narcotics squad -- publicly accused by law-abiding Philadelphians of bodega robberies and (in the case of one officer) sexual assaults -- weren't being charged with a crime. Since then, Philadelphia police brass brought up five officers on internal charges and one has been fired. After a lot of unfortunate confusion, the Philadelphia DA's office said it's looking into the alleged sex assaults. Some community leaders are pressing for more action.
The glass is half-full -- and half-empty, as the same time. Robberies and sexual assault are serious crimes, and in a nation with the highest incarceration rate of any industrialized nation, by far, it's not hard to imagine the authorities would have perceived the case different if the suspects were not wearing a badge. Today, the Inquirer reported more deeply on the alleged problems with charging the officers -- a few of the issues sound legitimate, a lot of it is just PR spin, some of it from unnamed sources.
A couple of quick point. First, the two Daily News reporters who broke the "Tainted Justice" story, Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker, pounded the pavement and got compelling ON-THE-RECORD allegations of crimes from the victims -- many of whom had little or no reason to go public with their story, other than their outrage at having been violated. Why were they able to gather and publish evidence that eluded the U.S. Attorney's office and others? It's quite simple. They did the hard work...because they cared. The law-enforcement community (for the most part) wanted this matter to go away.
The system just didn't care.
Secondly, it's seems clear with the push-back in recent days, the opportunities for real -- as opposed to token -- justice in this case are dwindling (even the fired cop is likely to win his job back, if history is any guide). That is a huge injustice. I hate injustice -- but the only solution is to channel our outrage where it can make a difference. Let's make sure the bad-apple cops of tomorrow can't get off so easy. We can start by strengthening the city's Police Advisory Commission to put more civilian pressure on police misconduct, and we can overhaul the arbitration system so it's not a Kangaroo Court for the Fraternal Order of Police -- just as two ways to start. Then we must do more
When the system doesn't care...change the system.