My colleague Jan Ransom published an article in the Daily News over the weekend that I thought that was both the best and maybe the most important article that's run in the paper this year. The subject was an ongoing pattern of outrageous and unconstitutional behavior by the Philadelphia cops -- confiscating and destroying videos that might (or might not) show police misconduct. During my occasional editing shifts here, I've read several articles in which the police have done this, and I wondered how they get away with iit. The bottom line: They shouldn't.
One other quick note: I can't fathom for the life of me why the Daily News -- the newspaper that won a Pulitzer just last year for its courage in exposing police misconduct -- all but buried this article by publishing it on possibly the lowest circulation day of the entire year, the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. I'm not casting aspersions towards anyone -- I've worked here long enough to know that usuallly when things happen here...it's usually just one of those things. That said, it was a big mistake not getting this article to a wider audience, which I hope to do my small part in rectifying.
Here's the story:
TAMERA MEDLEY begged the police officer to stop slamming her head - over and over - into the hood of a police cruiser.
Thinking they were helping, passers-by Shakir Riley and Melissa Hurling both turned their cellphone video cameras toward the melee that had erupted on Jefferson Street in Wynnefield, they said.
But then the cops turned on them.
Riley had started to walk away when at least five baton-wielding cops followed him, he said, and they beat him, poured a soda on his face and stomped on his phone, destroying the video he had just taken.
Please read the whole thing -- and if you have a blog or are on Twitter or Facebook, please get the word out, now that folks are back to work, etc.
Just one added bit of commentary: John McNesby of the FOP claims in the article that citizens exercising their legal right to film arrests are "a recipe for disaster." That's more BS from the guy whose credibility was ripped to shreds in the "Tainted Justice" series. For the most part, the people making these films are on public property and a reasonable distance from the events they are videotaping; the "problem" is not that they are interfering with officers making an arrest, but their film could interfere with officers trying to make an arrest improperl,y with excessive force. In other words, they are not crimninals -- but performing a valuable public service.