#UntaintJustice: Handcuffed by the FOP

06-09-14 Cops
Signe Wilkinson cartoon

I promised that I would never forget the Tainted Justice system here in Philadelphia. There have been some new developments, and the Daily News editorial page is ON IT!

According to a recent Daily News report, civil-rights lawsuit settlements reached a new high in 2013 of nearly $20 million to settle 207 claims. The previous year brought more claims, but only $11.6 in payouts. In 2008, the city paid $7.8 million total.

What's most troubling is not just the expense to city taxpayers at a time when we can ill afford extra millions. It is that the trend comes despite a strong leader in Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who presides over a force that includes many good cops. But the value of both is seriously diminished by rogue cops who flout the law, abuse their position, don't play by the rules - and end up staying on the force or getting reinstated after being fired.

The department's history of dysfunction and corruption is legion, a legacy that unfortunately has a powerful enabler in the police union. Time after time, Ramsey has fired cops who end up getting their jobs back, or has been hampered in disciplining rogue cops.

True, you can't exactly fault the FOP for protecting its own, no matter how skeezy, since that is their job in the whole process. But the FOP is one cog in a larger police-justice system, and that system should be fair and balanced, not as unbalanced as that elevator that went through the roof the other day. As the editorial notes, 24 cops who were fired for serious misconducted during the late 2000s were put back onto the job thanks to the flawed arbitration system.

It still makes me furious that the cops linked to bodega robberies and, in one case, sexual assaults in the "Tainted Justice" serious seem to be largely evading actual justice -- but Philadelphia does have a chance to do something. When the city elects a mayor next year, voters should pressure the candidates to fight for a new system of police discipline that protects citizens, not the FOP.