Letters: Philadelphia's city solicitor responds on police-suit payouts

RE YOUR NOV. 19 report "Suits Against Police Costing Taxpayers":

The article, which notes that total payouts for the last three fiscal years have exceeded payouts for the previous three years, quotes David Rudovsky, attorney for the plaintiffs in the recently filed "stop-and-frisk" lawsuit, as suggesting that the increased payouts might have resulted from "more validated claims of police misconduct."

This comment, without rebuttal, could mislead readers as to the nature of the issue. First, the settlement of a lawsuit in no way admits liability by the city or the employees involved. In 2009, more than 85 percent of lawsuits filed in federal court here were settled before trial. Like other defendants, the city must determine how best to deploy its legal resources over the thousands of cases filed against it every year. Notwithstanding, an average of 40 percent of civil-rights cases brought against the city in the past three fiscal years were resolved with no payment at all.

Second, not every complaint of police misconduct results in a lawsuit, not every "sustained" complaint against police results in a lawsuit and not every lawsuit against police has been the subject of an Internal Affairs complaint against police. Thus, the settlement of a lawsuit or a number of lawsuits is in no way directly related to "validated claims of police misconduct."

Finally, Mr. Rudovsky could hardly be considered an objective observer. Though he is well regarded for his expertise as a lawyer and professor in civil-rights matters, he has been quoted in this case as someone with an ax to grind: specifically, the ax of a plaintiff's attorney whose success in a pending case is dependent upon proof of systemic police misconduct.

This unfair, unbalanced view disserves the taxpayers and the legal professionals who represent their interests.

Shelley R. Smith, City Solicitor

City of Philadelphia

Defining ourselves

I agree with letter-writer Ajay Jones from the bottom of my heart. Never let anyone define who you are because of the color of your skin or your heritage, be it light skin or cocoa brown.

Stand tall and be who you are, not what someone else wants you to be. In my book, nobody counts but me!

Lora Neal, Philadelphia

A jobless sit-in?

For everyone whose unemployment benefits expire Dec. 1 because the Republicans blocked the bill that would've extended it, go sit on their doorsteps until they restore your life.

Lula Jones, Philadelphia

The youth-violence problem

I've enjoyed seeing Jamar Nicholas' editorial cartoons on the opinion page of the Philadelphia Tribune over the years, so I was pleased to see his words as well as his illustration ("Visualizing the Roots of Violence") on the life of Geoffrey Canada on the op-ed page.

Youth violence is a societal ill. As a teacher at East Camden Middle School, I contemplate almost daily on how to remedy this problem.

A friend of mine expressed the opinion that much of youth violence is just about teens trying to impress teens for the fun of it, but as someone who's puzzled by the constant violence of these situations, I'd hope our inner cities would come up with a quick-fix solution.

Wayne E. Williams, Camden