Don’t Let What Happened to Laquan McDonald Happen in Philadelphia

Laquan McDonald, seconds before he was shot.

Laquan McDonald, seconds before he was shot.

If you’re a Pennsylvanian who is angry about what happened in Chicago with Laquan McDonald, you should be furious with what legislators in Harrisburg are trying to do.

McDonald, if you’re unaware, was a 17-year-old black teen who was shot to death during an encounter with police a year ago. Police said that McDonald, armed with a knife, lunged at them. A video released last week shows that actually, McDonald was stepping away from police at the time he was shot. The video shows bullets hitting his body long after he hit the ground.

The good news? The officer who shot McDonald — 16 times, by the way, emptying his gun — will face criminal charges. The bad news? Those charges weren’t brought until just before the video was released, some 400 days after the shooting. The video was released only because a judge ordered it; there’s every reason to believe the officer might not’ve been charged without the video’s publication to the world.

Public scrutiny, it seems, works.

What’s this have to do with Harrisburg? Read more »

Will the “Ferguson Effect” Doom Police Reform?

There were demonstrations and tear gas in Ferguson after the summertime shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer. A grand jury will announce that officer's fate today.

Police in riot gear in Ferguson, 2014.

One big but often overlooked reason that Michael Nutter was elected mayor in 2007 was the tough tone he struck on crime and violence in the midst of a pretty terrifying crime wave.

There were 406 homicides in 2006, and 391 the year Nutter was elected. The violence — so tragically common in many distressed sections of the city — was spilling out into more affluent areas. Days before the November election, a masked man blazed through Center City in an SUV, shot four people (including a cop), crashed his vehicle and then drowned in the Schuylkill River while trying to escape.

People were freaked out. And while then Mayor Street dithered, Nutter offered action. He would declare a crime emergency. He vowed to introduce stop-and-frisk. He’d direct the police to concentrate on high crime areas, where police would have the power “to prohibit outdoor gatherings, limit the movement of vehicles, establish a curfew, and prohibit the possession of all weapons.”

From the vantage point of 2015, that’s pretty extreme stuff. I don’t bring it up to throw dirt on Nutter’s policing policy. He never followed through on a lot of that, actually, and there’s no debating the fact that crime has fallen considerably on his watch.

The point is this: policing and criminal justice policy are acutely — acutely — sensitive to current events. Read more »

Philly Native Chosen to Lead Ferguson Police Department

 (Source: Glendale Police Department)

(Source: Glendale Police Department)

A Philly native is taking over the police department in Ferguson, Mo., where clashes between police and protesters last year helped set off the “Black Lives Matter movement nationwide..

Andre Anderson, 50, has spent 24 years with the police in Glendale, Arizona, rising to the rank of commander, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Prior to that, though, he served in the Army and grew up in Philadelphia, becoming an amateur boxer long the way.

“Anderson said he takes a lot of pride in having grown up in Philadelphia, a city with a rich boxing tradition. He began training at age 12 and boxed his way through the Army as a formidable amateur,” the Arizona Republic said in a 1999 profile. “After leaving the Army, he moved to Arizona and fought two professional fights, winning both, before his boxing career was shattered in 1988. That is when he was struck by a car while fixing a flat tire along Interstate 10 near Eloy.” Read more »

How Philly Police Kept the Peace at “Philly Is Baltimore”

Left, AP. Right, Joshua Scott Albert.

Left: Commissioner Charles Ramsey | AP photo. Right: A scene from Thursday’s Philly Is Baltimore protest. | Joshua Albert photo.

Well, thank God for Philadelphia Police.

I’m serious.

Yes, it’s easy to find reasons to criticize our local department, and I do it all the time. It’s also easy to watch some officers become martyrs to our streets and then give the rest of them a free pass, or something close to it. But I’m interested in doing something else today: I want to praise the Philadelphia Police Department for a bit of smart policing, done professionally, and in a fashion that has served the community very well indeed.  Read more »

Officials: We’re Ready for “Philly Is Baltimore” Protest

Photo | Jack Cotter

In December, Ferguson protesters interrupted traffic in much of Center City. | Jack Cotter

Philadelphia officials said today they’re ready for today’s “Philly Is Baltimore” protest at City Hall. No traffic or transit detours were planned — yet — but the city’s court system said it would close for business by mid-afternoon “out of an abundance of caution.” Read more »

Penn Professor Sparks Controversy With Michael Brown Poem

goldsmith colbert

Kenneth Goldsmith, left, appeared on The Colbert Report in 2013.


A Penn professor has stepped into controversy for a new poem describing the autopsy of Michael Brown, the young man whose shooting by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., sparked months of protests around the country.

The Daily Pennsylvanian describes how writing professor Kenneth Goldsmith generated the anger with a March 13 reading of “The Death of Michael Brown” at Brown University:

At the conference that focused on digital culture, Goldsmith read a poem titled “The Body of Michael Brown” as Brown’s graduation photo was projected behind him. The poem was simply a copy of the medical examiner’s report on Brown’s autopsy with some changes to make the medical terms more understandable to the average person and to enhance the “poetic effect.”

Read more »

Ramsey: “We Are Not at War With the Communities We Serve”

Commissioner Charles Ramsey discusses the recommendations of the White House Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Ramsey helped co-chair the task force.

Commissioner Charles Ramsey discusses the recommendations of the White House Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Ramsey helped co-chair the task force.

Philly Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey met the local media Tuesday morning to discuss the recommendations of the White House Task Force on 21st Century Policing that he helped co-chair, and what those recommendations mean for Philadelphia.

Some highlights: Read more »

Ramsey-Led Policing Commission Makes Recommendations

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, co-chair,  the President's Task Force on 21 Century Policing, listens to witnesses at the Newseum in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, co-chair, the President’s Task Force on 21 Century Policing, listens to witnesses at the Newseum in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

The presidential task force on 21st century policing led by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has issued its “interim” report. Ramsey will hold a press conference on the findings this morning with Philly media.

NBC News reports:

In a report released Monday, Obama’s task force on police reform did not embrace proposed policies like requiring police officers to wear body cameras or linking federal funding for local police departments to requirements all of their officers undergo racial bias training.

The 11-person task force, chaired by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Laurie Robinson, a professor of criminology at George Mason University, instead recommended less sweeping changes.

Its “overarching recommendation” was for Obama to create a so-called National Crime and Justice Task Force to suggest more ideas. The report also urged, as civil rights leaders have long demanded, that police departments collect more precise data about the race and other demographic characteristics of people who are stopped and arrested.

Read more »

Mother Assails Police for Son’s Death

A town hall on police and community relations Wednesday night grew tense when the mother of a man shot last year by police said she hadn’t received justice in the case.

Brandon Tate-Brown was killed during a December traffic stop in Mayfair; police said he was reaching for a stolen handgun in the center console of his car and that they acted in self-defense.

Wednesday, his mother — Tanya Brown-Dickerson — spoke out Wednesday at the “Philly After Ferguson” held at Catalyst of Change Church in West Philadelphia.

The Daily Pennsylvanian reports:

His mother, Tanya Brown-Dickerson, spoke at the event, begging police to release the footage from her son’s death.

“Brandon was tried, judged and condemned by the police,” Brown-Dickerson said. “Please just show me the footage.”

Brown-Dickerson also revealed that she had first learned of her son’s death over the radio on her way to work that morning.

“How many of you would be fine hearing of your child’s death on the media?” Brown-Dickerson asked. Reverend Mark Kelly Tyler also spoke out about how Tate-Brown’s death was handled in the media. “Before she even knew he was dead, we knew his whole criminal record,” he said.

Read more »

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