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.

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Remembering the 2000 Philadelphia RNC: Puppets, Police and The Rock

House Speaker Dennis Hastert and World Wrestling Federation champion The Rock raise their hands at the podium at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia on August 2nd, 2000.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert and World Wrestling Federation champion The Rock raise their hands at the podium at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia on August 2nd, 2000.

On July 12th, 2000, Philadelphia police engaged in a shootout with 30-year-old Thomas Jones. An Action News helicopter followed the ensuing police chase, and showed police beating and kicking Jones. “Clearly, the activity on the tape is troubling,” then-Mayor John Street said at a hastily organized press conference that night. “We have unanswered concerns.” The Inquirer did a frame-by-frame analysis of 28 seconds of video and said Jones was hit “at least 59 times.”

Jones eventually pleaded guilty to a series of robberies and assaults surrounding the incident. A 2002 grand jury said criminal charges weren’t warranted against the officers, though Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson later issued suspensions for 15 officers. (John Timoney was commissioner at the time of the 2000 RNC.) But the incident, just a few weeks before the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, was an inauspicious omen. The Daily News ran a still of the officers on its cover with the headline “WELCOME AMERICA.” Some were later found to be selling the cover on a t-shirt to cops. 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.

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FBI on Renewed Effort in Imbo-Petrone Case: “The Idea Here Is to Start Fresh”

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Federal investigators opened a new effort this week to find out what happened to Danielle Imbo and Richard Petrone, the couple who went missing 10 years ago after departing a South Street bar. As the February 19th anniversary approaches, a 10-person squad comprised of federal and local police are going back through all the evidence,

“The idea here is to start fresh,” says FBI agent Vito Roselli, who has been pursuing the case almost from its inception. “We’re looking at every tip, every lead, and we’re going to close off some possibilities and see what we’re left with.”
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Police Brutality Charges Show the System Is Trying, Not That It’s Working

Commissioner Charles Ramsey, middle, looks on as D.A. Seth Williams announces charges against two Philadelphia Police officers.

Commissioner Charles Ramsey, middle, looks on as D.A. Seth Williams announces charges against two Philadelphia Police officers.

Seth Williams was almost right.

The district attorney entered last Thursday’s press conference — the one announcing brutality charges against two Philadelphia police officers — seemingly intent on one thing: Proving that this city is no Ferguson, that abusive officers will be held accountable, and that no additional layers of accountability are needed here.

“Hopefully,” he said, “this case will show Philadelphians that our system here works.”

Again, almost.

In the interest of fairness, let’s discuss what did, indeed, go right in the case: Once confronted with video evidence  supporting allegations that two officers needlessly, brutally beat Najee Rivera in a traffic stop, police and prosecutors didn’t try to sweep the matter under the rug. They took the matter to a grand jury where — despite all the lurid tales we’ve heard in recent months of police-friendly prosecutors putting their thumbs on the scale against police accountability — a recommendation for charges emerged.

That’s great: Give the system proper inputs, and you stand a better chance of getting proper outcomes.

Here’s the problem: Left to its own devices, the system likely wouldn’t have received the proper inputs. The system almost certainly would’ve put Najee Rivera behind bars for “resisting arrest” — or, best-case scenario, free on probation but with a huge black mark on his record — while the officers who beat him would still be on the streets right now.

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Police Clerk Accused of ATV Theft Was Once Accused of Stealing From Her Dad

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[UPDATE, 3 p.m., February 4th] John Hammitt (right) was arrested today and charged with forgery, criminal conspiracy, theft by deception and related offenses.

[ORIGINAL] On Tuesday morning, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams announced charges against former Philadelphia Police Department employee Sharon Hammitt (left) and her husband, John Hammitt, claiming that they stole two ATVs from the police auto pound. And it’s not the first time that the former police clerk had been accused of theft. Read more »

Former Police Detective Ron Dove Indicted in Murder Case

Ronald Dove and Erica Sanchez

Ronald Dove and Erica Sanchez

Ronald Dove, a former detective with the Philadelphia Police Department, has been indicted on charges that he allegedly helped his girlfriend evade investigators who suspected her in a homicide.

Dove, a 16-year veteran of the force, was fired in November 2013. The indictment was announced today by District Attorney Seth Williams.

“Police personnel have the responsibility to uphold the law, protect the rights of all people and to do so with the highest level of integrity, and Ron Dove failed to maintain that oath,” Commissioner Charles Ramsey said in a statement. “He has caused embarrassment to this city, this department and his family because of his shameful actions. Dove’s conduct is simply intolerable and inexcusable.”
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Philly’s Murder Rate Is Low. So What?

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Here’s the good news: Philly’s homicide rate stayed low in 2014 — “just” 248 murders, one more than the year before, but down from 391 in 2007, the year before Mayor Nutter took office.

The less-thrilling news? Maybe that number doesn’t matter quite as much as police, politicians, and the media make of it.

At least, that’s the argument being made by Jerry Ratcliffe, professor of criminal justice and Director of the Center for Security and Crime Science at Temple University. In a blog post published Monday, he argues that the homicide numbers “are a really bad choice of metric” for measuring everything from a city’s safety level to the effectiveness of its police force.

Some reasons why:
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New York Shootings Raise Ramsey’s Concern

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. AP | Matt Rourke

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. AP | Matt Rourke

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey says it’s time to cool heated rhetoric in the wake of two New York City cops being assassinated over the weekend.

The shootings came in the wake of weeks of protests — in Philadelphia and nationwide — after two grand juries failed to indict police in New York and Missouri for the killings of unarmed black men.
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We Still Need Body Cameras on Police

This Jan. 15, 2014 file photo a Los Angeles Police officer wears an on-body cameras during a demonstration for media in Los Angeles. Officers in one of every six departments around the country are now patrolling with these tiny cameras on their chests, lapels or sunglasses, and that number is growing. Most civil libertarians support their expansion despite concerns about the development of policies governing their use and their impact on privacy. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes,File)

In this January 15, 2014, file photo a Los Angeles Police officer wears an on-body camera during a demonstration for media in Los Angeles. (AP | Damian Dovarganes,File)

It’s way too early to give up on putting body cameras on police.

When a New York grand jury decided last week not to indict the police officer who had been seen on video applying the chokehold that killed Eric Garner, a lot of observers decided it was time to declare the still-nascent body camera movement dead. After all, we saw everything we needed to see on video in Garner’s death, right? If it won’t work in his case, then what’s the point?

The body-camera backlash came just as the SEPTA Police and the Philadelphia Police both are in the midst of pilot programs to test cameras and specific policies regarding them. SEPTA Chief Thomas Nestel is unabashedly enthusiastic: “The police officers who are using them are completely sold,” he told me recently. Commissioner Charles Ramsey said  he wanted the cameras to help “build community trust.”

Only body cameras, we’re now being told, are no cure-all. That’s exactly right, but also wildly incomplete: Body cameras are not the silver bullet that will always provide the definitive account of every encounter between citizens and the police — because there is no silver bullet.

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