ACLU App Lets Civilians Record Police

A screenshot from the ACLU app.

A screenshot from the ACLU app.

The last year has been filled with videos depicting — or purporting to depict — police misconduct across the United States. Now the ACLU is encouraging Pennsylvania citizens to join the trend.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania released a new smartphone app on Nov. 13. Called “Mobile Justice PA,” the app lets civilians record video of police-civilian encounters and send it to the ACLU automatically. Read more »

South Jersey Cop, Son Charged With Harassing Civil Rights Activist

Civil rights activist Walter Hudson (Photo courtesy National Awareness Alliance)

Civil rights activist Walter Hudson (Photo courtesy National Awareness Alliance)

Penns Grove is a small town in Salem County, New Jersey, sitting directly across from Wilmington along the Delaware River. But as small towns go, the borough of just over 5,000 has more than its share of tension and unrest, and community activist Walter Hudson seems to be at the center of a lot of it. Read more »

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey Announces Retirement

Charles Ramsey police commissioner announces retirement

Charles Ramsey announces his retirement at City Hall on Tuesday, October 14th. (Photo: Dan McQuade)

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey will retire at the end of Mayor Michael Nutter‘s term in January, he announced today at City Hall. His last day is January 7th, eight years after he was sworn in as police chief.

“I want to thank all the citizens of Philadelphia, all the community organizations that are out there every day, and all the officers in the Philadelphia Police Department,” Ramsey said. “I just want to thank everyone for giving me the opportunity to serve in this great city.”

Ramsey, who was born in 1950, has been police commissioner since taking over for Sylvester Johnson at the start of Nutter’s term in January 2008. He left retirement to take the job. Under his watch, killings by Philadelphia Police plunged, with only one this year. Yet the department was still criticized in a scathing report issued by the Department of Justice earlier this year. Ramsey had asked for the report.

“We have, in my opinion, come in compliance with a number of the recommendations,” Ramsey said. “I’m confident we’ll be in full compliance. We’ll come out as a better department, as a stronger department.”

The police killing of Brandon Tate-Brown last year remains controversial — there were protests just yesterday — with conflicting stories told by police and witnesses. (He’s been protested constantly, including at Eastern State Penitentiary.) 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 »

My 10-Step Plan for Emancipation From Police Brutality

NEW YORK CITY - AUGUST 23 2014: Thousands rallied in Staten Island demanding justice & accountability in the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown & other victims of alleged police brutality a katz /

NEW YORK CITY – AUGUST 23 2014: Thousands rallied in Staten Island demanding justice & accountability in the deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown & other victims of alleged police brutality a katz /

Municipal police departments, as they are now known, began as slave patrols. In fact, the first official one started in 1704 in the Colony of Carolina and then spread throughout the South until 1865. The laws creating those patrols required white men to ride the roads and, as documented by Western Michigan University history professor Dr. Sally Hadden in Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and Carolina, engage in the “monitoring … (of) rigid pass requirements for blacks … breaking up large gatherings … of blacks, … searching slave quarters randomly, [and] inflicting impromptu punishments.”

Sound familiar? Yeah! A lot like 2009 when more than a quarter million persons in Philadelphia were subjected to “Stop and Frisk.” Despite African-Americans constituting 44 percent of the city’s population, they constituted 72 percent of the persons stopped and frisked. And because the vast majority was black men, that means (after extrapolating from available race/gender figures) approximately 20 percent of Philadelphians comprised, inexplicably, nearly three of four persons stopped and frisked. By the way, of that quarter million, less than about eight percent led to formal arrests and even less to convictions. Read more »

The Brief: Why the “Philly Is Baltimore” Protest Was Mostly Peaceful

The "Philly Is Baltimore" protest | Photo by Victor Fiorillo

A scene from the “Philly Is Baltimore” protest | Photo by Victor Fiorillo

1. The “Philly Is Baltimore” Protest Was “Tensely Peaceful,” and That’s a Good Thing

The Gist: After riots and looting broke out this week in Baltimore in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, state Sen. Anthony Williams said Philadelphia is “sitting on a powder keg.” District Attorney Seth Williams said “at any given time, anything could happen.” Thankfully, though, Thursday’s “Philly Is Baltimore” protest was, according to news reports, largely peaceful. Philadelphia magazine’s Victor Fiorillo, who was there, called it “tensely peaceful” and said “as of 11 p.m., we’d only heard about a handful of arrests.”

Read more »

Baltimore’s Freddie Gray Died in Police Custody — Could the Same Thing Happen Here?


On the morning of April 12, a handcuffed Freddie Gray was placed in the rear of a Baltimore police van. He was not buckled in. When he was removed about 45 minutes later, he had a crushed voice box and severe spinal injuries. Gray died a week later, and now Baltimore is roiling.

We don’t know yet what happened to Gray, but the timeline has investigators focused on his trip in the back of that police van, and speculation is rampant that Gray was treated to a “rough ride,” or as it’s been called in Philadelphia, a “nickel ride.”

What is a nickel ride, exactly? Well, it’s nothing new in Philadelphia. Let this 2001 Inquirer investigation by Nancy Phillips and Rose Ciotta explain: Read more »

If You See a Cop Stop, Start Recording

North Charleston police officer Michael Slager caught on video shooting Walter Scott in the back.

North Charleston police officer Michael Slager caught on video shooting Walter Scott in the back.

For the past week, the country has spent a lot of time — perhaps too much? — watching North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager fire his gun repeatedly into the back of a fleeing Walter Scott, who died. Slager was denied bail and is currently sitting in jail awaiting trial for murder. But would that be the case if not for the bystander who caught the tragic shooting on video? I think not. Read more »

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