After the Latest Freddie Gray Acquittal, All I Feel Is Numb

Officer Caesar Goodson (left) on the day he was acquitted of murder charges in the death of Freddie Gray (right).

Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. (left) on the day he was acquitted of all charges in the death of Freddie Gray (right).

What more can you write, post, scream, cry, cuss and pontificate about after a while? At some point, there’s a leaden numbness that creeps into the blood when these moments announce themselves. They’re like bizarro action movies; the whole narrative is reversed, and while we experience the same series of fake climaxes and plot twists, by the time of the denouement, you feel foolish, remembering and realizing that when you sat down to watch this play out, the outcome was never in question.

That’s what Freddie Gray’s death and court proceedings surrounding it feel like to me: the predictable outcome to a decidedly fucked-up action film. As the latest verdict was handed down involving Gray’s death, that old feeling came crawling back again. The initial incident literally set Baltimore ablaze, confounding many people inside and outside the city as to why so many blacks would feel inclined to protest so much, so angrily, so loudly and so violently. In that sense, that’s when the country feels the most unflatteringly colorblind; an entire nation, it seems, incapable of understanding what could be troubling people to act out in such a manner, taking to the streets in protest.

It can be hard to appreciate that those moments aren’t only about Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner. It can be hard to understand that black people in this country are intimately familiar with injustice. These murders don’t represent mere incidents of injustice, of “he said, authority said” narratives; these represent a legacy in the country so old it makes these situations preordained. We’ve been here before is what I’m saying. The constant exoneration and adulation of law enforcement makes sense if it’s never been a cudgel used against you.

I remember being a child in elementary school, drawing and coloring policemen: the bright smiles, the shiny caps, the impeccable uniforms and the billy clubs that seemed more likely to be used to shoo away dogs or, at worst, winos. I remember a school field trip to a police station; donning one of those uniform caps, the adult-sized hat falling over my eyes and me playfully tilting it back so that I could see. Sitting in the passenger seat of a cruiser as an officer showed me how the radio dispatch worked; clapping and laughing with my classmates when the stationary cruiser’s sirens were turned on, blue-red-blue-red-blue-red-blue-red whipping across our faces. Read more »

OPINION: GOAL Is the Wrong Choice for Grand Marshal of Pride

Here’s a not-so-fun fact: Every year, Philly Pride does something that sours me on our city’s LGBTQ community.

Whether it’s the lack of creativity in venue selection, the disproportionate number of cisgender gay white men dominating the event, or the lack of a queer-cultural embrace that intersects the community, Pride often fails to represent everyone.

But this year, the selection by event organizer Philly Pride Presents of the Greater Philadelphia Gay Officer Action League (GOAL) — a year-old regional law-enforcement organization whose members identify as LGBT — as grand marshals of the Pride parade on June 12th has left me beyond disappointed. Read more »

Philly Jesus Arrested at Apple Store

It may not be Holy Thursday, but Jesus got locked up today.

Michael Grant — aka Philly Jesus, the former heroin addict-turned-quasi-street preacher — frequently checks his email and Twitter at the Apple Store on Walnut Street.

Philly Jesus has been a constant presence in Center City for more than two years now. He shows up at city events, walks the streets during the workday — usually while carrying a cross. He brought that cross in with him at the Apple Store today, which may have been what caused all the trouble. Read more »

Delaware Police Officer Acquitted in Shocking Videotaped Kicking

A jury has acquitted a Dover, Delaware, police officer accused of kicking a black suspect in the face — even though the suspect appeared to be complying with commands at the time.

Dover Cpl. Thomas Webster IV, had been charged with felony assault in connection with the 2013 incident, which was captured on a police car dashcam. Webster was seen kicking 29-year-old Lateef Dickerson in the head, knocking him unconscious and breaking his jaw. Dickerson had fled from another officer who was breaking up a fight. Read more »

Police Officer in Medford, N.J., Files Racial Discrimination Suit

medford-police-400The only African-American officer on the Medford Township, N.J., police force is suing his employer and the township, alleging a pattern of racial discrimination in promotion, a hostile work environment and retaliation for testimony he gave during an internal investigation of his immediate supervisor, among other charges.

Officer Mark Hunsinger filed his lawsuit in Burlington County Court on October 10th. At a midday news conference December 7th, Walter L. Hudson Sr., founder and chairman of the National Awareness Alliance, NAACP New Jersey State President Richard Smith and Doug Long, the attorney representing Hunsinger, called on township officials to take action to rectify the alleged wrongdoing. Read more »

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 »

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