Philly PD Bows To Union Pressure, Guts Independent Officer-Involved-Shooting Board Ordered By The DOJ

from the model-of-servitude dept

The Philadelphia Police Department is one of many to be on the receiving end of a consent decree with the DOJ. Most PDs finding themselves in this position earn it through years of abusive policing and a consistent disregard for constitutional rights and civil liberties. The Philly PD is no exception.

This department has been trying to make the changes recommended by the Justice Department, but apparently found some of the DOJ's hurdles too high for it to jump… at least willingly. That hasn't stopped police officials from declaring their inability to live up to the DOJ's standards a success, however.

An Officer-Involved Shooting Investigation Unit was established within the Philadelphia Police Department Jan. 1, Commissioner Richard Ross announced Friday.

The creation of the unit was a result of a Department of Justice study that recommended departmental reforms focused on the use of deadly force by police officers.

[...]

"The Philadelphia Police Department will now be a model for departments across the country," said COPS director Ronald Davis.

Hold your applause…

However, one of the study's major recommendations - that an outside agency should investigate officer-involved shootings - could not be fulfilled, Davis said.

"Philadelphia tried many alternatives but it could not work," Davis said.

The COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) has an interesting definition of "could not." It could have worked, but the commissioner was unwilling to go up against the force behind the city's police force to do it. The federal government proclaims something must happen. The commissioner runs up against some resistance and decides it's impossible. Now, the city's residents can look forward to shootings by officers being handled completely internally, which will do little to deter the sort of activity that led to the DOJ's intercession in the first place.

The commissioner did at least obliquely address the obstacle he's unwilling to remove to better implement the DOJ's recommendation.

Finally, Ross said the "elephant in the room" was that the department faced opposition on the proposal from its union, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5.

This is why we can't have nice accountable things. The FOP managed to defang the OIS Board, turning it into an internal, opaque process where officers have a 72-hour "cooling off" period before having to face a series of lobbed softballs by the PD's internal review board.

As an alternative to an outside agency conducting investigations, Ross established the Officer-Involved Shooting Investigation Unit so the process is now bifurcated - the criminal aspect will be handled by the new unit, and the administrative aspect will continue to be handled by the department's Internal Affairs Unit.

And yet, it's being hailed by a federal COPS official as a "model" for the nation's police departments. Yeah, this is a model, alright -- a model for every police union faced with a DOJ consent decree. Flex enough muscle and police officials will blow off federal recommendations to ensure future cooperation in policymaking and labor negotiations.

Filed Under: civil liberties, doj, officer involved shooting, oversight, philadelphia police, philly police department


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 18 Jan 2017 @ 9:17pm

    Should have remembered to add 'Pretty please'

    If the DOJ actually wanted them to do something about the problem it wouldn't be a request, but a demand, and one backed by a stiff penalty for non-compliance. Imagine that same boneheaded logic applied elsewhere and it's easy to see how weak it was.

    "My client is pleading 'Not guilty' Your Honor on account of the law merely asking people not to drive while intoxicated, it does not actually say that doing so is illegal or even bad."

    By merely suggesting that the PD put in place a group that might hold the officers accountable, or even present the facade of such, they basically gave the PD all the room it needed to decide that nah, they'd rather not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anon E. Mous (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 4:14am

      Re: Should have remembered to add 'Pretty please'

      I was just about to state the same opinion in that this shouldn't be a request, it should be mandated upon them that this needs to be in place and operational or have the US DOJ have the state police or a federal Law Enforcement agency over see every officer involved shooting.

      Philly PD is well known to look after it's own within the Blue Wall and that is nothing new, one has to remember this is cops investigating cops within their own department and IA guys who have come up thru the very ranks of the Philly PD.

      Let me tell a little story here about how the Police investigating their own goes. My friend that I have known since grade school and thru college joined the Police department right after he graduated from college. My friend started out as a patrolman, then after 5 years he applied to be part of the Police Tactical Unit and was on that unit for 6 years, then became a Sargent, and a few years later became an Inspector.

      We talk off and on about some of the cases he , see's some of the crimes and criminals and some of the failure of the parole, and Justice system.

      A while back there were some very high profile stories going on in the media that were picked up locally and then nationally about one police commission member (who is a lawyer and a civilian member of that commission) who was very very critical and outspoken about some of the cases that were profiled by the media about Police abusing their powers in several incidents were the public was put at risk and were use of force was used unlawfully and this was reported by a member of the local media who was also critical of the police.

      There was a mixer one night at a local restraint where it was for all the members of the media and their organisation, this included people from all facets including law enforcement. The police department were not very happy with this two outspoken critics of it, and unofficially it was decided within the higher ranks that these two critics would be targeted and put on a list to be treated with extreme caution.

      At this media association mixer those two people were there (the lawyer/ civilian member of the police commission and the journalist) Our Police department sent in officers undercover in civilian clothing to "observe" those two critics. Now there was dinner and drinks served at the mixer. One of the reporters who attended the mixer overheard one of the undercover officers phoning in to his superiors that the "two targets" (who the cop mentioned by their last names) were here and drinking and that they should mount a surveillance OP to catch them driving under the influence. The journalist upon hearing that warned his colleague of what he overheard.

      So a hastily mounted undercover surveillance operation was put in place with undercover officers inside the restaurant and outside in the parking lot and surrounding area with sight lines and a couple patrol cars stationed close by to effect the traffic stop on both of the critics.

      At one point the Police thought that the journalist had left the mixer as the undercover officers doing surveillance inside the restaurant lost sight of him ( he was inside the managers officer thanking him it turned out for how the event was very successful and that he appreciate all the staff and his hard work in making sure it went off smoothly)

      So The Undercover Officer reported this news back to his superior and the superior had an unmarked police surveillance vehicle drive to the critic journalists house to check and see if the journalists car was at home (which it wasnt ) and the officer reported that back to the superior in charge of the operation back at the restaurant.

      All the while the undercover surveillance team and the patrol members waiting in the wings were chatting over the Police departments radio system about the critics and saying some unkind and disrespectful things and laying out how things would progress for the stop and "the reason" for the stop would be that they received "a Tip" from an unknown member of the public (remember know they had two undercover officers inside the restaurant ) that two people would be leaving there driving drunk.

      The police commission member never drove to the restaurant so when he left the mixer he took a cab home which the surveillance team members noticed and chatted about how "they would have to get him another time" over the police radio.

      The Journalist tipped by his colleague that the Police were out to get him only had a couple drinks as he was the emcee of the event and took a cab home, once again noted by the surveillance team and chatted about over the police radio system with accompanying disparaging remarks about the journalist professional, personally and his sexuality and overall appearance.

      The surveillance team was ordered to "wrap the OP up as it was unsuccessful and that they would wait for the next opportunity".

      The journalist who was targeted shared the information of what his journalist colleague over heard the undercover officer placed inside the restaurant say to the superior over the phone with the police commission member, both the Journalist and the Police Commission member launched complaints with the Chief of Police about the surveillance operation placed on them as a form of retaliation for being critical of the Police Department (which it was)

      The story was then reported by the Journalist critical of the police Department at his newspaper and then picked up be other print and TV news station locally and then nationally

      There was a ton of outrage from all print and TV media station as well as Journalist organisations, Criminal Lawyer Defense associations, fellow Police Commission members and the public.

      At first the Chief did nothing and the pressure from the aforementioned organisations and the local and national media ramped up along with public outrage forced the Police Chief to have the Internal Affairs department investigate the "sting operation"

      A member of the police department leaked part of the radio communications from the surveillance operation on the critic police commission member and the Journalist to the media, and it started a firestorm in that the Police who were claiming that the "undercover sting operation" was launched due to a "citizen" complaint about a couple impaired drivers who were going to drink and drive from this mixer and would be a hazard to the public.

      The local and national Media and Criminal Defense Lawyers organisation were highly convinced that due to the leaked police radio communications from the surveillance operation that the so called "Tip" from a citizen was really from one of the undercover officers in the restaurant who was overheard by the fellow journalist colleague of the targeted critical Journalist and it was being said that the so called "tip" from the public was to hide the fact that police had launched this sting out of retaliation against its critics illegally.

      Well the Internal Affairs investigation was announced at a press conference to quiet the outrage and get the temperature tuned down from boiling over the outrage that was going on about the so called undercover sting operation.

      As the Internal Affairs investigation was underway, members of the police department internal baseball league were playing a game ( these are teams made up from various different entities and departments and stations within the Police force within the city) One of the teams was wearing new white t-shirts that had a big picture of a rat on it with a red circle and a line thru the circle (like a no entry you'd see on a sign) and had a code number on the bottom of the shirt ( that code number corresponded to a police 10 code for the rodent called a rat )

      When a picture came about of the police baseball team members wearing the "No Rats" T-shirt leaked to the media it launched another firestorm that there were members of the Police department wearing the "No Rats" t-shirts to send a warning to their fellow officer to not "Rat" on their colleagues to the Internal Affairs investigators looking into the undercover sting operation of the two critics of the Police Service.

      When the media dug up the fact that he Police Union Association had ordered and paid for the T-Shirts and gave them out to the Police Baseball Team members to wear, that went over like a led balloon with the public, Media and criminal Defense lawyers, and the Police Union Association denied that the shirts were worn to send the message to their colleagues to not "rat" on their fellow members while this investigation was taking place.

      It later came about that records of who the officers were assigned to that undercover sting operation went missing as did the paperwork authorizing the OP and its approval also went missing along with some other of the other radio communications from that operation.

      There were 12 to 15 officers involved in the sting operation (the exact number couldn't be ascertained due to the record going missing. Officers assigned to the undercover sting operation were not charged or disciplined because there was no record of who was there (even though the journalist who heard the undercover officer inside the restaurant make the phone call and the conversation pointed out who this cop was , the cop denied he was there for that and was just having dinner with a friend who was also the other undercover officer that night, and both denied knowing anything about it at all )

      No one who authorized and approved the Operation was disciplined or fired. The only real punishment handed out was to the Police PR person who crafted the press releases before the internal affairs investigation was initiated by the Police Chief about how there was nothing to see here and all is well etc etc etc. The Police PR person was docked pay and demoted for a short period of time

      The media reported that the Law Firm the outspoken Police Commission Member worked at did a lot of work with the Police Department and in court defending officers of wrong doing. Rumor has it that the Police Department put pressure on the law firm to have him made a partner at the firm which would take him off the Police Comission and what do you know that is exactly what happened.

      The critic Journalist launched a civil lawsuit and a complaint with Justice Department along with his complaint to the Police Chief. The lawsuit is ongoing and the reporter has stated publicly the money from the lawsuit would be donated to charity.

      The Internal Affairs investigation only resulted in punishment and demotion of the Police Department PR flack and one Sargent who had his hours docked. The Police Association Union allows its union members to donate their overtime hours to their fellow colleagues in times of need like say if your hours are docked for instance.

      I talked with my friend about this case, and I said so what is this Internal Affairs investigation like, he looked at me and said, the IA investigators will ask the least pointed questions and not dig very deep... basically he said the IA investigators will say "Did you do this?" "No. Okay good" "Did you do that?" "No. Okay good" "Know who might be involved" "No? Okay then Thanks for your help"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dr Evil, 19 Jan 2017 @ 12:55am

    just let them be..

    now that the chief has publicly indicated that the union was behind the change, ANY lawsuit can now name the union in the action. I would love to press that case - my first contention would be that the 72 hour cooling off period was obviously an attempt to get a replacement story / a parallel construction / dare I say a conspiracy - in place to fight against the public.

    nuf said...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 19 Jan 2017 @ 2:40am

    Huh.

    I seem to remember that in the times of the prohibition, there were considerable connections between organized crime and unions in the U.S. Which struck me as somewhat odd.

    However, the police unions really seem carved out for this sort of connection. Particularly since distinguishing law enforcement from organized crime gets harder every month.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 3:33am

    And they keep wondering why people hate cops these days. We the citizens must pay our respects to the cops but the cops couldn't care less about we the citizens. Awesome.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 7:34am

      Re:

      I've said this in the past for a long time, it's the Police UNIONS that are turning the police into a corrupt organization. They want everything covered up. The few bad police are protected which makes everyone look bad. It''s just getting worse.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 3:42am

    From the "THIS WEBSITE SUCKS DICK" Dept.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    PCDEC, 19 Jan 2017 @ 6:06am

    It's funny the union has a huge list of positions/officers/emails on their contacts page but the public relations position is empty.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 6:29am

    shocker there....

    the police become tyrannical and neither the state or feds do shit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Brad, 19 Jan 2017 @ 7:25am

    Not a Consent Decree

    This was not a consent decree. It was a voluntary process called Collaborative Reform. The DOJ can't force the Philly PD to adopt any of the recommendations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Bruce C., 19 Jan 2017 @ 11:19am

      Re: Not a Consent Decree

      ...and even if it was a consent decree, do you really think the Trump DOJ is going to give a shart about police shootings. More like they'll give the Presidential Medal of Freedom to them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 11:38am

      Re: Not a Consent Decree

      So the union received the suggestion and as a whole, collaboratively decided to ignore it.

      Sound like the process works!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JustMe (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 7:30am

    Re: Anon E. Mous

    How is that not destruction of evidence? Wouldn't any civilian accused of the same act be charged with additional crimes? Sheesh.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anon E. Mous (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 12:46pm

      Re: Re: Anon E. Mous

      Trust me this was a huge story here and there was a ton of outrage when the police chief declared that the officers did nothing wrong and it was all by the book which is what the Police claimed from the moment the scandal hit the media. Even the solicitor general (like an Attorney General) even raised concerns over what a mess this whole sting operation was turning into. Lots of people, lawyers, journalists, organisations were claiming that the Police chief was whitewashing the whole affair to protect those involved and to absolve the Police from any misconduct

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    NitroLab (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 1:47pm

    Police unions should be dismantled!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 19 Jan 2017 @ 3:09pm

      Re:

      Or just ignored.

      "Under pressure from the police union."

      So? That is more an excuse for, "this is how we like it as well". Most unions have zero bearing on the sorts of things police unions do. They are not normal unions. They are just the private arm of the police department. Actually, they are even bigger than that. We don't have a national police force, except in the private, union sense of it. (Although DAPL sort of shows how you can get a semi-national / paramilitary / militia of cops doing the Al-Qaeda vacation-warrior thing for fun and profit.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2017 @ 4:47pm

    So when the DOJ orders harassment of Megaupload everyone bends over backwards, but when it comes to ordering an impartial board to handle police shootings, a simple "No" is enough to get the DOJ to back off?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 20 Jan 2017 @ 2:34am

      Re:

      Of course.

      Everyone knows that copyright is The Most Important Thing Ever, Without Which The United States Wouldn't Exist, it makes perfect sense that they would go all out 'protecting' it. Protecting copyright is protecting the US, and the DOJ is absolutely dedicated to that.

      A few people who are almost certainly criminals being shot or roughed up? Eh, not that big of a deal. If the cops involved say they were justified who is the DOJ to say otherwise?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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