On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department is launching a new initiative to collect data about stops, searches and arrests in an effort to “reduce tensions between law enforcement and minority communities.” Holder said:
This overrepresentation of young men of color in our criminal justice system is a problem we must confront—not only as an issue of individual responsibility but also as one of fundamental fairness, and as an issue of effective law enforcement. Racial disparities contribute to tension in our nation generally and within communities of color specifically, and tend to breed resentment towards law enforcement that is counterproductive to the goal of reducing crime.
Recent incidents of racial profiling have exacerbated tensions between Philly police officers and minority communities.
On Jan. 7, 2014, Darrin Manning, a 16-year-old honor student from a good family, was minding his own business. On a record cold day in Philadelphia, he was wearing a hoodie on his way to play in his school’s basketball game. That was enough for a Philadelphia police officer to stop him for “acting suspiciously.” Less than 24 hours after the illegal investigatory stop and violent pat down by a white female officer, Darrin underwent emergency surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Fast forward three months. Philippe Holland, a 20-year-old black man from a good family, is in critical condition at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania after two plainclothes police officers fired 14 shots into his car. Three of the bullets hit him. Holland is a pizza delivery man who was on his second job when he was shot. This hard-working man may lose an eye because two Philly cops deemed a black man wearing a hoodie with his hands in his pockets is acting suspiciously.
The two illegal stops run amok, coupled with the decision not to prosecute rogue Philly cops caught on camera, have sparked outrage.
A Philly.com reader, Willphill1, commented:
Reminiscent of the Frank Rizzo regime, he must be smiling from the grave. Just another gang of thugs with no regard for the law and rights of citizens they are sworn and paid to uphold… ‘Tainted justice’? That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The cops are shooting innocent people in the streets like animals. That pizza delivery guy didn’t choose to be in that neighborhood at that hour. It was his job. He was just trying to get home to his family. The fact that an innocent man with not even a traffic warrant ran for his life in that situation definitely indicates that there was something seriously wrong in the way they approached him. In his trying to protect his life they shot him down like a dog. It has to stop. Truly the worst of times have arrived when law-abiding citizens need protection from so-called ‘law enforcement.’
Indeed, from former Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo to current Commissioner Ramsey Charles, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
The new National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice should collect data about Philadelphia, where it’s always Groundhog Day. In 1979, the Justice Department accused then-Mayor Frank Rizzo of “condoning policies to commit random beatings, unjustified shootings and other flagrant civil rights violations.” The lawsuit noted the victims of police misconduct were overwhelmingly black or Hispanic.
But we don’t have to wait on the feds to hold officials, including the next mayor, accountable. Philadelphia Daily News columnist Will Bunch recently wrote:
Ask the men and women who want to be Philadelphia’s next mayor after Nutter leaves office in 2015 what they will do to change the current system where so few allegations of police misconduct stick (remember this guy) and the end result is so often that the officer accused of wrongdoing gets his job back with back overtime pay (what is that, even?).
Sure, we can complain but to have an impact we must do something. So with a hat tip to the New York Police Department, we will use #myPhillyPD to tell the story of the Philadelphia Police Department’s pattern or practice of racial bias in law enforcement. The crowdsourced interactive map will help citizens hold officials accountable for their failure to end the culture of corruption that taints Philly police officers and breeds resentment and distrust in communities of color.
To get involved, post a photo to Twitter with the hashtag #myPhillyPD. Not on Twitter? No problem. Go to http://bit.ly/myPhillyPD and upload your photos.
To stay informed, follow us on Twitter: @myPhillyPD.