Philly Seeks Stronger Recruits Amid Police Woes
Philadelphia Inquirer via YellowBrix
August 06, 2010
PHILADELPHIA – Faced with a growing number of officers in handcuffs, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey announced plans Thursday to assign more officers to the department’s Internal Affairs bureau, enhance officer training in ethics issues, and create new ways for officers to report misconduct among their colleagues.
Ramsey said he was not sure how many officers would be transferred to Internal Affairs, but said they would be assigned to a joint task force that works with the FBI in investigating police corruption. The department is also looking at ways to make Internal Affairs a more attractive assignment for officers, Ramsey said.
Much of the anticorruption plan focuses on preventing officers from making bad decisions. Whereas officers now receive most of their ethics training at the Police Academy, Ramsey said the department would create additional courses to help officers develop critical thinking and self-awareness throughout their careers.
Ramsey said the department would work to encourage officers to report colleagues when they see inappropriate behavior.
“The Police Department continues to ask the public to step up and report wrongdoing,” Ramsey said. “We will ask no less of its own members.”
The department is launching a hotline and e-mail address that go straight to Ramsey’s office. Officers and the public can use them to anonymously report police misconduct. The phone number, which will be active Monday, is 215-686-3009. E-mails can be sent to email@example.com.
Ramsey has tasked Patricia Giorgio-Fox, deputy commissioner for organizational accountability, with implementing the new strategies.
He was spurred to announce the plan after Kenneth Crockett, a 26-year veteran of the 6,600-plus force, was charged last week with stealing $825 from a Northeast Philadelphia bar.
The announcement also followed the arrest of three police officers last month on federal charges of robbing a drug dealer.
Eleven officers have been arrested since March 2009, including two on murder charges stemming from off-duty shootings. Another officer was fired this year after admitting that he fabricated a story about being shot by a black man. In fact, the officer had shot himself.
Ramsey said Thursday that the department had opened investigations into several other officers, but declined to comment further.
“It’s a cloud,” he said of the spate of scandals. “And it’s going to take time for that cloud to lift. But we’re not going to run from it.”
Ramsey has said attracting stronger recruits is a priority. Starting in 2012, new officers will have to be at least 21 and have three years of driving and two years of college classes under their belts. Standards now allow 19-year-olds with no college education and little driving experience to join the academy. The residency requirement has been modified in an effort to draw candidates from outside the city.
Police experts said implementing an anticorruption plan would not be easy. Some officers arrested recently were veterans and had nothing in their backgrounds that would indicate a predilection toward criminal acts.
A larger obstacle to fighting corruption is often a version of the “don’t snitch” culture that officers battle when policing urban areas, said Rich Jarc, executive director of the Josephson Institute, a Los Angeles nonprofit that educates police departments on ethics. In many departments, Jarc said, it’s all but demanded that officers stand together, and ratting each other out is discouraged.
“It doesn’t mean that the department is totally corrupt,” Jarc said. “But that cultural code of silence might be preventing some people from stopping this behavior.”
Ramsey said Thursday that many officers had reported misconduct by colleagues, but that the department needed to reach those who remained hesitant to do so. After Crockett’s arrest on theft charges last week, Ramsey said, more information came to light from officers who knew or suspected Crockett was not always going by the book.
“We’ve got to create an environment where people feel comfortable coming forward and reporting something,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do.”