By Pete Smith
The Philadelphia Police Department is one of the country’s oldest municipal police agencies. Also, it is the fourth-largest police force and sixth-largest non-federal law enforcement agency in the United States. Yet, recently, the boys in blue have been mired in controversy due to alleged wrongdoings of some in the department. And, as the idiom goes, while a few bad apples always spoil the bunch, it is important to consider that the men and women who comprise the Philadelphia Police Department often put their lives on the line to protect the citizens of this city. Every day when they leave for work, there is no certainty they will return home alive.
When I was a child, my parents instilled in me the mindset to respect our police. This was because a police officer was always a figure of authority and that they were there to protect us and you could always feel safe when with one. Yet, today, that does not seem to be the case. Now the mindset instilled in children is one of disrespect, hatred and fear. To make matters worse, this sentiment is often expressed in communities that are plagued with violent crime and need the police the most. This is a dangerous sentiment to have in our city, especially at a time when violent crimes and homicides are on the rise.
Today’s political climate has targeted the police as the villains instead of the protectors. Reports of alleged wrongdoing get amplified in the media. As a result, the police get negatively stereotyped and profiled and that impacts their reputations in the city. Police officers now are walking on eggshells, afraid to do their jobs for fear of being attacked, called names, doxed or prosecuted themselves. A police force reluctant to do its job for fear of being persecuted by an agenda-driven mob is detrimental to the city’s efforts to protect its citizens.
Make no mistake, just like in every occupation in the country, the police force will occasionally have bad employees. And just like every other occupation in the country, it is important to remove these bad employees – more so given the importance of the role of police in maintaining law and order. Furthermore, bad cops are also a detriment to their fellow police officers. So, unquestionably, bad cops should be removed from the force when discovered. No one questions this. However, given the political agenda of many these days, the term “bad cop” is being applied too liberally to many who are not. That is why we need to stop the false narrative being delivered by radical groups and the media and as citizens show our support to these fine men and women who protect us daily.
Additionally, the city of Philadelphia has been victimized from within. There are several recidivist offenders throughout the police department who have been listed on lawsuits for sexual harassment and other violations that have cost the city millions of dollars. That is money that could be used for training, equipment and hiring new police officers. Individuals who engage in a course of conduct multiple times should be removed from their jobs at the police department. Also, I firmly believe, those who have legitimately committed wrongdoing and harmed people and the fine reputation of those honorably serving on the force should also lose their pensions.
How to make improvements:
• First and foremost, more cooperation with the office of the district attorney is critical. In 2018, the Philadelphia Police Department saw a record number of declination charges, a no-bail system for 25 listed crimes representing 61% of cases in the city. This led to many defendants being released less than eight hours after being arrested. This put criminals back on the street and free to continue to harm innocent people. Such actions by the city of Philadelphia promotes the impression of being soft on crime, which enables criminals in the city to do harm and suffer little, if any, consequences. We need to hold these criminals more accountable and keep the bad guys away from the good people – especially our community’s children, whom the criminals like to prey on.
• Furthermore, we need to invest in the police department. Our police need the proper tools and resources to help them combat crime. We need to make sure the men and women entrusted with protecting our lives are given state-of-the-art equipment. One piece of equipment that is desperately needed is body cameras. The city is dragging its feet in the implementing of citywide body cams, due to poor fiduciary planning, and paying off lawsuits against the department. This seems counterintuitive to me, as body-cams drive down civil lawsuits against police departments and can hold those accountable who are not following the rules. Most departments are very outdated with technology, especially in computer-based equipment. We need to provide our officers with updated technology equipment so they can do their jobs effectively and to the best of their abilities. Let’s get our police out of the Stone Age and give them the tools and resources they need to be successful. ••
Pete Smith is the Republican candidate in the 6th Councilmanic District.