On May 14, a law-related injustice occurred in Philadelphia. On that date, Narcotics Field Unit Police Officers Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman, and John Speiser were incredibly found not guilty in federal court despite very strong evidence from civilian witnesses and a police witness that those cops routinely engaged in outrageous brutality and corruption. And it wasn’t just those witnesses who provided that strong evidence. Even the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office conceded- and even a Common Pleas Court judge realized- that those “thugs in blue” ain’t right. That’s why District Attorney Seth Williams, through his trial prosecutors, requested- and why the assigned judge approved- the reversal of nearly 500 drug convictions that those six officers were directly or indirectly tied to. Even U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger’s office presented testimony that these cops stole money, planted evidence, viciously beat up people while sadistically keeping score on which cop could cause the most serious injuries, violated constitutional rights, lied on police reports, threatened to seize homes, held people for days against their will in hotel rooms, and shockingly dangled at least one individual over a balcony. Even Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who suspended then fired all of them, described this entire situation as “one of the worst cases of corruption I have ever seen.” And he’s been in law enforcement for 47 years!
On July 10, another law-related injustice occurred in Philadelphia. On that date, it was announced that, despite such evidence and action by the civilians, the DA, the judge, the federal prosecutor, and the police commissioner, those officers- through arbitration- got their jobs back. Oh, by the way, each one got $90,000 in back pay. The current arbitration system must be abolished. And I’ll explain exactly why near the end of this column. But first, consider the following:
In 1979, Philadelphia became nationally notorious when its police department became the first in America to be sued by the U.S. Justice Department for having committed or condoned “widespread and severe” acts of police brutality.
Officer Rodney Hunt in 1990 killed a man that court testimony indicated had been shot nine times in the back and buttocks and also had been shot at least once while lying face down. This same cop in 1991, when a grand jury was investigating that 1990 homicide, while off-duty at a 3 a.m. party fired 14 shots, wounding an innocent female bystander during a gun battle. Although he was incredibly acquitted in the 1990 killing, the City paid a $900,000 civil settlement. But even more incredibly, he was reinstated in 1994 with back pay.
Officer Christopher Rudy in 1993, when hanging out and drinking with friends in a warehouse, helped one of those friends out by luring a man to that warehouse and then watched him get tortured, menaced with a gun, and threatened with homosexual rape while he personally beat the man and poured beer in his face- and ignoring police radio calls, including one “officer needs assistance” call. After receiving a 12 day suspension slap on the wrist for failing to take police action, inflicting physical abuse, providing false statements, and engaging in conduct unbecoming a police officer, he was returned to active duty.
Six foot, 3 inch, 290 pound Officer Carl Holmes in 1992, after seeing a man urinating in an alley, tackled the man, kicked him, hit him in the head, slammed him into a car, and stepped on his penis. The man was a kidney patient who was six inches shorter and 100 pounds lighter than Holmes. His 20 day suspension was reduced to five, and he was later promoted to lieutenant.
The Philadelphia police arbitration system is based on a state law known as Legislative Act 111 of 1968. That act allows a civilian arbitrator from the American Arbitration Association to “ignore findings of fact” regarding brutality, corruption, and other misconduct deemed founded by Internal Affairs Division (IAD) and the Police Board of Inquiry (PBI). The act also allows the arbitrator to “reject the punishment” assessed by IAD and PBI “even if the facts as charged have been proven.” For more information about the brutality/corruption-condoning arbitration system, read a powerful and meticulous legal analysis by the Philadelphia Bar Association about the system’s inherent and intentional flaws. Although it was written in 2002, it is remarkably timely and prescient in 2015 and beyond. You should read it. And you can do so by logging onto http://www.philadelphiabar.org/page/TPLSpring02CoverStory?appNum=1
Also, you should do something to stop bad cops in their tracks. And you can start by contacting your state legislators and asking them to introduce a bill to abolish the current arbitration system and to create one grounded in protecting civilians from police brutality, corruption, and other misconduct. Moreover, although city councilpersons are not state elected officials, you nonetheless should contact them and ask them to at least issue a press release demanding the abolition of the current arbitration system in order to protect the health and safety of their Philadelphia constituents. You can get the phone numbers of the state officials by calling 215-557-3600 and the city officials by calling 215-686-3442. After you contact your legislators and councilpersons and get a response or not get a response, send me an email at MichaelCoard@msn.com so I can publicly announce their response or non-response in one of my upcoming Tribune “Freedom’s Journal” columns and one of my WURD900-AM “Radio Courtroom” shows.
The words from David Walker’s Appeal, written in 1829, along with the words of Christopher James Perry Sr., founder of the Tribune in 1884, are the inspiration for my weekly “Freedom’s Journal” columns. In order to honor that pivotal nationalist abolitionist and that pioneering newspaper giant, as well as to inspire today’s Tribune readers, each column ends with Walker and Perry’s combined quote- along with my inserted voice- as follows: I ask all Blacks “to procure a copy of this… (weekly column) for it is designed… particularly for them” so they can “make progress… against (racist) injustice.”
Michael Coard, Esquire can be followed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. His “Radio Courtroom” show can be heard on WURD900AM.