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Philadelphia Civil Rights Legal Blog

Why Is It So Hard For Police Departments To Get Rid Of Bad Cops?

In recent years, public trust in our country’s law enforcement agencies has plummeted as numerous incidents involving police brutality and misconduct have been reported in cities throughout the country. Philadelphia is among those cities to be known for having a police department that is plagued by systemic corruption and wrongdoing.

With public and political pressure growing, politicians and city officials throughout the country are grappling with how to regain public trust and weed out so-called bad cops. However, a recent article in The Washington Post provides insight into why it’s so difficult for police departments to implement reform.

Evictions And Understanding Your Rights As A Tenant

Philadelphia has an eviction problem. There were 22,573 cases filed in landlord-tenant court in 2016, and the majority of tenants are simply unable to hire legal counsel to represent them. In fact, 92 percent of tenants represented themselves – 6.7 percent received pro bono help from private attorneys and 1.5 percent were able to afford their own legal aid.

On the opposite end, 81 percent of landlords are represented by private attorneys.

Seeking Justice For Laquan McDonald

From the first day they put on their badges and many days thereafter, police officers throughout the United States recite the The Law Enforcement Oath of Honor. Key passages of the oath include a promise to "never betray my badge" and "always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions." Sadly, as many Philadelphia residents know, this oath is betrayed by some police officers on a daily basis.

One of the most blatant and egregious examples of police misconduct and corruption came to light after members of the Chicago Police Department attempted to cover up the unjustified shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Police Searches And Seizures And Your Rights

Regardless of sex, race, age or socio-economic class, as Americans, we all have basic civil rights. Among these rights is the right to be protected from unreasonable and unlawful searches and seizures by the government or governmental agency actors-- including police officers.

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution is one of the most important protections that we, as U.S. citizens, have. Sadly, it's also one of the most violated. In some cases, an individual may not even know that his or her Fourth Amendment Rights were violated.

In Philadelphia, Widespread Use Of Police Body Cameras Remains Uncertain

They say that a picture is worth 1,000 words and this statement is particularly true when it comes to video recordings of police stops, encounters and arrests. In recent years, we've been reminded numerous times of just how beneficial these recordings can be when it comes to determining cases of alleged police misconduct and brutality.

The majority of these types of videos are captured by individual citizens who use cellphones to record what they see and hear. In other cases, footage from police car dashboard and body cameras has been used to dispute police accounts and justify the filing of criminal charges.

Struggle for adequate healthcare is prison reality, too

In the United States, prisoners within the correctional systems are owed certain rights. It doesn't matter if they have admitted to and been convicted of a crime. It doesn't matter if a prisoner pleaded guilty to the most serious of crimes; prisoners are human and residents within this land of the free.

A jail cell limits a person's freedom, sure. The bars between a prisoner and his or her freedom, however, do not bar inmates from the right to live a reasonably safe and healthy life. The public is no stranger to talks about fighting for adequate healthcare. That conversation must expand to include the healthcare provided to inmates in Pennsylvania and across the country. 

Jail withholds anti-seizure meds, accuses inmate of faking seizures

About 20 years ago, a woman named Tammy was in a car accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury. As is relatively common, the brain injury caused a seizure disorder, and Tammy only avoids grand mal seizures by taking two anti-seizure medications, Neurontin and Topamax, every day. She was also taking medication for depression and anxiety, including the benzodiazepine Clonazepam, another drug for high blood pressure, and Suboxone in an effort to recover from an addiction to prescription painkillers.

Last summer, when she was late for a court hearing in another state, she was taken into custody. Her stay in jail almost killed her.

Frequent, uncontrolled seizures are considered life-threatening. Apparently, the staff at the jail Tammy was taken to believe they know more about how to treat seizure disorders than doctors do. Based on their opinion that Tammy was faking her seizures, they withheld all of her medications and Tased her for good measure.

Police brutality cases: The truth has a way of coming out

In recent years, there have been numerous news stories exposing the excessive use of force by police officers in cities across the country. In many of these incidences, outrage over acts of police misconduct grew after eye witnesses captured and shared videos of the events via social media.

In cases where acts of excessive police violence against individual citizens occur but are not captured on video, victims often have a hard time proving their claims. If you or a relative has been the victim of police brutality, an attorney who handles civil rights matters can help.

Taking Action Against Police Brutality

In early January, disturbing video footage surfaced on Facebook that showed a female Philadelphia police officer throwing a 16-year-old girl to the ground and repeatedly punching her. The assault occurred while police officers were responding to reports of a fight involving approximately 30 people in the city's Kingsessing neighborhood.

Cellphone footage of the assault was captured by eyewitnesses who were at the scene. In the video, the officer appears to be pushing the 16 year old backwards, away from the scene of the fight. The two are seen engaged in a heated verbal exchange which escalates and ends with the officer grabbing and slamming the girl to the pavement, getting on top of her and repeatedly punching the girl in the face and upper extremities.

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