by Christopher Zoukis
Corruption in the Philadelphia Police Department led local prosecutors to prepare a list of cops who had engaged in misconduct, including excessive force, drinking on duty, and lying to investigators. The list contains 66 names and was referred to by prosecutors as the “Do Not Call” list — as in, do not permit these officers on the witness stand.
But the list, prepared by disgraced former District Attorney Seth Williams, who is now serving a five-year federal sentence for accepting a bribe, was only recently released pursuant to a court order. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, about half of the cops on the list are still on the job; nine of them are on active duty and made a collective 41 arrests in 2017. A group of five of the officers made more than 800 arrests in the past five years.
The Do-Not-Call list is indicative of a problem in the Philadelphia Police Department, one that is becoming a major headache for prosecutors, including new District Attorney Larry Krasner. Prosecutors have a duty under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense, and that includes anything about arresting or testifying officers that might affect their credibility on the witness stand. As defense attorneys have begun digging into the background of those on the list, as well as other unlisted cops, they are filing petitions to dismiss cases by the truckload. In the case of six narcotics cops who were charged with, but found not guilty of corruption and brutality, more than 1,000 cases were tossed as a result of their involvement.
Krasner, a longtime civil rights attorney, is determined to root out police misconduct in Philadelphia. He said his office is committed to airing the dirty laundry.
“We are currently hard at work disclosing more information and trying to have a solid system for gathering, storing and providing information that rises to the level of Brady about police,” Krasner told In Justice Today.
But Krasner has his work cut out for him in the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia police are highly protective of each other, have a powerful union, and the city’s disciplinary system is less than robust. Krasner may be up to the challenge, and he has some ideas.
“You can provide much needed support to reform police commissioners who want the system to be right, but who have been undermined by local prosecutors more interested in pandering to the police union for their own political ambitions than interested in having the police department be trusted and integrous,” Krasner said. “Another thing you can do is charge police officers who commit a crime instead of looking the other way.”
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