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Police Disparage Philadelphia Citizenry with False Report That SEPTA Riders Stood Idle While Passenger was Raped

by Douglas Ankney

During a late-night SEPTA train ride on the Market-Frankford line in October 2021, a woman was raped. In an apparent rush to disparage Philadelphia’s citizenry, Upper Darby police initially reported that other passengers looked on while the woman was being raped, with some filming for their own enjoyment and no one intervening or calling 911. Upper Darby’s police superintendent, Timothy Barnhardt, said at the time: “It’s disturbing that there were definitely people on the El and no one did anything to intervene or help this woman. It speaks to where we are in society; I mean, who would allow something like that to take place?”

Days later, however, District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer informed the public: “There is a narrative out there that people sat there on the El train and watched this transpire and took videos of it for their own gratification. That is simply not true. It did not happen. We have security video from SEPTA that shows that is not the true narrative.”

According to Stollsteimer, few people were in the train car where the assault took place. And those who witnessed it were passing through the car and might not have understood what was going on.

Bernhardt, who was at the press conference with Stollsteimer quickly passed the buck. He blamed the misinformation on the SEPTA officials. But one must ask: Since it was Bernhardt who released the false report, shouldn’t he have investigated before forming a conclusion and spreading disinformation that maligned the people his agency is sworn to serve and protect?

It appears the police may be suffering from a delusion: the self-righteous defenders of the public good must continue the war with the evil public.  


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