Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers

High Approval for the Philadelphia Police Department?

Some police departments are more famous — or infamous — than others. We frequently hear about Rodney King, the 1992 L.A. Riots, and the (now de-clawed) Stop-and-Frisk program in New York City. The LAPD and NYPD are typical targets for accusations of corruption and brutality — but despite patrolling a metropolitan area of well over a million residents, the Philadelphia PD is seldom mentioned in the news by comparison. Our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers interact with Philadelphia police officers on a near daily basis. So what do people think of them?

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Image of the Philadelphia skyline at twilight blue hour.

Philadelphia: A Tough Beat

The Philadelphia PD has a tough beat. Of course, all police work in an urban setting is ramped up to an extreme degree. Huge, teeming cities are full of opportunities for blight and crime to an extent that most small towns simply don’t have the capacity for. But Philadelphia in particular has had a rocky road when it comes to crime. In 2012, there were approximately:

  • 350 murders in New York City
  • 500 murders in Chicago
  • 660 murders in L.A.
  • 330 murders in Philadelphia

That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Philadelphia has the lowest number. Of course, then there’s this to consider:

  • NYC population: about 8.3 million
  • Chicago population: about 2.7 million
  • L.A. population: about 3.8 million
  • Philadelphia population: about 1.5 million

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The MOVE Incident of 1985

The first event that springs to mind for many of the city’s long-time residents in connection with the Philadelphia PD is the infamous MOVE incident of 1985. CNN described MOVE at the time as “a loose-knit, mostly black group whose members all adopted the surname Africa, advocated a back-to-nature lifestyle and preached against technology.”

On May 13th, 1985, the Philadelphia PD decided that after a slew of noise complaints from neighbors, the members of MOVE — many of whom had violated parole, or were in possession of illegal weapons — had to live up to their name. But the eviction was anything but orderly. As MOVE members and police officers fired rounds at each other, the situation escalated until the Philadelphia PD called in a helicopter to drop two pounds of dynamite on the West Philadelphia row home where MOVE was headquartered.

Unfortunately, the fire that resulted from the explosion managed to spread to about 60 homes and kill 11 people — five of whom were children.

Then-Mayor W. Wilson Goode admitted, “Dropping a bomb on an occupied row house was unconscionable.” However, no criminal charges were filed. Only in 1996 was the City of Philadelphia ordered to pay damages to relatives and survivors, earning the dubious title of “The City That Bombed Itself.”

Words from Other Philadelphia Police Officers

Granted, that was over twenty years ago. Has the Philadelphia PD moved on?

Opinions about the force can be harsh — even when they come from within. An anonymous officer has this much to say, and he doesn’t mince words: “Look, I’m not saying the 25th is easy. It’s a nightmare. We’re not the compassion police. But we still have horses’ asses who never get it. They make all of us look bad. They’re idiots. They weaken the f—ing force.”

Charles Ramsey, current Police Commissioner, has an approval rating of 69% to date. A year from now, we’ll have to check again.

If you or someone you know has been arrested in Philadelphia, contact Young, Marr, Mallis & Associates for an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney immediately.