DOJ Report Criticizes Philadelphia Police Department’s Use of Deadly Force

Originally published on March 25, 2015, at NationofChange.org

After experiencing an escalation in police shootings and civil rights lawsuits, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey requested assistance from the Justice Department in 2013 to investigate the rising incidents of officer-involved shootings. On Monday, the Justice Department released its report criticizing the Philadelphia Police Department’s aggressive use of deadly force, lack of transparency, and inadequate training procedures. Marred by a history of misconduct and scandals, Philadelphia police officers have lost both the public’s trust and cooperation.

Conducted by the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office and written by the nonprofit Virginia-based CNA Corporation, the report issued 48 findings and 91 recommendations for the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) to reform its deadly force practices. Reviewing hundreds of departmental policies, manuals, and training plans, CNA conducted 164 interviews with community members and department personnel between 2007 and 2013.

During that period, the Justice Department found that 540 PPD officers discharged their firearms in 364 officer-involved shootings. 59% of the officers were white, 34% were black, 7% were Hispanic, and less than 1% of the officers were Asian. The average age of officers involved in shootings was 33 years old.

In contrast, 80% of the suspects were black, 10% were Hispanic, 9% were white, and 1% of the suspects were Asian. The average age of the suspects was 20 years old.

Continue reading

No Honor Among Thieves: Corrupt Cops Sentenced to Prison

Originally published on February 7, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Two former Philadelphia police officers were sentenced to prison on Wednesday after pleading guilty to robbing drug dealers, falsifying arrest reports, and selling heroin while on duty. After the FBI arrested Officer Jonathan Garcia for selling heroin while in uniform, Garcia informed on his partner in the hopes of reducing his sentence. Although Garcia began cooperating with authorities early on in the investigation, he received a harsher sentence due to the fact that his partner never sold heroin with him.

Between December 2009 and June 2012, Philadelphia police officers Jonathan Garcia and Sydemy Joanis devised a plan to arrest suspected drug dealers, rob them, and falsify seizure reports by failing to disclose the correct amount of money or drugs confiscated during the arrests. After becoming partners in 2009, Garcia and Joanis seized a large amount of marijuana during an arrest. Garcia convinced Joanis to falsify their report and keep half of the marijuana for themselves. After that initial theft, the officers developed a pattern of robbing drug dealers and lying on their reports.

“I had a decision to make,” Joanis recalled. “Whether I was going to turn someone in that I cared about, or just hope that no one ever found out. I didn’t have the courage to do the right thing.”

Continue reading