BY DAVE ALLEN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right, these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. That’s why every week PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you. We pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey center. Why? Because we love you!
ON THE COVER
CP: It’s difficult to sum up Andrew Thompson’s cover story on police accountability and excessive use of force, so you should probably just read it all. It’s loaded with figures obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests and reports of incidents that took place both right outside CP’s office doors and in other places in the city. Here’s the takeaway: “the infrastructure set up to ensure that police are accountable to the citizens who pay their salaries has completely broken down.” Here’s why: the city’s Integrity & Accountability Office has all but dissolved, leaving the police’s Internal Affairs Division to run the show, and they’ve sustained allegations against fewer and fewer cops and let many of them off with simple reprimands.
Of course, it’s worth noting that, in many of those cases, the police officers IAD investigates shouldn’t be punished. Criminals lie. And, sometimes allegations of abuse or other misconduct simply can’t be substantiated one way or another, so it’s entirely proper for the officers to be given the benefit of the doubt. It’s also worth noting that only an infinitesimal proportion of calls to which Philly cops respond generate complaints.
That said, it doesn’t mean that abuses of power should be overlooked. And anecdotally, you see the evidence that the PPD doesn’t police its own all that well in last year’s headlines: It began with the Daily News report that Officer Jeffrey Cujdik allegedly robbed Latino bodegas and paid off informants, and ended with the discovery that Officer Tyrone Wiggins allegedly repeatedly raped a 12-year-old girl, but stayed on the force for two years after the charges came to the department’s attention.
If the department’s reaction to these high-profile incidents was wanting, what does that say about its approach to the scores of incidents that don’t make the front page, such as the case of Michael Foley? After all, Officer Corcoran was not punished for his treatment of Foley in a highly populated area, where his actions were witnessed by dozens of tourists and diners. Just imagine what happens in the city’s darker crevices.
Thompson had to fight through multiple levels of bureaucracy and was stonewalled by a number of agencies in his requests, which makes the final piece of reporting truly a remarkable thing. Drunks with big mouths might have it coming to them, but tax-paying citizens shouldn’t have to live in fear of public servants whose salaries they pay. Thompson notes that reform is possible, but it’s also very necessary and long overdue.
PW: Another subversive political jawn from Jonathan Valania — er, I mean, Valanni. This go-round, he peers into the ideological foment behind the extreme-right-wing Tea Partiers, last seen hijacking your local healthcare town hall meeting. This meant a trip out to the burbs, a more restrained manner of dress, and, as I alluded to before, an assumed name. Good thing the crowd at the Media Inn aren’t up on the Philly dining scene: Valanni, friends, is a restaurant in the Gayborhood.
The Delco Patriots gather in the dank basement banquet hall of the Inn, which, with its low-hanging drop ceiling, cheap glass chandeliers and musty wall-to-wall carpeting, has a certain dungeon-fresh charm. Before I could get inside, though, I had to negotiate a pair of Tea Partiers with clipboards taking down the name, address and email of everyone seeking entry: time to break out the alias. The guy taking down my info seemed a little hard of hearing and asked me to repeat my email, so I said it again louder: Jgalt@gmail.com. His fellow name-taker, a brassy blonde with a fierce Mary Matalin mien, looked up from her clipboard when she heard this and smiled.
“I am John Galt!” she exclaimed. We exchanged knowing glances, mine a little more knowing than hers. I had established Tea Party street cred; this was going well. Once inside the meeting room, I helped myself to the Delco Patriots literature spread out on a table in the back.
Among it was a statement of purpose declaring: “The Delaware County Patriots is a non-partisan group of ordinary people which is attempting to educate citizens as the effects of proposed legislation in Congress and newly implemented governmental polices. Our goal is to thoughtfully and lawfully PUT A HALT TO, and REVERSE, the escalating governmental control of so many aspects of our everyday lives.”
Another piece of literature railed against health care reform. “It is morally wrong to reduce Medicare (400 billion dollars) to those who have earned it to give in [SIC] new ‘HEALTH CARE BENEFITS’ to people who have not earned them.”
“People who have not earned them” being, perhaps, a nice way of saying low-income, non-white people.
The reportage has the ring of truth, the kind that only a first-hand observer can bring, and JV doesn’t have to poke fun to make his point. It’s clear what the Delco Patriots want, and it’s clear that the gridlocked status quo isn’t acceptable to anyone, liberal and conservative alike. But beyond those simple clarities is a world of complication, one that reveals the Patriots as out of step, out to lunch, or both: as JV points out, where were the Tea Parties against tax cuts for the rich or wiretap surveillance?
INSIDE THE BOOK
WINNER: Gotta give it up to Andrew Thompson and CP for their dogged pursuit and deep research in putting forth this week’s police accountability piece. As Brian Howard and Jeff Billman make clear, it wasn’t an easy decision to go forward with it, but we should be grateful they did. [You’re FIRED! — The Ed.]