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    Default The Sad Philadelpia Story

    Picked this up from Glocktalk

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/m...0/ai_n26678770

    The Sad Philadelphia Story
    The City of Brotherly Love shows America how not to deal with a crime wave

    KEVIN WILLIAMSON

    Philadelphia is famous for two things: cheesesteaks and murder.


    It’s also well known for being — in Lincoln Steffens’s classic phrase — “corrupt and contented.” Philadelphia has one of the most backward and incompetent city governments in America, but its problems go beyond public administration. Philadelphia suffers from a combination of failed civic institutions, a deeply embedded racial paranoia that undermines law enforcement, and a local culture that has come to shrug at the urban chaos this produces. Philadelphia stands as a warning to other big American cities: This is how you drown under a crime wave.

    In 2006, the one-or-two-a-day-and-a-dozen-on-weekends murder spree that earned “Killadelphia” its rap as an urban abattoir came to what everybody hopes was its guns-blazing peak, leaving 406 people dead. Another 392 were murdered in 2007. By way of comparison, Phoenix, which recently overtook Philadelphia as the nation’s fifth-largest city, had 238 murders in 2006. San Antonio, a city nearly Philadelphia’s size and sharing many of its economic challenges, had 119 murders. It’s clearly not all about poverty: Miami, America’s poorest major city, saw 79 homicides in all of 2006. In March 2006, more Americans died violently on the streets of Philadelphia than died fighting in Iraq — and March wasn’t the city’s worst month of that year.

    That Iraq comparison isn’t made casually. In an August 2007 Washington Post article titled “The War in West Philadelphia,” surgeon John P. Pryor described his experience this way: “In the swirl of screams and moving figures, my mind drifted to my recent experience in Iraq as an Army surgeon. There we dealt regularly with ‘mascals,’ or mass-casualty situations. In Iraq, ironically, I found myself drawing on my experience as a civilian trauma surgeon each time mascals would overrun the combat hospital. As nine or ten patients from a firefight rolled in, I sometimes caught myself saying ‘just like another Friday night in West Philadelphia.’”

    For the tourist, it must be hard to believe that all this mayhem is happening in the city where schoolchildren go to see the Liberty Bell and Carpenters’ Hall. Center City, as Philadelphia’s core is called, is vibrant, diverse, affluent, and full of cafés and theaters. Ten-year property-tax abatements encouraged a boom of condo conversions, and new skyscrapers transformed the city’s skyline. Ed Rendell, now governor, made attracting new business and investment to Center City the cornerstone of his mayoralty, and he still enjoys the reputation of a minor divinity in the city. But there was a hollowness to Rendell’s achievement: Those skyscrapers became home to floors and floors of vacant or underutilized real estate. A wage tax of over 4 percent continued to drive the middle class out of the city and into the suburbs. Small and independent entrepreneurs, when they’re not being milked by union thugs, are suffocated under an expensive and complex tax regime. Rendell left Philadelphia with some of the worst public schools in the country, so incompetently run that the state had to take them over in 2001. And Rendell’s final kick in the shins was leaving this mess in the hands of America’s least competent mayor, John Street, who succeeded him in 2000.

    A FAILED CITY GOVERNMENT
    The worst of Philadelphia’s murder rampage roughly corresponds with the Street years, and it is not difficult to see why. Street’s administration was a crime spree in its own right. Though the mayor was never charged with a crime, his inner circle kept prosecutors busy: The city treasurer was sentenced to 10 years in prison on a 27-count federal corruption indictment and took a couple of bankers down with him, and the mayor’s consigliere died before facing trial on similar charges. A prominent Muslim leader close to Street was convicted of using his political influence to win financial favors, while the mayor’s brother, a hot-dog vendor with no relevant experience to speak of (and fronting a company with no employees), was offered a no-bid, million-dollar contract to provide services at the city’s airport.

    Politics constantly hobbles the ability of the city’s capable police department to address crime. One illustrative episode involves the shooting of a 16-year-old student outside of Strawberry Mansion High School in West Philadelphia. The head of the school district went to the mayor pleading for more police patrols during the immediate after-school hours, which are the most dangerous time of day for students. But the proposal was scotched by Sandra Dungee Glenn, an African-American school-board member and former chief of staff to Rep. Chaka Fattah. Glenn argued that deploying extra police in the area would send the wrong message to students and make them feel “that we need to be armed against them.” Mayor Street chimed in that he wouldn’t trust “a cop with a Glock” in the schools. So black leaders, along with Philadelphia’s black mayor and its black police chief, directed its heavily black police force to leave black students vulnerable to black criminals, for reasons of racial politics. Sandra Dungee Glenn was subsequently named chair of the School Reform Commission. That’s Philly.

    The problem is that Sandra Dungee Glenn was right. Black neighborhoods in Philadelphia would feel under siege if they received the police attention they desperately need. As one Philadelphia cop put it, “I can solve crime in these neighborhoods tomorrow. You put a cop on every street corner. But the neighborhoods will complain and the city won’t pay for it.”

    THE PARANOID STYLE IN AFRICAN-AMERICAN POLITICS
    The careers of mediocrities such as John Street and Sandra Dungee Glenn have been made possible by what might be called “the paranoid style in African-American politics,” the elevation of racial loyalty over citizenship. The hogwash proffered by Barack Obama’s mentor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright — AIDS is a government plot to kill African-Americans, the CIA peddles crack — is pretty mild compared to political discourse in black Philadelphia. Before the 2004 election, one black newspaper warned its readers to flee the city because President Bush was planning to suppress the inner-city vote . . . with nuclear weapons. This paranoid style is deeply embedded in the race-based politics of Philadelphia, and the police catch the worst of it.

    “We have an avid hate for the police,” says Michelle Green, a black woman working an overnight shift near the Convention Center. “Black police officers have taken on the role of overseers,” she says, smiling at the whip-cracking plantation metaphor. “They are haters of their own race.” This attitude is not isolated. “Stop Snitchin’” T-shirts, advertising a philosophy that threatens death to those who cooperate with police — “Snitches get stitches, and get found in ditches” — are a hot item at street kiosks. A former prosecutor reports seeing a woman who planned to give a statement in the murder of her son being physically dragged out of a police car by her neighbors.

    But it is precisely in the black neighborhoods that the police are most needed. Nine of Philadelphia’s 25 police districts, mostly in black neighborhoods, account for two-thirds of the city’s homicides. African-Americans represent about 85 percent of the homicide victims and a similar proportion of the killers.


    None of this is lost on Judge Jeffrey Minehart. He was the first judge to preside over the city’s special “gun court”; he now spends almost all of his time hearing Philadelphia homicide cases. On the day of our interview he happens to be hearing the case of a convicted drug dealer charged with gun possession. The defendant is acting as his own attorney and he’s no Perry Mason. He has to be physically prompted to stand when the judge enters the room. But he’s cut a deal: two to four years in lockup and two years of probation. He’ll probably do the time in boot camp, and that time will probably be closer to two years than to four. It’s a slap on the wrist, but everybody seems pleased with it, except the guilty party. He is disappointed that his sentencing is immediate: “Do we have to do it now?” he asks.

    This guy isn’t the kind of armed felon who makes the news in Philadelphia. On the morning of Not-Perry-Mason’s trial, the papers were full of the hunt for all-star fugitive Eric DeShawn Floyd, an armed robber with 17 priors and an appreciation for SKS semiautomatic rifles, one of which he and his crew had just used to murder Philadelphia Police Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski in the aftermath of a botched bank robbery. Three men, disguised as burka-clad Muslim women, were involved in the heist. The Philadelphia Daily News carried an info-graphic describing the SKS with the headline: “Should This Gun Be Legal?” There was no Daily News headline asking why a felon with 17 entries on his rap sheet was walking abroad in Philadelphia. Should that be legal?

    It’s a question that needs asking, but Philadelphia’s news media, clergy, and civic leaders won’t start that conversation. Two of the three Philadelphia police officers murdered over the past two years were killed by convicted criminals. Most cop-killers have criminal histories. But the Daily News, like the rest of official Philadelphia, has learned the hard way that it’s easier to blame remote lawmakers in Harrisburg or Washington than to take an honest look at Philadelphia’s criminal realities. In 2002 the Daily News ran a front page carrying mug shots of 14 fugitive murderers wanted in Philadelphia and ran pictures of 27 more inside. Two of the fugitives were apprehended soon after their pictures were published, but the newspaper quickly found itself the subject of boycotts and protests because all of the fugitives whose pictures were published were black, Hispanic, or Asian. The Daily News didn’t racially filter the photos: There simply weren’t any white murder fugitives wanted in Philadelphia at that time. But the paper was nonetheless accused of racism, and some of its own staffers joined in the festival of denunciation. In the end, the newspaper knuckled under and apologized for publishing the truth. Since then, the city’s newspapers, like the district attorney, the mayors, and most of official Philadelphia, have found it much safer to blame Philadelphia’s bloodshed on distant bogeymen in Congress and rednecks at the NRA. Did I mention that the city government isn’t the only failed institution in Philadelphia?

    A CULTURE OF CHAOS
    Judge Minehart, too, argues for better gun control, but he’s quick to admit that it wouldn’t have stopped Howard Cain from murdering Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski with a stolen gun. Asked if he’s ever seen a legally purchased firearm used in a crime, Judge Minehart looks surprised by the question. “For homicides, sure, though it’s pretty rare. Outside of that . . . not that I can think of. Practically none.” Which is to say, the gun-control laws already on the books are so poorly enforced, or unenforceable, that they are almost meaningless. This fact is not lost on Judge Minehart.

    “Gun control is a piece of the puzzle, I think, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle,” the judge says. “Drugs are a piece of the puzzle, too, but people overestimate how much of this homicide is drug-related. Corner-fights and turf wars are probably about 30 percent. That’s a big piece, sure, but it’s not the largest. A strong percentage of these crimes are anger-related.” Minehart is no bleeding-heart liberal, but he believes that intelligently administered anger-management therapy can prevent murders. Guns don’t kill people — rage kills people.

    Judge Minehart also argues that expanding the “gun court” he once presided over could help cut into the crime. Gun-court cases are handled separately from the generality of criminal cases. The probation officers’ caseloads are limited, and probationers are drug-tested twice a month. Philadelphia, a city of about 1.5 million, has some 50,000 people on probation. Outside of gun court, the typical Philadelphia probation officer has between 150 and 175 cases, making close monitoring impossible. If those probationers are drug-tested at all, it happens only once every six months.

    But official Philadelphia cannot set intelligent priorities, and gun court is hobbled because the city cannot find an extra million or two in its bloated, patronage-packed $4 billion budget. Another program, Operation Safe Streets, put extra police officers on patrol in neighborhoods suffering the worst crime problems. But in true Philly style, the program was staffed through police overtime, which gets very expensive, instead of having its patrols built into regularly budgeted police duties.

    The city’s new mayor, Michael Nutter, is something different for Philadelphia: a squeaky-clean technocrat with a kind of nerdy anti-charisma. He is more given to low-key problem-solving than to displays of inspiring oratory. He has already taken some baby steps to set a few things right, including pulling 250 police officers from less-pressing duties and putting them on patrol in high-crime areas. But it is far from clear that Nutter can do for Philadelphia what Rudy Giuliani did for New York. Nutter doesn’t enjoy the same sort of princely powers that a New York mayor can muster, and there isn’t going to be a stock-market boom to carpet Philadelphia with money the way Wall Street rained legal tender on Giuliani-era New York. Philadelphia still has a bull market in murder, and it is far from clear that any political reform can change the culture of a city that has simply come to accept Third World levels of disorder and corruption.

    A couple of years ago, National Geographic called Philadelphia “America’s Next Great City.” That motto is already fading on the side of a building near City Hall. Is Philadelphia on the road to recovery, like post-Giuliani New York — or is its future more like Detroit’s? The indicators aren’t good: Established businesses are fleeing, and they’re being replaced by casinos, thanks to the efforts of Ed Rendell and John Street on behalf of the gambling lobby.

    There is something strangely antique in Philadelphia’s politics — its old-timey union bosses and unapologetic patronage, its sweetheart contracts for the mayor’s brother. But what really makes an impression isn’t the governmental incompetence, but the blasé acceptance of quotidian chaos on a scale that wouldn’t be tolerated in New York, Atlanta, or Houston. Philly is what you get when you combine San Francisco crazy with Trenton’s economy. Exhibit A: The raving homeless guy nicknamed Screaming Man, who comes careering out of an alley into ritzy Rittenhouse Row, ranting that he has AIDS and threatening to bite passersby. He screams, threatens, howls, and generally makes an urban spectacle of himself as diners at the nearby sidewalk cafes nibble on $16 Gruyère cheeseburgers and drink espresso. He’s been doing this schtick for years and years, without risking intervention from authority of any kind or even really commanding the attention of the rich guys coming out of Holt’s Cigars, who just step around him as if he were dog droppings. He’s part of the local color, like incompetent mayors and Stop Snitchin’ T-shirts, like leaving schoolkids vulnerable to criminals so as not to “send the wrong message.” Philadelphia’s City Hall, perhaps America’s most beautiful municipal building, is crowned with a statue of William Penn. But it might as well be Eric DeShawn Floyd or John Street, Not-Perry-Mason or Screaming Man: This is their city.
    Last edited by lprgcFrank; July 22nd, 2008 at 07:16 PM.
    "...The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded...It doesn't limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force."
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: The Sad Philadelpia Story

    That pretty much sums up what most of us around Philthadelpha know and hate about the city. It's very sad.
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    Default Re: The Sad Philadelpia Story

    This actually made me really depressed about our city. It has so much potential but no one is willing to get off their collective asses and do something about it. I am glad I am fortunate to live in a relatively safe area of the city, and even more fortunate that I am armed to the hilt if I ever needed to defend myself from a criminal.

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    Default Re: The Sad Philadelpia Story

    It has been spreading out to the Lehigh Valley, 60 miles away. First the "refugees" now the criminals are making their way here
    Veritas Vos Liberat

  5. #5
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    Default Re: The Sad Philadelpia Story

    Article completely ignores the fact that the police are part of the problem here. PPD is well-known for corruption and brutality. Also ignores the problem of the Drug War.

    Simply putting "more cops on the street" won't do a damn thing without changing the structure, training, culture, mentality and priorities of the Police Department. Until big changes are made, the so-called "racial paranoia" regarding the police will remain and most Philadelphians will regard the police as just another gang.

    When you have the Police Commissioner and FOP on TV defending a cop who maced kids and beat-up women and men at a baby shower for no reason other than the fact he was pissed off he lost a suspect in a foot chase, and that same officer was caught on tape a few years ago standing by while other officers brutally beat an unarmed suspect (and recived no discipline), well...you got a fuckin problem.

    What we need here are 1) jobs with good pay and benefits, 2) community organization and self-defense, 3) serious structural/systemic police reform, 4) an end to the drug war. Any proposed "solutions" that don't include that are mindless conservative reaction, Liberal fantasies, or half-ass bullshit.

    We need real political vision and leadership to get it done, which is absent from both the Republicans and Democrats in this town, regardless of color.
    "When law becomes despotic, morals are relaxed, and vice versa."-- Honore de Balzac, The Wild Ass's Skin...huh, huh..Balzac...Wild Ass...huh, huh

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    Thumbs up Re: The Sad Philadelpia Story

    L M O,

    You can say all that again ! We're well past being a ' Great place to be FROM ' !!!!

    I don't enjoy our area at all anymore ... lookin' forward to ' Exit Stage Right ' !
    A Hardball Game won't be won with a Softball Bat !

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    Default Re: The Sad Philadelpia Story

    The author is sadly right that the path we are on will take us to the state of affairs Detroit suffered. I grew up in the "black bottom" of Detroit. My father was a metro police officer there for many years. The racial situation there was such that police officers from outside Detroit were not allowed within the city limits on duty because the racism was so rampant that flint recieving a 1/4" more rainfall after a storm was "racially motivated." This led to my going to sleep to not only random small arms fire (my cat took a .38 through the guts when I was 3 and our garage did an amazing impression of swiss cheese) and ghetto blasters (boomboxes) but the police rolling up lights & sirens going to pick up the neighbors kids who made a living going across the Detroit city lines and snatching purses and then retreating to the "safety" of Detroit. My father was popular on the force as he was not one of the officers who would come on shift, park his cruiser and then wait for the end of his shift, he actually went out and did his job. He eventually took an early retirement because he did not feel that he could trust his life with the other officers he was forced to work with (thank you affirmative action, how else could excellent officer candidates be told to take a hike while others who could not even meet the requirements to be hired be welcomed with open arms on the sole basis of the color of their skin?) Their health benefits were also axed because of the practice of the black officers (no racism here, just the facts) to add on every neice nephew and cousin they could as dependants to take advantage of the city's once excellent health care plan. The corrupt Coleman Young was finally deposed and the city has started to make a comeback, I saw that the Joe Louis (always holds a special place in my heart) had a beautiful renovation and a computer company built a headquarters downtown and three casinos have opened their doors. No thanks to mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. My brother Michael who works for the Detroit Free Press has long specialized in uprooting political shenanigans engaged in a campaign which resulted in Mr Kilpatrick being brought up on several federal charges. He may be a stark raving mad liberal, but he done good!
    People need to stand up and realize that racism goes both ways and put a stop to the shit these political shysters are pulling if we are to avoid a similar fate.
    Warning: I may not read responses to OP before posting

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    Default Re: The Sad Philadelpia Story

    That was a good comparison between Philthadelphia and Detroit. I don't know much about Detroit, but in Philly, people need to realize that their politicians are out for themselves. All of them. I haven't seen anyone worthwile putting into office in a long time. I moved from south philly last year and am so happy I did so. I hate going down there when I have to, and wonder how I ever lived there.

    As for the police, yes they are part of the problem, but you have to look for the root of that problem. One major issue is what their pay is. It is shit, and they have to put up with "the worst of the worse." I am by no means an all out supporter of the police department. But certain issues, in my mind, explain why they are part of the issue.

    Their pay and the fact that they have to live within city limits is bull. It has been found unconstitutional in other states to require an LEO to live within certain limits. But again looking at the root of the problem, it is the politicians.

    People in this city need to realize what is going on at city hall, and stop voting based on what people say or look like. Look into their actions and base their vote on that. Kind of like when the mayor of Washington D.C. got busted doing crack and they re-elected him anyway. WTF???? Clearly he was not concerned about the people he was supposed to be governing. Same thing goes for Philly, it's their personal agenda only.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: The Sad Philadelpia Story

    Things aren't going to get better in the PPD until they import some serious talent to head the department from far, far away. When you keep promoting people from within their own ranks, all you get is the same "good ol' boy" club mentality, where there's more back scratching than progress.

    Most of the feet on the street are absolutely great, professional guys. A few bad apples give them a bad name. But in my experience in the military and from what I've heard from retired Philly cops themselves, in the end stages of a career, it's more who you know than what you've actually done.

    It's shameful.

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    Default Re: The Sad Philadelpia Story

    Quote Originally Posted by Intolerantbobj View Post
    L M O,

    You can say all that again ! We're well past being a ' Great place to be FROM ' !!!!

    I don't enjoy our area at all anymore ... lookin' forward to ' Exit Stage Right ' !
    I love Philadelphia. I always have and likely always will. I DO think it is a great place to be FROM. It's just not a great place to be anymore. Philadelphia is fantastic if you can stay right downtown, or in small parts of South Philly (where I am from), but stray too far from there and it's a big shit-hole. I've worked damn hard to be able to move my family out of Philadelphia, I knew I had to when a cop got shot in the face in front of the assisted living home where my mother lived...

    I still love visiting Philly, but I doubt I will ever return there to live again...
    Debate Politics Online at Defending the Truth!

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