You may want to keep an umbrella handy today, Philly; there’s a chance of rain in the forecast. And, in the Philadelphia Police Department, there’s a healthy chance the firing or discipline of a misbehaving officer will be overturned in arbitration, an Inquirer analysis found. Obtaining and reviewing 170 previously confidential police arbitration opinions and settlements from 2011 to 2019, the Inquirer’s analysis of the once-secret records shows how the arbitration system has overturned the firings or discipline of more than 100 Philadelphia cops. In other news, a longtime teacher in South Philadelphia has mesothelioma, and officials say they are investigating a potential cancer cluster linked to asbestos problems in the city’s school district.

The iconic "A Friend" statue by Wilmington, Del. artist Charles Cropper Parks is photographed outside the Philadelphia Police Administration Building at Race and Arch Streets September 10, 2019.
TOM GRALISH / TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
The iconic "A Friend" statue by Wilmington, Del. artist Charles Cropper Parks is photographed outside the Philadelphia Police Administration Building at Race and Arch Streets September 10, 2019.

In Philadelphia, when an officer is fired or demoted for an alleged crime or misconduct, the case is brought before an arbitrator, who, after reviewing the evidence police commissioners used to fire or discipline officers, settles the dispute between the city and police union.

But while the Philadelphia Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division is capable, at times, of building thorough cases against officers who have done things that would leave an average citizen in handcuffs, the efforts sometimes aren’t enough, and the city is often outmaneuvered by police union lawyers, an Inquirer analysis found.

The Inquirer obtained 170 previously confidential police arbitration opinions and settlements from 2011 to 2019, revealing the behind-the-scenes machinations that enable officers to regain their posts after they’ve been fired or demoted. Read more from those files, rarely made public, here.

A longtime city educator has mesothelioma — a type of cancer most often caused by asbestos exposure — and now, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers officials say they are investigating a potential cancer cluster linked to widespread asbestos problems in schools across the district.

Spending more than 30 years in Philadelphia classrooms, the recently diagnosed teacher has worked at Meredith and Nebinger elementary schools in South Philadelphia, both of which have been flagged for cleanup. Nebinger was one of 19 city schools where teachers and staff tested surfaces for asbestos fibers as part of The Inquirer’s “Toxic City: Sick Schools” series, and was one of seven schools designated for emergency cleanup by the district last year after The Inquirer discovered high levels of asbestos fibers in settled dust there.

In total, union officials said 175 schools, the majority of Philadelphia School District buildings, have asbestos that needs remediation.

Relaxed parking enforcement: it’s a time-honored courtesy during religious services in Philadelphia, allowing the faithful to park near their house of worship, and a practice religious institutions say is necessary to retain congregants who may have moved to the suburbs.

But for cyclists who say their safety is compromised when their bike lanes become parking spaces for churchgoers, the policy evokes nothing short of fire and brimstone.

What you need to know today

Through Your Eyes | #OurPhilly

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That’s Interesting

Opinions

“But that bell. It shook you like a wailing lamb. Judi, from a white folding chair at the Garden of Reflection, could not bear it, either. She tilted her head back, closed her eyes, and grimaced. She opened her mouth as though exhaling, though it could also have been a mute scream. She cried. There it was: Maternal sorrow momentarily as bottomless as it was on that cloudless, shattering morning in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001.” - Columnist Maria Panaritis on why Bucks County mother and congressional candidate Judi Reiss is a model to us all.

What we’re reading

  • For 72 years, the Philadelphia Police Athletic League has provided free recreational activities to city children. But not all those children are treated equally, and kids from predominantly white neighborhoods are allotted more funding and charitable gifts, the organization’s former commanding officer claims in a federal lawsuit. Philadelphia magazine tells her story.
  • Self-driving cars promise to reduce traffic-related deaths and increase efficiency, but can they ever really prepare for life on the unpredictable open road? Take a spin through this interactive Washington Post story to see for yourself.
  • A Yale Law library assistant, Navy electrician, self-taught chemist, dog catcher, and a frequent visitor to the town dump, Joe Heller greeted his daughters’ dates by by running their license plate numbers and checking for bald tires. A Hartford Courant obituary captures the life and death of this one-of-a-kind Connecticut man.
Hemingway and Waffles.
Bucks County SPCA
Hemingway and Waffles.

A Daily Dose of | Happily Ever After

The tale of Waffles and Hemingway, the inseparable miniature horse and goose duo that captured the nation’s hearts, has a happy ending. The pair has found a forever home — together — in the Philly area.