AFTER YESTERDAY'S stunning announcement that four Philly cops would be canned and four others severely disciplined for their part in the beating of three shooting suspects, Mayor Nutter used a word we need to hear more often: "Standards."
"The officers who violated the Police Department's standards of conduct received discipline," he told me after the news conference. "The ones who stayed within the standards and used force only as necessary to effect an arrest did not receive discipline."
The more the mayor talked, the more he dropped the S-bomb. "We support the police. They do the city's most dangerous work," he said. "But we have standards and expect them to adhere to them. The public has the right to expect them to adhere to them."
Even if, as Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey noted earlier, the criminals whom cops pursue adhere to no standards at all. "We have to be better" than what occurred on May 5, Ramsey said, referring to the date of the beating, videotaped by a Fox 29 News chopper.
By meting out swift consequences to what anyone with eyeballs could see was over-the-top use of force by some Philly cops, Ramsey has shown that his department, in this incident, is far better than what that damning videotape portrayed.
Bravo for him. Bravo for us.
Because, when those in charge of safeguarding our well-being don't preserve standards of acceptable civil behavior, what message does it send to those with no standards of civil behavior at all?
Two other cases in point:
In Saturday's Daily News, my colleague Dana DiFilippo reported that police union officials are demanding that Municipal Judge Nazario Jiminez renounce comments he recently made at a hearing for two robbery defendants, in which he apparently praised them for not using firearms.
"If you are going to commit a robbery, this is the way to do it, without a gun. Let's give credit where credit is due," Jimenez reportedly said, according to Philadelphia's Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5.
Jiminez sounded more like a perp-school professor than an officer of the court, waxing eloquent on rules of criminal etiquette instead of rules of law.
His comments came on the heels of another outrageous case, this one involving a 17-year-old who was charged with attempted murder in the shooting of a Housing Authority officer during a February robbery try. Then-Municipal Judge Deborah Shelton Griffin dropped the attempted-murder charge against the kid. As she was quoted as saying during his hearing, "He shot, but what makes it malicious instead of stupid or inexperienced?"
Based on her reasoning, it would seem that if the shooter was guilty of anything, it was of being a badly trained thug, the kind who doesn't know when to aim his illegal firearm and when to keep it securely anchored in his waistband.
Thankfully, the District Attorney's Office reinstated the murder charge. And the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has since booted Griffin off the job for having a felony conviction that should've prevented her from becoming a judge in the first case.
In both cases, a lack of standards caused an outcry among those who, rightfully, saw the judges as losing sight of standards they're supposed to embrace on the bench.
The FOP - so quick to invoke standards when it comes to a judge's pronouncements from the bench - dismissed Ramsey's talk of "standards" yesterday as unfair.
"Where was the due process in this case?" fumed FOP President John McNesby, after Ramsey issued a "commissioner's direct action" that allowed him to impose discipline on the officers without a hearing.
"Ramsey may be the commissioner, but we're the FOP and we're very good at what we do. We will make sure that these officers have the very best legal representation as we fight to get their jobs back."
The FOP must, indeed, be very good at what it does. McNesby said that, in the 20-plus years he has been with the Philadelphia Police Department, he can't recall a single officer being fired or demoted for violating department standards. Not one? In more than two decades, not one out of tens of thousands of police officers has ever lost his or her job, or been demoted, for acting with more force than needed in apprehending a suspect? "None that I even know of," he said. "But one out of every three of our police officers has been assaulted."
That shouldn't change the standards by which we hold officers accountable. Like it or not, the cops have to be held - and hold themselves - to a higher standard than those of the suspects they pursue. *
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