Beginning on page 1 of today's Inquirer there is an article describing an assault on a West Philadelphia service station proprietor by seven or more Philadelphia policemen. In broad daylight, in his place of business and without significant provocation or any hint of criminal suspicion, Alvestus Goode was beaten.
One of five eye-witnesses, unrebutted by anyone including the Philadelphia Police Department, was asked how many times Mr. Goode was struck by the policemen's nightsticks and blackjacks.
"Have you ever seen a drummer?" she asked.
"Can you tell me how many times a drummer beats on a drum? They were playing drums on that man's body," she said. She had never met Mr. Goode before the incident.
He was shackled, thrown in a police van, beaten against outside Philadelphia General Hospital, taken to Police Headquarters, and finally, after 11 hours, set free, a beaten and perhaps permanently disabled man.
Please read the detailed article on the Goode case by Inquirer reports Jonathan Neumann and William K. Marimow, and think deeply about its implications.
It comes on the heels of others published by this newspaper since April 24, which have related systematic beatings, in violation of the law, by policemen acting either in the clear sight and hearing of responsible witnesses or within the security of Police Headquarters, under the noses of senior commanders.
What has been done by Philadelphia city officials as a result of the Goode case, which occurred April 26?
Exactly what happened in the cases of beatings within the homicide division of the Police Department and of William L. Cradle, three and a half blocks from Independent Hall, and of others.
Worse than nothing.
The illegal acts have gone unpunished by the Police Department. Those who committed them remain on active duty. Investigators from inside the department have done nothing which is publicly known except to harass complainants, demand witnesses and to protect and encourage the lawbreakers.
The district attorney's office has established and continued a pattern not only of doing little to investigate or prosecute the policemen, but of pressing false prosecutions against beating victims, most dramatically in the now notorious case of Robert Wilkinson.
Mayor Frank L. Rizzo, who is ultimately responsible for the department's operation and the attitudes of its men, has said: "We have a very, very good Police Department and they're not brutal. If there's any brutality, it's toward the police." The city's law department, on Mr. Rizzo's authority, is fighting every step of a federal investigation.
In any city in America with responsible city administration or police command, within hours of an incident such as that involved Mr. Goode, or Mr. Cradle or any number of other police beatings reported here, there would have been decisive action.
At the bare minimum, every policeman directly involved should have been immediately suspended. Their shift commanders and district captains and others with command responsibility, including Police Commissioner Joseph P. O'Neill, should have been held swiftly and publicly accountable or suspended until their failures were fully and unequivocally explained.
Instead, the full force of city authority goes on condoning, and thus encouraging, the beatings.
There is only a fine line, in the law there is no line at all, between Al Goode, a small business proprietor, and the president of a downtown department store or insurance company, or a partner in a law firm, or a housewife in the Greater Northwest.
The record of every repressive movement in human history cries out that if those who were responsible for terrorizing Alvestus Goode are not brought to justice and punished, no one in Philadelphia is safe.
Except those who give up all hope of their human rights for a fleeting bit of safety.
Do you want that?