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NUMBER OF claims made against the city for police assaults, excessive force, false arrests, shootings and civil-rights violations from 2003-2007: 587

_ Amount paid to date by the city to settle these cases: More than $13 million.

_ Number of civilian complaints made to Police Department in 2006: 498.

_ Number in 2007: 504.

_ Amount paid in 2007 by the city to settle civil-rights cases against the police: $4.5 million.

_ Number of cases, 2000-2002, in which misconduct and corruption were proven by the Internal Affairs Bureau yet no formal disciplinary action was taken against the officer: 46 percent.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey's signal that this history is changing: Priceless.

The Philadelphia Police Department's past as it relates to disciplining officer misconduct, inappropriate use of force or other abuses of the considerable power of our law enforcers is a black hole, kept that way by the forces of the blue wall between police and civilians, and by a history of management tolerance of bad behavior.

Ramsey's decision to swiftly fire four officers and punish four others, many of whom were caught on camera making their own swift judgments in yanking suspects out of a vehicle, getting them on the ground and proceeding to kick and stomp them, must be judged not only on face value, but in the context of the department's unpretty history of misconduct. So we are relieved by Ramsey's action, and by the fact that he didn't hesitate to act on his judgment.

Maybe the officers' day in court will reverse that action. But Ramsey's message was clear: Police are not above judgment. And police should have standards of behavior.

The sad truth is, that for too long, the Police Department has not been clear about what those standards are. We refer to a number of reports produced by the now-defunct Integrity and Accountability Office (IAO) highly critical of the department's track record on discipline and lack of consistent standards on use of force. Highlights from these reports, on use of force and the disciplinary system, found:

* "The disciplinary system . . . remains fundamentally ineffective, inadequate and unpredictable."

* "Excessive and unexplained delays in resolving disciplinary actions are commonplace. High-ranking department officials allow disciplinary actions to languish, sometimes for years . . . ."

_ From 1994 through 1998, settlement and verdict costs in use-of-force cases cost the city nearly $20 million.

* From January 2000 through May 2002, 851 allegations of misconduct against police were made, from citizen complaints or internal investigations. Of those, 427 officers were never formally disciplined, though the IAO said 367 should have been.

What's striking about these findings is how ingrained the department's problems in this area have been, and, although some progress has been made, how far there is to go. What's also striking is how swiftly the IAO died after the last report, on the disciplinary system.

Were the officers justified in unleashing their rage - probably heightened by the recent killing of one of their own - on these three suspects? Were their actions criminal? The District Attorney's Office will investigate this; we hope it takes a hint from Ramsey and acts swiftly.

Ramsey has taken a bold step, but there are many more to go. Reconstituting the IAO, which this page has repeatedly called for, would be a logical next move in repairing the department's reputation, to say nothing of its relationship with the law-abiding citizens of the city. *