WHEN police are tainted by allegations of sexual, criminal and procedural abuse, what hope do we have if those charges aren't taken seriously?
Neither the feds nor the District Attorney apparently found the exhaustive Daily News accounts - of rogue narcotic officers who were accused of falsifying search warrants, vandalizing and robbing bodegas, and, in one instance, charged with committing multiple sexual assaults on women - compelling enough to press charges, let alone do a full investigation.
The feds bowed out of pressing criminal charges five months ago and, last week, the police department announced that the District Attorney won't be taking any action either, though it has since amended its plan.
The four officers, who have been on desk duty for five years, are expected to return to the streets.
Philadelphians should not be blamed if they feel less safe than they did last week.
And in this town, that's saying something.
The feds are hiding behind their usual wall of silence. They alerted Police Superintendent Charles Ramsey five months ago that they wouldn't be pursuing charges. We don't know whether the fact that five years passed since the feds started investigating is the reason that the D.A.'s office declined to prosecute either. But we deserve a better explanation of what happened to this investigation.
Why weren't any of the 22 store owners who claimed that police cut the wires to their store's surveillance system and looted the stores ever called before a grand jury to testify?
And how can the video that clearly shows police disarming surveillance cameras in a corner store - whose owner is one those claiming to have been looted by police - be explained away as anything but what it looks like? (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FyzKkJa9K4)
Why weren't all three of the women who alleged that officer Thomas Tolstoy sexually abused them called before the grand jury? (The D.A.'s office did announce Friday that it would look into the assaults.)
Why did the city pay nearly $2 million to settle 33 lawsuits related to the case?
And why in God's name might such officers get back overtime pay amounting to $1 million that they supposedly "lost" when they were assigned to desk jobs?
Is this one of the lowest points in this city's history of police scandals?
The problem is, that question has been asked before. It was asked in 1988 during the "Five Squad" scandal, and in 1995 during the 39th-police-district scandal, when the term "rogue cops" was also in heavy use. It was undoubtedly asked at various times between 2009 and 2012, when 50 Philadelphia officers were arrested in cases ranging from theft to extortion, rape and murder . . . and over the past three years, during a number of sexual-harassment cases involving the police.
And, if a strong Superintendent like Charles Ramsey can't fix this, what are the rest of us supposed to do?
This could be the lowest point in the city's ability to trust the entire criminal-justice system. What kind of city are we if we can't believe that someone in charge knows the difference between right and wrong?