I AM a law-abiding citizen who has never been arrested but, yet, over the course of the 10 years since I moved to Philadelphia, the few times that I reached out to the police for help the department failed me miserably. (No wonder so many long-term residents are reluctant to contact the police). And I am not just talking about uniform officers out on patrol; I am speaking about high-brass personnel with more than 20 years of experience.
Nobody is denying that being a police officer in Philadelphia can be a challenging job with inherent risks. But it's a career path that is chosen out of free will and provides many officers with a good paycheck, along with excellent benefits without, for instance, the financial burden of having to pay the higher-education costs associated with earning a bachelor's degree.
I don't want to diminish the heroics of the officers who have gone beyond the call of duty, and especially those officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives while protecting the community. But, the fact remains that many taxpayers in the city have become more skeptical as to the heavy-handed approach the department often puts into practice when interacting with most community members.
Certainly, there are those who always will resist sweeping policy changes for the sake of the community, but a more transparent Police Department would benefit residents in the long run. One of the dirty secrets not publicly discussed by city officials, but that we know exists, is the fiscal projections that lawmakers put into each City Hall budget forecasting the revenue that will be generated by officers combing the neighborhoods and handing out tickets while making arrests for petty crimes, and the pressure put on officers to "write the community up" by placing budget revenue ahead of proven community-building policing strategies. And not to take away anybody's integrity on the Police Advisory Commission, but, realistically, what confidence can community members have in an oversight entity that in all likelihood does not even possess subpoena power and is comprised of volunteers?
There's a vast difference between the perception of community policing and the implementation of community policing. You would figure that Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, a task-force co-chairman appointed by the president in response to the deaths of Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner, in New York City, would be a leading pioneer of transparency within his own department's jurisdiction. But perhaps it's a case of being stretched too thin with his commitments outside of Philadelphia.
No matter how honorable Ramsey's intentions might be when it comes to public safety and the Police Department's earning the community's trust, especially in the city's notorious high-crime areas, it's the results that are most important.
As taxes continue to increase, so do our expectations.