Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania’

Picking a new police commissioner in Philly

August 26, 2019

Philadelphia’s police commissioner stepped down last week amid criticism that his administration had not acted decisively in response to sexual harassment complaints within the agency. This article discusses the issues facing the mayor in selecting a new leader for the police department. Reducing violent crime, cooperating with the “progressive” district attorney, addressing diversity concerns, and satisfying key political factions in the city are among the factors the mayor has to juggle.


Insurance companies funding police investigations

August 19, 2019

This article discusses the practice of insurance companies funding police (and sometimes prosecutors) to investigate cases of alleged insurance fraud. On the plus side, it’s an example of public-private partnership and cost sharing. In some cases, however, it puts police in the position of serving the financial interests of insurance companies. The article reports several examples of flawed investigations that wreaked havoc on individuals later determined to be innocent.

More unsocial media

June 6, 2019

An independent review focused on 8 police departments recently uncovered hundreds of  social media posts by current or retired officers “displaying bias, applauding violence, scoffing at due process, or using dehumanizing language,” as reported here. One expert noted that much of the language may be hyperbole, just a way of dealing with stress and frustration, while another worried that it confirms the public’s worst suspicions about police. Some of the posts were from supervisors and commanders — a former chief lamented that “You pay sergeants to be leaders, you pay them to uphold the values of the organization, and to demand constitutionally correct behavior.”

Part-time police

March 15, 2019

Pennsylvania is one state that relies on part-time officers, particularly in smaller departments. This article reports one risky aspect of that practice — officers take as many shifts as they can get, from multiple departments, resulting in fatigue. One chief notes “there is no way to monitor the amount of hours a part-timer has worked in another municipality and whether that part-time officer is sufficiently rested.” Most chiefs would prefer full-time officers, while some also note increasing difficulty in finding and keeping qualified part-timers.

Social media guidebook

March 6, 2019

The Urban Institute has published a social media guidebook for law enforcement agencies, available here. The document, focused mainly on Twitter, “provides data-driven recommendations and step-by-step strategies for agencies that want to use social media to enhance community engagement.” One observation is that agencies of all sizes and types can benefit — “nearly any agency that has buy-in from leadership can effectively engage with their community through social media.”

50 extremism-related murders in 2018

January 25, 2019

There were at least 50 U.S. murders linked to extremism in 2018, making it the 4th deadliest year for domestic terrorism since 1970, and all the perpetrators “had ties to at least one right-wing extremist movement,” according to this article. Firearms caused 42 of the deaths, and just 5 shooting sprees accounted for 38 of the murders. The Anti-Defamation League reports that, over the last 10 years, “73.3 percent of all extremist-related fatalities can be linked to domestic right-wing extremists, while 23.4 percent can be attributed to Islamic extremists.”

Rapid DNA in action

January 22, 2019

This article reports early adoption of Rapid DNA technology in Bensalem, Pennsylvania and a few other sites around the country. The equipment requires little training and returns results in 90 minutes. Scientists are generally satisfied with the accuracy of matches from cheek swabs but consider crime scene DNA much more complicated to process and interpret. A current limitation is that most machines only link to local databases, not the FBI’s national CODIS system. Critics worry that the technology will tempt police to collect DNA from anyone they deem suspicious, leading to an ever-larger DNA database susceptible to misuse.

Local policing in Pennsylvania

December 19, 2018

Pennsylvania has over 2,500 municipalities and no unincorporated areas. Nearly half the municipalities have their own police departments, while the rest rely on state police, since PA sheriffs lack general police powers. This article describes the policing situation in Allegheny County, which has Pittsburgh PD and 108 other police departments. Most of the PDs are small and many depend heavily on part-time officers. The result is wide variation in staffing, workload, and pay, with the neediest communities often least able to afford reliable, consistent police service.

Scoop and go

November 15, 2018

This article reports the common police practice in Philadelphia of “scoop and go” — immediately taking gunshot victims to the hospital in patrol cars, rather than waiting for an ambulance. Explaining it, a captain says “We don’t join the Police Department to watch people die.” Study results are mixed, but trauma surgeons say that seconds and minutes matter most in shootings, not any care that EMTs can provide along the way. Besides saving lives, the chief in nearby Camden adds “The streets are always watching. And they see your behavior, and actions speak far louder than words.”

Transit agencies & homelessness

October 27, 2018

This article reports several examples of cities and transit systems responding to challenges presented by homelessness. Subway stations and other transit facilities are often chosen by homeless people for weather protection and some remain open throughout the night. Philadelphia has brought social services into metro stations and police in Minneapolis have taken the lead in obtaining housing and shelter options for people they encounter.