Police impunity in the news
Askia’s beating and the ensuing protests took place in the shadow of a number of other highly publicized moments of State violence.
A little over a year ago, the Daily News reporters broke a story on a series of robberies by a gang of cops, who entered Dominican corner stores, flashed their badges and subsequently cut cables to security cameras before making off with the contents of the cash register.
Police thief Joseph Sulpizio on the Narcotics Strike Force made the front page of the Daily News on December 10th, in a report which cited numerous accounts of the cop robbing homes and individuals in Kensington. After numerous accounts of money being stolen by Sulpizio were reported to the police, he was put under investigation by Internal Affairs only to be released back onto the streets after being interviewed. Instead of charging him with theft (the original charge) Sulpizio was charged with “neglect of duty” for not following proper procedure when detaining someone he had robbed. Sulpizio drives a cruiser marked N142.In April 2010 26 year old Vincent Parsons was killed by 3 cops in a Germantown playground. After being chased into the playground, police shot Parsons 16 times, killing him. DA Seth Williams described the shooting as justified and cleared the cops of any wrongdoing.
In another incident the gang of cops were filmed in a 2008 Rodney King style beatdown of 3 young Black Philadelphians, won an arbitration hearing with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and had their jobs reinstated. After pulling over a SUV over a dozen cops rushed the van, pulling the occupants from their car and beating them ruthlessly. The FOP threw the reinstated cops a party with free beer.
The recent repression against Flashmobs, the sensationalized gatherings of black youth, also generated media and police frenzies disproportionate to anything experienced by other Philadelphia rioters in recent years, notably following the Phillies world series victory or the drunken looting and sexual assaults by mostly white mobs on Fat Tuesday in 2001. A number of those arrested in the Flashmobs, notably all Black youth, are still facing serious charges.
In another high profile politicized act of police violence, police beat and arrested InPDUM (International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement) organizer Diop Olugbala at a City Council hearing on budget cuts last year. His trial ended on October 13th with a conviction of assault on an officer leaving Diop with two years of probation for the crime of being attacked by Civil Affairs cops (Philadelphia’s political police). Though convicted, prosecutors were pushing for sentences up to ten years for being subject to the assault by police.
Across the US, police violence made for headlines when officer Johannes Mehserle was given an especially light sentence of 2 years minus time served for the summary execution of Oscar Grant in Oakland. In response to both the murder and Oscar Grant, Oakland residents responded with a number of raucous protests, civil disobedience actions and riots which evolved into a number of interesting organizing and solidarity efforts.
A lawsuit filed on behalf of 8 Black and Latino Philadelphians by the ACLU against the City for its stop and frisk harassment policy also has generated some discussion locally. Nutter ran for mayor on “stop and frisk” as a major campaign promise, one he unfortunately upheld. Though it’s common knowledge that young black youth are routinely harassed by police already, since Nutter’s election, the practice has seen a sharp increase, more than doubling since 2005, according to the ACLU. Of those harassed by cops, 72% were Black, 8% of which were then arrested. 253,333 stops were on the books for 2009 alone.