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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Philly's Phinest

The collective uniform of Philadelphia's public servants has gotten a little more wrinkled, a little more stained in recent days.

There's some tarnish on the badge-- and it won't be buffed out especially easy.

I hate using the word "alleged," because I'm not a news anchor and I'm certainly not a lawyer, but I'll use it because I know, before you get excused or body-slammed by a jury of your peers, you're an alleged everything, except an asshole. Juries don't lay on that title-- just guilty or not.

In the Philadelphia Police Department, we have an alleged pervert-- and a definite asshole. A 7-year veteran of the force, working in plainclothes, was alone in an apartment with a 21-year-old female. While conducting an investigation, or whatever it was, the officer in question "committed a sex act during which he exposed himself," according to Internal Affairs. The officer has been suspended for 30 days with the intent to dismiss. He's also been arrested and charged.

In even more shocking and depressing news, a Philadelphia firefighter and his son allegedy beat the piss and shit and brains out of a pedestrian who made the unfortunate decision to step in front of the firefighter's car in the Northeast section of the city. The District Attorney's office has charged them both with aggravated assault and conspiracy charges, and, after further evaluation, murder will probably be added to that charming little list.

I guess it's just a matter of time before a Philadelphia paramedic cuts somebody's nuts off in the back of an ambulance with a grapefruit spoon and sells them on E-bay.

These kind of things do tend to happen in three's, right?

I knew that, when I read about these awful, disgusting stories, I wanted to write about them-- but I really didn't know what I wanted to say. It all seems rather obvious, doesn't it? It's appalling and degrading to think that public servants, people given positions of power and authority can go so callously and cruelly wrong. On a selfish level, for me, as one who often stands up and bangs the drum in support of emergency service workers who I feel have been wrongly maligned in the press or in the court of popular opinion, it's personally offensive, because it makes me feel like an asshole-- like a dupe or a stooge. Someone who has been used, someone who has thrown his support behind some of the wrong people.

And, of course, I'll say what I always say when one or two go wrong: they're not representative of the whole-- but they are infected with an illness that could destroy the whole, most certainly. Popular opinion is a funny animal, and it is easily swayed. All it takes is one or two negative stories about one or two assholes to entice the public to turn against its protectors. And that's a dangerous thing.

Of course, in the heat of the moment-- either charged with rage or with sexual energy-- miscreants, corrupt cops, or volcano-headed firefighters aren't even thinking about the immediate, personal consequences of their actions-- let alone the consequences to the men and women with whom they served-- the people who are left to clean up the elephant shit with a feather-duster. This is the danger of belonging to a large organization comprised of lots of people of different educational, social, etc, etc differences whose emotions and actions you cannot control. One acts out, everybody suffers the consequences because, to the civilian population: the uniform is the same, and it's what defines first responders.

I have no tolerance, no patience, and no sympathy in my heart for anybody who stands up, accepts an oath, and then behaves in a manner that completely destroys the public faith and trust. It's reprehensible and selfish and stupid, and it is the mark of a true animal. More than that, I suppose, it's the mark of someone who is in it for the paycheck. And it's not a terrible thing to want to become a cop or a firefighter for the paycheck and the benefits and the job security-- but there's got to be something else behind that, or turning becomes too easy. Too seductive. Too tangible. We're all in danger of turning, of course-- you and me-- but the consequences of an office jockey turning are far less severe and far less over-reaching than when a public servant decides to turn.

And it is a decision.

That decision to take that graft. To unzip that fly. To get out of that car with fists at the ready. To fire into that suspect's back. To turn. To turn your back-- on your partner, on your City, on your oath.

It's just a fluke, right? Please tell me it's just a fluke.

In slightly related news-- you certainly can't compare it to the aforementioned atrocities, an African-American female Philadelphia police officer has filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission after her captain ordered her to change her hair color before returning to patrol duties. The captain claimed the color was purple, which is not allowed. The officer claims it was red, which is.

PPD Uniform Patrol Directive 78-D states that an officer's hair may not be of "unnatural color," such as purple, blue, or green. Trolls have also filed similar complaints, but they are further barred from being police officers because they do not reach the height requirement.

All you can do sometimes is laugh.


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post. That pedestrian, Mark Wallace, is my uncle. And as angry as I am at these two firefighters, as the daughter of a Philadelphia firefighter I know that they are not representative of the heroic whole.


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