This blog post was originally released as a press statement of the Defender Association of Philadelphia on September 8, 2017.

In light of recent coverage by The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Tribune regarding the allegations by African American police officers within the Philadelphia Police Department’s Narcotics Bureau, citing internal racism, improper conduct, and illegal investigation procedures, the Defender Association of Philadelphia strongly advocates for a fair and full investigation.
On September 6th, the Guardian Civic League and the Philadelphia NAACP held a press conference highlighting the routine violations by the Narcotics Bureau regarding the recruitment and use of confidential informants – these alleged violations add to a legacy of serious misconduct within narcotics policing that has plagued Philadelphia for decades. From the 39th police districts scandal of the 1990’s to the conviction just two weeks ago of Officer Stanley Davis for inappropriate conduct with an informant. This highlights how the Narcotics Bureau has repeatedly trampled the civil rights of Philadelphians and has betrayed the oaths that they have sworn to uphold. This in turn, has made the job of upstanding police officers at every level that much more dangerous and challenging by shattering the trust of our community.
Racism, especially within government, is a destructive force that erodes the legitimacy of our institutions and perpetuates violations of human rights. It is inappropriate for any Philadelphia Police Officer to display symbols with racist connotations or to refer to African Americans in our community as “a pack of rabid animals.” These actions create serious concern that neighborhoods of color are not being fairly treated by the institution which is supposed to provide service and protection. Every Philadelphian has the right to live without fear of governmental discrimination and unreasonable searches and seizures. We, as a city, must take swift and certain action to let our communities know that black lives matter, both in the police station and on the streets.
We applaud the courage of the police officers that have come forward, and hope that an independent investigation into this matter will be conducted. As Philadelphia’s Public Defenders, this legacy of improper police conduct is all too familiar to our daily practice as we routinely receive complaints of similar police behavior by the Philadelphians we represent.  The Defender Association of Philadelphia condemns racism at all levels. We must promote fairness, eliminate bias and build the strong, safe, and just city that all Philadelphians deserve.