Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. Credit: Charles Mostoller/Metro
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey has quietly beefed up the manpower of the Internal Affairs Division.
This year, 17 new investigators were added to the Philadelphia Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division. The staffing transfer is intended to improve operations at the division that handles investigations into complaints against officers of the department.
“They were short-staffed, they needed additional personnel,” said Commissioner Charles Ramsey of the reasoning behind the move.
“It’s just for the good of the department. The bottom line is if there’s an allegation against an officer, we have an obligation both to the public and the officers accused to have it resolved as quickly and as thoroughly as we can,” Ramsey said.
Overall, Ramsey said he has added 24 investigators to the division, a move that could go toward his record of taking on corruption allegations.
Lawyer Larry Krasner, who represented Askia Sabur, a man who faced assault charges but was seen on viral video being struck by officers while seated on a street, said that while the way police handles integrity issues has changed over the years, he's still skeptical.
“It’s been dreadful. It’s getting better,” Krasner said.
“I don’t know that putting 24 people in there means anything but 24 people will be clearing the backload — it could be people saying, ‘Not sustained, not sustained, not sustained,'" he said. "But the commissioner has shown a real interest in dealing with police integrity issues, and so has the mayor. ... You have prosecution going on of dirty cops. You have dirty cops being taken off the street."
In 2012, Lt. John Josey was investigated and faced criminal charges after viral video spread showing him striking Aida Guzman at the Puerto Rican Day Parade. He was fired, but later reinstated.
Guzman’s attorney Enrique Latoison said that his experience filing a complaint about the incident with Internal Affairs was positive, noting that one officer doubled as a Spanish interpreter.
“They were the ones to initiate contact. I never had to call them or file anything, they came to me,” Latoison said. “I have not one negative thing to say about anything they did, how they treated me or how they treated Aida. They were objective … I thought it was a good process."
Public opinion of Internal Affairs and the police department is still charged by historic scandals.
In the 90s, former 39th district officer John Baird was sentenced to 13 years by a federal judge on charges of conspiracy to violate civil rights, obstruction of justice, and robbery. Baird pled guilty, admitting to stealing money from suspects, assault, and planting evidence. He served four-and-a-half years.
Baird reportedly had more than 20 IA complaints on his file when he was indicted in 1995, none sustained.
"Everyone who said John Baird beat me up, stole money, planted drugs on me, was rejected. It was a straight-up cover-up organization. They shut them down because that was what IA did," Krasner said. "That for me is the archetype of how IA used to work."
But 19 years later, the city is a very different place.
"We're trying to make sure that we have a unit that’s able to handle the workload, and able to complete very thorough investigations," Ramsey said of the Internal Affairs Division.