7th PDAC honors Officers of the Month


Deputy Com­mis­sion­er Steph­en John­son of the Phil­adelphia Po­lice De­part­ment doesn’t en­cour­age private cit­izens to file com­plaints against their loc­al patrol of­ficers.

But if a com­plaint is war­ran­ted, a ci­vil­ian shouldn’t hes­it­ate to file one. And po­lice should ac­cept the com­plaint with pro­fes­sion­al­ism and in­teg­rity, re­gard­less of where it’s filed, John­son said dur­ing the Dec. 15 meet­ing of the 7th Po­lice Dis­trict Ad­vis­ory Coun­cil.

John­son heads the PPD’s Of­fice of Pro­fes­sion­al Re­spons­ib­il­ity, com­monly known as the in­tern­al af­fairs unit.

“We po­lice the po­lice,” said John­son, who has served 34 years on the po­lice force, in­clud­ing many years as an of­ficer and com­mand­er in the de­part­ment’s High­way Patrol.

He also served as patrol in­spect­or for the South Di­vi­sion when Capt. Joseph Zaffino was a dis­trict com­mand­er there. Zaffino now com­mands the Far North­east’s 7th dis­trict.

“We owe it to the pub­lic to rid ourselves of bad po­lice of­ficers,” John­son said. “We have a re­spons­ib­il­ity to main­tain the sanc­tity, in­teg­rity and dig­nity of the po­lice de­part­ment.”

Since Com­mis­sion­er Charles Ram­sey took over the de­part­ment four years ago, he has fired more than 100 of­ficers for crim­in­al activ­ity or vi­ol­a­tions of de­part­ment policy. An­ec­dot­ally, John­son be­lieves that Ram­sey has a high­er dis­missal rate than any pri­or com­mis­sion­er.

But not all com­plaints against po­lice end up in the com­mis­sion­er’s of­fice.

There are three gen­er­al types of com­plaints against po­lice: lack of ser­vice, verbal ab­use and phys­ic­al ab­use. The first two types can be ad­ju­dic­ated by the di­vi­sion com­mand­er (In­spect­or John Heath for the North­east Di­vi­sion) as long as the ac­cused of­ficer hasn’t been the sub­ject of any oth­er com­plaints with­in the pre­vi­ous two years.

On the oth­er hand, of­ficers who re­ceive mul­tiple com­plaints or who are ac­cused of phys­ic­al ab­use will have to an­swer to in­vest­ig­at­ors in John­son’s unit and the com­mis­sion­er’s of­fice.

In­vest­ig­a­tions could res­ult in fir­ing, sus­pen­sion or dis­qual­i­fic­a­tion of the of­ficer from a pro­mo­tion.

There are mul­tiple ways that ci­vil­ians can com­plain about an of­ficer. They can go to the nearest po­lice dis­trict and ask the of­ficer at the front desk for a com­plaint form. By de­part­ment policy, the of­ficer must provide the blank form no ques­tions asked.

Also, ci­vil­ians may go to the Web site www.philly­po­lice.com and file a com­plaint elec­tron­ic­ally. If they have a prob­lem with an of­ficer in the street, they may opt to call 911 and ask that a patrol su­per­visor come to the scene.

In any case, the ci­vil­ian should have the name and/or badge num­ber of the of­ficer in­volved in the com­plaint. Any of­ficer must provide his or her name and badge num­ber upon re­quest, John­son said. But it’s the ci­vil­ian’s re­spons­ib­il­ity to write down the in­form­a­tion.

The good news is that while the po­lice de­part­ment re­ceived more than 600 com­plaints in 2011, that fig­ure rep­res­ents a de­cline from pri­or years. Com­plaints are down 44 per­cent in the 7th dis­trict, John­son said.

In ad­di­tion to hear­ing John­son’s present­a­tion, the 7th PDAC presen­ted Of­ficer Thomas Carpino with the dis­trict’s Of­ficer of the Month award for in­ter­rupt­ing a burg­lary in pro­gress and ar­rest­ing two re­peat of­fend­ers.

The in­cid­ent oc­curred Nov. 4 at 1:40 a.m. at a res­taur­ant on the 11600 block of Roosevelt Blvd. Carpino was as­signed to a spe­cial burg­lary de­tail that night in re­sponse to a series of crimes in the area.

Carpino saw the two sus­pects prowl­ing out­side a row of busi­nesses on the block. Then one of the males al­legedly used a rock to smash a win­dow at the New Boulevard Diner. Carpino ran across Roosevelt Boulevard as the males were at­tempt­ing to climb in­to the diner through the broken win­dow.

When Carpino iden­ti­fied him­self as an of­ficer, one of the men tried to run away, but Carpino cap­tured him in the park­ing lot. The second man tried to walk away from the scene in a dif­fer­ent dir­ec­tion, but oth­er patrol of­ficers ar­res­ted him.

Ac­cord­ing to Zaffino, the two men had more than 60 pri­or ar­rests com­bined and had been in­volved in re­cent thefts from a nearby truck­ing fa­cil­ity. The thefts were val­ued at tens of thou­sands of dol­lars. ••


You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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