As advertised, Mr. Brian Mildenberg – the attorney representing the estate of Mr. Brandon Tate-Brown, a 26 year-old black man killed by a Philadelphia police officer while unarmed and fleeing on December 15th, 2014 – yesterday afternoon called into 900am-WURD, Pennsylvania’s only black talk radio station where I’ve been substituting for the popular drive-time radio personality Mr. Nick Taliaferro, to provide me with breaking news: the federal civil rights trial wherein the defendant is the City of Philadelphia will begin in the spring of 2017.
More newsworthy than the date of the trial, however, is one the charges regarding policing that the City of Philadelphia – which next week will play host to the Democratic National Convention where Mrs. Hillary Clinton, who as of late has had the mother of the late Mr. Tate-Brown on the campaign trail with her, will officially be crowned as the Democratic nominee for President of the United States of America – is being sued for: reckless indifference.
In non-legal terms, Mr. Mildenberg is asserting that the City of Philadelphia, long before the Department of Justice in March of 2015 released ‘An Assessment of Deadly Force in the Philadelphia Police Department,’ officials were made aware of the “deficiencies in training” within the half-a-billion-dollar-a-year agency, but did little-to-nothing to enhance officers’ educational experience and reduce use of force.
Alongside me in the 900am-WURD studio yesterday, in addition to Mr. Asa Khalif of Black Lives Matter PA and Mrs. Tanya Brown-Dickerson, Mr. Tate-Brown’s mother who has fought tirelessly for transparency after her first-born was murdered, was civilian oversight practitioner, Mr. Kelvyn Anderson, who leads the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission, whose budget is less than 1% of the Philadelphia Police Department’s – the agency has less money today than it did a decade ago. Mr. Anderson, a former journalist, confirmed on-air that there were at least two reports issued in the past which highlighted the training deficiencies at PPD.
Beyond justice for Mr. Tate-Brown, who was said to have been reaching into his car for a gun when killed but that narrative was later proved false, Mr. Mildenberg said he hopes the lawsuit helps move along the recommendations for police reform laid out by the DOJ, which included accommodating the Police Advisory Commission’s request for “important documentation, investigative files, and data related to all uses of force, including OISs (Officer-Involved Shootings)”.
Interestingly enough, though reckless indifference, which is defined as being careless to the point of being heedless of the consequences, in this context refers solely to police training, it could be applied to civilian oversight in Philadelphia. For example, in 1992, then City Councilman Mr. Michael A. Nutter, who was Mayor of Philadelphia when Mr. Tate-Brown was killed by a one bullet to the back of the head but who now is a CNN commentator and Clinton surrogate, said of civilian oversight: “It would help increase community confidence in the police and, at the same time, provide officers with a clean bill of health, not only by the police internal affairs division but by public citizens as well.”
But when Mr. Nutter, whose early 90s legislation established the agency Mr. Anderson now oversees, became the City’s chief executive, he did nothing to strengthen civilian oversight; in fact, he was so indifferent to it, that he allowed then police commissioner, Mr. Charles Ramsey, to break the law regarding the PAC: a finding by the DOJ states that, “in the past, the PPD has not fully cooperated with the PAC’s request for access to OIS investigation files and statistical data. Yet Executive Order 8-93 empowers the PAC to access such data related to any internal investigation into police misconduct.”
Through the history of Philadelphia, its lawmakers regarding police accountability, training and civilian oversight have been mostly hands-off, which is why, for generations here, the officers have, when interacting with Philadelphians, particularly the Black and Brown ones, been so hands-on.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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Photo courtesy of the author.