Why must I pick a side in the trial of George Zimmerman?


I’ve been struggling to explain to people why I haven’t much followed the much publicized trial of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in either self-defense or because of vengeful stereotyping, depending on where you land politically.

Then I read something that helped me understand better. I strongly endorse this post about the polarization of our country:

Why the hell must I pick a side in the George Zimmerman trial? A 17 year old boy is dead and a man who may or may not be guilty of murder is on trial but, even if not guilty, will never again be safe because so much outrage and so much politicization has been poured into the trial. A 17 year old is dead. Why am I forced, as a conservative, to cheer for the guy who took his life? And you people who support Trayvon, how are you given a pass on seeing things from George Zimmerman’s perspective? Why must I decide on the guilt or innocence of George Zimmerman based on the outrage of people whose politics differ from mine? Why must a death and trial comport to a political world view?!


Technically Philly article referenced in Philly Police Dept. budget hearing

Yesterday, Philadelphia City Councilman Bill Green tweeted something interesting to me:

“Here’s the @TechnicallyPHL article I just referenced during the Police Dept budget hearing http://bit.ly/er1mnf

The article he referenced was some coverage I did of the Philadelphia Police Department using open source technology for its website and utilizing social media for canvassing communities for tips.

My first police ride along

A police officer friend welcomed me to ride along for the latter half of his 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. patrol this Saturday, and I eagerly accepted. After providing and filing paperwork a few weeks prior, I climbed into his Crown Victoria and took to patrolling a relatively quiet college town, particularly so, considering the college was on spring break.

I was left with a few take aways:

  • I found myself trying to parse what culture, rules and protocol were local to his department, state-wide or universal — and all came into play.
  • Patrolling was much more of a team sport than I expected.
  • There was more action than I expected for a sleepy college town during spring break — a few car stops, a couple pedestrian interactions and a car stop and search.
  • Aggressive cops, of course, get more stops, while simultaneously stopping more innocent people too. Where the line is for all of that is about as American and challenging a debate as we have.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is pretty good

Photo by Flickr user 10-42Adam.

‘Barrel of a Gun’ Mumia Abu Jamal documentary premiere thoughts

The middle of the center section on the lower level of the Merriam Theater Tuesday night seemed well-acquainted.

Across rows, middle aged men with ruddy cheeks talked about seeing each other last on trips to Key West, sneaking a six-pack into the historic theater and shared the kind of general chatter of people who knew each other well a long time ago.

The lights came down around 7:15 p.m., too early to know exactly how well or from when they knew each other. It would only be a guess that they all came from the same neighborhood, but that was how the audience felt last night at the world premiere of the ‘Barrel of a Gun,’ the feature-length documentary from Tigre Hill meant to finalize the 30-year-old controversy around Mumia Abu-Jamal’s convicted killing of police officer Daniel Faulkner in December 1981.

Continue reading ‘Barrel of a Gun’ Mumia Abu Jamal documentary premiere thoughts

Final words on the reprisal of the young cop and the student journalist

It’s very easy to politicize what is around us. I fight that urge, too.

Whenever accusations about cops and misdeeds make their way into headlines, most of us either rush to defend them or revile them. Wherever we rush to usually has to do with what camp we most align: either (A) policing is damn hard work and those who do it don’t get enough credit or (B) police officers have enough potentially unchecked power to make us uncomfortable.

Of course, like with most things, the truth manages to be both.

More than a year ago, I wrote about then-Temple University student journalist Shannon McDonald and the contested reporting she did on Philadelphia Police Officer Bill Thrasher. Last month, something of a conclusion was finally met.

Continue reading Final words on the reprisal of the young cop and the student journalist

Bicycle enforcement campaign launched by Philadelphia police


Update 11/22/09 @ 12:06 p.m.: Signs of this enforcement from Philebrity and the Inquirer.

Philadelphia police are introducing a bicycle enforcement campaign beginning tomorrow in Center City.

Forgive the lack of a direct focus on journalism, the future of news and my clips on this, but, as someone who uses bicycling transport fairly regularly (to save money and get exercise, something any freelancer would understand the value of making habit), it’s an issue I take seriously.

If you’re down, read some of my perspective and watch a video about police officers in another city using “discretion” with such bicycle street-law enforcement.

Continue reading Bicycle enforcement campaign launched by Philadelphia police

Metro: Nutter warns of a Doomsday Plan C budget

A photo I took of the police district headquarters where Mayor Nutter spoke yesterday.
A photo I took of the police district headquarters where Mayor Nutter spoke yesterday.

For free daily newspaper Metro Philadelphia, today I covered a press conference and related fallout from Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter warning of the Plan C budget he says he’ll be forced to introduce if two provisions aren’t passed by the state legislature.

I wrote a main brief on Nutter’s use of political theatrics: framing the legislative fight by a fight over cops and firefighters, groups that are taken very seriously in the part of the city he made the announcement.

Mayor Michael Nutter surrounded himself with police officers — and the Northeast Philadelphia residents that lean on them — to continue sending his message to Harrisburg yesterday that the city will be in dire straits without action from lawmakers.

Read the rest here. I also wrote a small sidebar item on some reaction from neighborhood onlookers.

Read the related story I wrote for NEastPhilly.com.

Below see some extra material that didn’t make it into either story.

Continue reading Metro: Nutter warns of a Doomsday Plan C budget

Closing @Domelights: Of course squelching racist police babble is wrong


I seem to recall seeing some petty ugly things written on Domeights, the online forum for the Philadelphia police community that was shut down by its owner after the threat of legal action.

Of course, I also remember a lot of mundane content, jokes, commentary and other arcane back-and-forth that is the staple of most Web message boards. But that’s not going to be the subject.

The site, which is operated by city police sergeant but is unaffiliated with the department, caught heat following another public display of racial infighting in one of the country’s largest municipal law enforcement agencies. The Guardian Civic League, an organized group of black police officers, is calling for the removal of the site and has named a host of individuals, in addition to the police force and the city in a law suit.

Continue reading Closing @Domelights: Of course squelching racist police babble is wrong

What was lost in the coverage of a student journalist and a Philadelphia cop

Update: 7:40 p.m. on April 23, 2009: The involved officer was suspended with intent to dismiss. That news also came from the Inquirer and Daily News.

Update: 10:12 p.m. on May 6, 2009: Ms. McDonald was the feature of a cover story in the Northeast Times.

The attention has probably subsided enough to write this now.

Shannon McDonald, whom I’ve known for nearly two years, got a round of 15 minutes of fame she didn’t quite want.

On March 31, the Philadelphia Daily News ran a story on the growing ire of a group of the city’s black cops.

The controversy surrounded around a single officer, and, it seems, Shannon started it all.

At least a month before, the 21-year-old senior Temple University journalism student had to write a feature story for a class. So, thinking a cop-ride-along would be a simple, strong and fast assignment for a class she’s eager to finish, Shannon contacted the 22nd Philadelphia police district, which covers her assigned Strawberry Mansion neighborhood.

Then she wrote, as would surprise no one who knows her, a tidy, professional 900-word profile on Bill Thrasher, the officer with whom she rode. That was in February. It was a school assignment.

I spoke to her after the ride along.

“How was it?” I asked.

“OK,” she said, in a way that makes me certain she neither expected nor wanted any attention for the story.

It took a month for her expectations to be proven shortsighted.

Continue reading What was lost in the coverage of a student journalist and a Philadelphia cop

Why don't Philadelphia police and fire departments sell merchandise?

God, I could get sick if I see someone else with an NYPD hat.

But, Hell, kudos because that is brand development and, I’d bet, some additional revenue for those departments – even if lots of copycats are out there.

I could only imagine the fear is police impersonation, but I have to believe you could limit the design and merchandise to mitigate that fear.

In a city of huge bureaucracy, this could be a department of the city’s police or fire departments that could make some money. As much as those departments are reviled by some, there are those eager to support a big city’s bravest and finest. Let’s monetize that for the city.