Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Tales of the Philly PD

Wyatt Earp wrote about an incompetent Philly cop that reminded me of my favorite Philly cop story that happened around 1997. I was driving two college kids back to church after picking up some groceries with them in Upper Darby. We were heading east on Market at about 50th street, and were stopped in the right lane when a bus stopped to pick up some passengers. Well, the car in front of us got impatient and tried to get past the bus. The driver must have been really impatient because he overshot the middle lane and slammed into the car driving in the far left lane. I was tempted to just leave, but with two impressionable kids in the car, I decided to do my civic duty and present myself as a witness to the crash.

So I got out of the car and went to the crash scene, and the guy who got hit was a Chinese guy who had almost no command of english. The perpetrators of the crash were two young guys who looked very nervous. They start arguing with the Chinese guy about whose fault it was (it was definitely not the Chinese guy's fault, as he was simply driving in his lane when the other guys rammed the rear corner of his car from two lanes away). Very soon, a police van rolls along, and so the Chinese guy and I approach it to explain what's going on. In it are two women officers who look like this is the last thing they want to deal with, and they stay in the van while speaking to us from the driver side window. Since they're getting angry because they can't understand what Chinese guy is saying, I take over and explain what happened. While I'm speaking, one of the guys who started the crash starts to walk quickly away, while the other starts to drive away in another direction. Seeing this, both the Chinese guy and I excitedly exclaim to the cops that they're making a run for it and that they (the cops) should catch them! Now, what happened next I'll never forget. Both the cops get really upset and with some major attitude say, "Uh uh, you don't speak to US that way! YOU don't tell US what to do!" I can see where this is leading, and since there's no time to lose, I quickly calm the Chinese guy down and say in a polite and calm manner, "Officers, the guys who rammed into this guy are leaving the scene..." I try to describe the car and what direction they went in, but as I was trying to do so they just drive off in mid-sentence!! Unbelievable!!

So now the Chinese guy is really distraught because of his wrecked car, and I'm upset at myself for not noting the license plate number of either the car that got away or the police van (I was too shocked). A few minutes later, another cop comes walking along and we explain the situation to him, and he is very sympathetic and courteous, but there is little he can do if we didn't get the license plate numbers. So I end up leaving dumbfounded. I had seen this kind of police apathy in New Orleans, but this was my first negative experience with Philly cops. Now, I have a lot of respect for hard working cops and think for the most part that they are grossly underpaid and under-appreciated, but can't FOP or the city do anything about these bad apples?! Anytime one has a pretty much guaranteed job, what incentive does one have not to act this way?


  1. That's classic! I am laughing, but only the kind of nervous, uncomfortable laugh of someone who sees this every day. Those cops are a disgrace to the uniform, and make it harder for other Philly cops (like myself) to garner respect in this town.

    I apologize for their lack of work ethic.

  2. I'm sorry you had a bad experience with the Phila. Police. Unfortunatly there are some among our ranks who exude more energy avoiding work, than actually doing the job would require. Civil Service breeds people like this.

    I like to believe most officers would have responded to your complaint correctly, and professionally. My naivete is probably showing.

  3. Thankfully, most of my other experiences with Philly cops have been pretty good. No need to apologize Wyatt. The hard work that you and others like you do is greatly appreciated, at least in spirit, as I am no longer in Philly to appreciate the fruits of your labors.