Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey says it was an accident that a cop under suspicion for child molestation was allowed to continue working with kids. Does anybody believe that?
It doesn't matter if you're a parent or not: the streets of this city should be flooded with vomit at the revelations about Officer Tyrone Wiggins, who allegedly raped a young girl for 8 years, beginning when she was 12 years old.
THAT story is revolting enough, but even worse is the apparent cover-up: Internal Affairs not only took two years to complete their investigation, but no one bothered to tell anyone at the rec center where Wiggins worked with kids as a karate instructor, and where he originally met his young victim. That's right: a sexual predator who happened to be a cop, perhaps the very first person kids think of when you say "trusted authority figure," was allowed to continue working with kids, even though he was being investigated for raping a child. He was arrested, quietly, in November, a day after he retired (and presumably Wiggins still qualifies for a pension and benefits). And as recently as last fucking week the dude was STILL working at a rec center.
Commissioner Ramsey says, "There was no attempt to hide it," but I call bullshit. This is the Philadelphia Police Department we're talking about here, the same department that for years systematically and deliberately under-reported thousands of rapes to improve their crime stats, as the Inquirer uncovered in 1999. It was a major embarrassment for the department, in which the parents of Shannon Scheiber, who was raped and murdered by Troy Graves, faulted the Police Department for "a practice, a pervasive practice and custom of ignoring... and not investigating crimes against women." And while the city was finally exonerated, it left a stain that lingers to this very day, and which the Department is still recovering from.
I'd like to believe the commish, but you don't even have to go back farther than this year to see outrageous abuse of power in the department, when "Officer Jeffrey Cujdik allegedly instructed his longtime informant to lie about drug buys so that Cujdik could obtain search warrants to enter the homes of suspected dealers" and was later discovered to have "routinely conducted "illegal searches" of corner stores, then disabled surveillance cameras to "cover up" their actions and the theft of money and merchandise". Oh, and there were allegations of sexual assault as well. This led to new regulations for the police, including "No sexual relationships. No gifts. No "social, financial or business" dealings. No undocumented meetings or telephone conversations." Yeah, I know: it took a Mensa member to figure THAT one out. Did I mention that, unbelievably, as of December 19, none of these cops have been charged with anything, and many are still drawing paychecks?
Hell, right now Officer Frank Tepper, a well-known hotheaded cop with a penchant for violence, still walks free for what appears to be murder in cold blood. His house is guarded by cops against retaliation from the community, and he's still drawing a salary: you or I would be in jail, awaiting trial. (Well, maybe: we all know the city's bail system works about as well as a 1976 Plymouth).
So pardon me if I'm not buying the department's "oopsie" moment. There's too long a long history of corruption and of doing nothing to address the bad apples in the midst of thousands of cops who are committed to serving the public.
Philadelphia deserves answers. Maybe we can start with Marian Tasco, who's asking the right questions:
1. When the Internal Affairs Unit became aware of the context of the allegations against Officer Wiggins, and knowing that he met this girl at the recreation center, why didn’t the Police Department notify the recreation center and/or the Recreation Department so that officials could take preventive action and remove him from his position as a youth karate instructor?
2. Why did the investigation take two years to complete?
3. Why wasn’t there full disclosure by the Police Department at the time of the arrest on November 19 as is the Police Department’s practice when other officers are arrested and charged with criminal offenses?
4. Is there suspicion, evidence or are there allegations that this officer has been sexually involved with other children?
5. Why did Police Department officials allow Officer Wiggins to retire on November 18, allowing him to become eligible for his pension and other retirement benefits? Obviously, someone in the Department knew he would be arrested the following day.
Tasco adds that while the city expects citizens to cooperate with the cops to help lower our ghastly crime rate, "we must give citizens the confidence of knowing that our authorities are beyond reproach."
At this point, I'm not sure I have that confidence. Not when we have a department with a reputation for downplaying sex crimes, engaging in criminal behavior, and protecting bad cops.
Feeling safer yet?