Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Issues come to light within the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office

Why is our Sheriff's office in such peril? Is it Corruption? Mismanagement? Waste?

How about Malaise?

When I say malaise, I'm not just talking about 23 years of a law enforcement and tax enforcement agency being run by people who were clearly not qualified to do so. I'm not talking about a complete lack of uniform discipline or tradition of ethics at this office. I'm also not talking about the COMPLETE lack of field presence that this Sheriff's office has.

What I'm talking about is the malaise of my fellow Philadelphia residents who, before the recent scandals, had no idea what the Sheriff's office does or, more importantly, is supposed to do other then hold auctions, stand in court, and move prisoners. Growing up in New York, you'd see the red-striped Sheriff's cruisers in the neighborhood and note that they were there to conduct a seizure. To put it bluntly, they were there to take someone's car, apartment, or freedom because they have owed a LOT of money to the city for a very long time. New York has over 250 deputies in the street in eight-hour shifts to make sure people knew that they had to square their debts with the city or find somewhere else to live. Cook County Sheriffs do the same thing in Chicago, as is done by Sheriff's in Baltimore, Boston, Los Angeles, outside D.C., Atlanta, Florida, etc..etc.

My question to Philly is, why is that not done here?

How, the same day as a class action suit is filed by a group of people owed back revenue from Sheriff's sales;

(see: Where's the Money, Sheriff? - Phila. Daily News) the First Judicial District of Philadelphia has raised the argument as to whether or not they, the courts, should take over the Sheriff's sale process in Philadelphia. (see: Pa. justices consider shifting sheriff's sales to Philadelphia courts - Inquirer)

As an educated citizen of this city, I don't believe that we should reinvent a 200+ year old wheel when a scandal arises. I think it's time for the judicial court and the court of public opinion to ask more of our elected Sheriff. Let's put an honest man in office with a strong, diverse background in law enforcement, critical infrastructure protection, and fair-handed reform who can reinvent this office into one that not only collects the massive debts owed to Philadelphia, but contributes to our public safety by rooting out the derelict properties that often times enable shelter for drug use, prostitution, underage drinking, etc.

Let's do more then just transport prisoners...let's create a gang intelligence unit within the Sheriff's office to learn more about gangs in our city from inside the custodial environment, like other cities where the Sheriff's are known for providing valuable intelligence to the police, as opposed to being court appointed bus drivers.

Let's see the Sheriff take responsibility for our critical infrastructure protection to provide protective services to our city-owned facilities in the same way that they protect the courthouse (as is done with Sheriff's offices and special-purpose police agencies in a variety of other larger and smaller cities).

Why do pundits and candidates like John Kromer always talk about doing away with what could potentially be a proactive, revenue generating agency? I personally find it odd that three democratic candidates have expressed interest in running for Sheriff, which include two people from housing (to include a PHA official, in the wake of a massive scandal in that small agency), and a State Representative from a session and party that has been cited for causing a great deal of waste and gridlock in Harrisburg during the last budget crisis.

What we need is a true outsider, one who is not beholden to the state or local machine, one who knows what a Sheriff's office is supposed to look and operate like and who is not afraid to break it down to the foundation and rebuilt it from the ground up - correctly.

Let's see if anyone steps up for the challenge.

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