The malice of an anonymous letter-writer falsely accusing a whistle-blowing Philadelphia policewoman with involvement in a 2010 fatal car crash may provide some explanation of circumstances surrounding the perplexing arrest of that whistle-blower last week.
That letter-writer laid fault for the two fatalities during that 2010 crash “squarely on [the] shoulders” of police Lt. Aisha Perry, a policewoman with a record of reporting misconduct and corruption within the Philadelphia Police Department.
The whistle-blowing by Perry has resulted in many instances of vile retaliation and harassment directed towards her from some within Philadelphia Police Department ranks, probably including that letter writer who possessed police-specific information.
While sexism and racism certainly play roles in the retaliation targeting Lt. Perry a pivotal instigator for these assaults against the 31-year PPD veteran is the warped reality of whistle-blowing violating that “Code of Silence” practiced by many police.
This unofficial “Code of Silence” pervasive within police culture across America demands silence from law enforcers about lawlessness within police ranks as a perverse expression of solidarity among police officers.
Perry won a federal lawsuit she filed against the PPD in the late 1990s charging ranking PPD personnel with denying her a promotion as retaliation for her arresting a drunken hit-&-run driver who turned out to be an off-duty Philadelphia policeman.
Although the federal judge presiding at Perry’s whistle-blowing trial specifically admonishing Philadelphia’s then police commissioner to halt attacks against Perry PPD supervisors slapped her with a series of misconduct charges on the first day she returned to work following that federal jury ruling in her favor.
Facts contained in PPD documents about that 2010 crash in East Falls easily refute that anonymous letter-writer’s false accusations against Lt. Perry.
Further, those facts expose errors in news media reports about that crash that relied on Police Department-provided information.
That December 2010 crash occurred as a police sergeant chased a car after police command ordered officers not to engage in pursuing that car. This policewoman denied hearing the no-chase order.
The car went out of control during that pursuit down narrow School House Lane, striking a tree and bursting into flames.
Two men burned to death inside that car while the crash ejected a third occupant.
Police initially tagged that survivor as the driver but flummoxed when the survivor’s family stated he was blind and couldn’t have driven any vehicle.
News reports of that crash reported that it occurred “after” police ended that pursuit making no reference to the active pursuit by the police sergeant.
Those reports also listed the survivor — the blind man —– as the driver of the car.
One police accident investigator, incensed by what he considered errant acts by the pursuing sergeant, initially coded that car crash as manslaughter-gross negligence-no arrest.
Lt. Perry did come to that accident scene, taking charge as a ranking supervisor at the chaotic scene, performing supervisory duties that the pursuing sergeant did not.
Last week the Police Department declined comment on what actions it took with that sergeant for her reengaging the cancelled pursuit.
Also last week, the Police Department declined to provide specifics on the arrest of Lt. Perry and another officer arrested with her on charges of stealing utility services by tampering with meters to obtain electric, gas and water service without paying.
The PPD referred questions about the duration and dollar amount of the alleged utility thefts to the District Attorney’s Office that provided a basic press release providing the list of charges, the ages of Perry and Officer George Suarez and their tenure in the PPD.
Police did not answer a question about how many officers have faced arrest and firing for similar theft of utility services charges.
Police officials immediately suspended Perry and Suarez with intent to dismiss following their arrest.
Supporters of Perry see last week’s arrest as another instance of retaliatory assault against this whistle-blower.
Such a contention is not without foundation given the sordid history of retaliatory acts against whistle-blowers by PPD personnel and police union officials that take place during and after work.
For example, retaliation drove three white policemen — Ray Carnation and brothers Bill and Mike McKenna — from the PPD in the late 1990s for their reporting racism and misconduct.
They received a record setting $10-million federal jury verdict but City Hall appeals and suspect rulings by a federal judge stripped them of their rightful reward for retaliation.
Earlier this summer, Lt. Perry found herself in the news when a friend accidentally drowned in her backyard swimming pool.
Although a city medical examiner ruled that drowning accidental after reviewing video from Perry’s surveillance system and other evidence, a Northeast detective division supervisor provided a media interview implying fault by Perry during that tragedy.
That detective supervisor bashed Perry for maintaining a filthy, algae-filled pool yet photos of the pool taken hours after the drowning show crystal-clear water.
That supervisor said he was investigating Perry out of his concern for the drowned man’s family but neither the supervisor nor his underlings contacted that family.
Police whistle-blowers frequently find little support from their police union.
Earlier this year that union won its campaign to reinstate a policeman fired for stealing money from civilians after those acts had been observed by other police and documented by PPD investigators.
That money-grabbing policeman had denied wrong-doing.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Fellowship Program.