By Lindsay Wigo
Manipulation . Corruption. Deceit.
On Oct. 19, author and former Philadelphia police officer Norman Carter came to DeSales University for The Forensic Forum and told some of the gruesome recounts from his 25 years of service to the Philadelphia police department. Ranging from police brutality to statistical manipulation to the Philadelphia mafia, Carter discussed the events that led to his creation of The Long Blue Walk, a personal exposé of the situations he faced while in Philadelphia.
“It is dangerous to talk publicly about criminalized police officers,” Carter first explained. He says some might say that exposing these “bad cops” are counterproductive and the public would rather hear about good stories from the police. Carter reminded the audience, “When you are faced with injustices, being silent is never an option.”
Carter discussed the concept of the three legged stool, which he called the “motto of the Philadelphia police department.” Each of the three legs represents a different quality of the police department: honor, integrity and service. The seat, itself, is the public’s trust. If any of the characteristics falter, the public’s trust will erode.
Regarding this three legged stool, Carter told a story about his first experience with honor and integrity after leaving the Police Academy in South Philadelphia. On one of his first nights out on the streets with his partner, a store across block was brought to his attention. He referred to this store as a “rookie police officer’s heaven” because there were illegally parked cars double parked and all over the sidewalk. However, despite the opportunities for the parking violations, Carter’s partner sternly informed him to never take any action at that store because it was the headquarters of Angelo Bruno, the head of the Philadelphia mafia.
“My question was, are we afraid to take action against the head of a criminal organization?” His partner informed him that if they were to take action, they would be punished. “What you learn in the Police Academy is often trumped by socialization that you go through once you leave the academy.”
Similarly to the example of socialization with the Philadelphia mafia scenario, Carter also discussed his first experience with police brutality. Around midnight on July 4, 1968, Carter was radioed to provide backup assistance to an officer handling an intoxicated woman who needed to be escorted to the hospital. While he was approaching the location, the primary officer went over the radio informing that the backup assistance was no longer needed and that the situation was covered. Moments later, the primary officer drives past him with no sign of the woman in the backseat. After following the officer back to the police station, Carter saw that the woman had been put in the trunk of the police car.
The police officer thought it was funny.
“I became enraged,” said Carter. “I lost my temper. I wanted this cop arrested. I wanted him locked up and I wanted to be the one to arrest him.”
Carter never reported the officer and did not bring this case to light. However, there was a situation that Carter took into his own hands and released to the public.
Carter tells another story of how one of his assignments was to fill out a stolen vehicle report for a man who returned to where he parked his car, and the car was gone. He took his detailed report into the operations crew and the corporal stated that since the car was over 5 years old, the department does not take stolen car reports. Instead, the department changed the status of the car to “trying to locate,” and the stolen car report never makes it into the national car reporting system.
“The idea is to make the city better than it is by holding down the figures on serious crimes,” Carter said. After more research, Carter found out the same situation occurred if someone reports a stolen car tag, it never goes into the system as stolen, and always reported as lost. In turn, this manipulation of crime statistics were falsely showing the public that the area was safe and the crime was low.
Carter did not let this one slide.
“I wrote an editorial to the Philadelphia Daily News,” he added. “To paraphrase, the small editorial said that they’re lying, and I’ll prove it to you. Check with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, check with the National Crime Information Reporting System. You will not find a stolen tag in Philadelphia.”
Carter persisted that there are many cases of corruption in multiple police departments that will never come to light. He mentioned about how many officers he worked with did not speak out often loudly enough and often enough in many instances of corruption and manipulation. Many other stories of Carter’s experiences in Philadelphia can be found in his exposé entitled The Long Blue Walk.