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More Drug Convictions Will Be Reversed in Philadelphia


March 1996

The District Attorney's Office in Philadelphia has brought forward 43 additional cases it wants overturned because police in that city's 39th District planted evidence or lied on reports (Mark Fazlollah, "D.A. Adds 43 Cases to its List of Bogus Police Arrests," Philadelphia Inquirer, February 12, 1996, p. B7; Associated Press, "Philadelphia Police Imperil More Cases," New York Times, February 13, 1996, p. A14).

So far, over 50 convictions have been reversed since six officers, who were employed in the 39th District between 1987 and 1992, confessed to planting evidence and making false statements on reports. Almost half of the people falsely convicted say they plan to file civil suits against the police in federal court.

The District Attorney's Office is still reviewing the facts surrounding over 1,400 arrests made during that time period (see "Hundreds of Philadelphia Drug Convictions Poised to be Overturned in Wake of Officers' Guilty Pleas," NewsBriefs, October 1995, p. 4).

On February 2, 1996, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) announced it would not continue paying the legal bills of the six officers because to do so would show disapproval of reform in the department and would consume the organization's legal fund.

The same day, Police Commissioner Richard Neal reassigned the two highest officers and five of the six captains in the Internal Affairs Division, the unit of the police department responsible for investigating misconduct by officers. Neal said the officers did nothing wrong, but the reassignment was "an opportunity for me to not only make some changes in IAD but in other entities within the Police Department" (Thomas J. Gibbons, Jr. and Mark Fazlollah, "Top Internal Affairs Officers Out," Philadelphia Inquirer, February 2, 1996, p. 1).

Last December, the local chapters of the NAACP and the ACLU threatened to file a class action suit against the department to force the Internal Affairs Division to be more responsive to problems in the police force.