Another Philadelphia Police Officer, John Pawlowski, has been murdered in the line of duty, and, once again, the killer is a career criminal who was treated leniently by the criminal justice system, and, in the words of Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, “should not have been among us, period.”
Ramsey calls suspect “cold-blooded killer”
By Barbara Boyer and Michael Matza, Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writers
The suspect in Friday night’s murder of a Philadelphia patrolman is an “unsalvageable” career criminal who “should not have been among us, period,” Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said today.
“This guy was just a cold-blooded killer who made a statement prior that if police showed up, he was going to kill them,” Ramsey said. “That was his mind-set, and that was his intent.”
Simmering with anger over the death of 25-year-old Officer John Pawlowski – the eighth officer to die from on-duty injuries in less than three years – Ramsey was accompanied at a midafternoon news conference by Homicide Division Capt. James Clark.
Clark identified the suspect as Rasheed Scrugs, 33, of West Philadelphia, whose decade-long rap sheet includes several aliases and multiple arrests for theft, robbery and gun crimes. Scrugs was wounded by police after Pawlowski was shot, and was in critical condition last night.
When Ramsey was asked at the news conference about the injuries to Scrugs, pain and sadness clearly overwhelmed his usual discretion and decorum.
“He wasn’t hit enough. That’s the only thing that matters,” he said. “I don’t care.”
Mr Scruggs had been through the criminal justice system:
Born in 1975, Scrugs was first arrested as an adult for shoplifting at 18. Those charges were withdrawn. Over the next three years, he was arrested several times on counts of robbery, receiving stolen property, assault and gun crimes. Many of those charges were dismissed or withdrawn by prosecutors in apparent plea bargains. The most serious charges were held for trial.
In June 1997, he pleaded guilty to robbery and carrying a fire arm without a license. Common Pleas Court Judge Gary Glazer sentenced him to a minimum of five years and a maximum 10 years in prison.
He served five years and was paroled. In 2002, he violated parole and was sent back to prison in 2004 for six months months. He was released again in 2005.
It does not appear he was on probation when he was arrested in September on charges of car theft and receiving stolen property.
His next court date on those charges is Wednesday.
Crime was reduced significantly in New York City when former Mayor Rudolf Guiliani instituted a program where minor offenses were not just ignored, where the police and prosecutors aggressively pursued charges for minor offenses, trying to get the bad guys off the streets before they they became really bad guys; the City of Brotherly love somehow never saw the wisdom of that.
One of the things that got to me was a column by Annette John-Hall in today’s Inquirer. Mrs John-Hall goes through the same old rigamarole of saying that we shuld not give up on the community:
Sure, it’s tempting to throw up your hands and write off a whole generation of young men on their way to becoming Rasheed Scrugses. As a seething Ramsey declared Saturday at a news conference: “Lock them up, throw away the key. Build another prison. Don’t let them out.”
But somewhere along the way, we have to step in. Because there’s a fine line between the path Rasheed Scrugs took and the path Charles Gibbs is taking.
The Charles Gibbs about whom Mrs John-Hall wrote is an admirable fellow, a law student, intent on doing good things. Mrs John-Hall noted that Mr Gibbs was the beneficiary of having some caring adults around him, from the single mother who reared his sister and him, and scraped up the money to send them to Catholic school, the “block captains,” and the police officers of the 18th District.
But Mrs John-Hall failed to note something else: as there were good people who helped rear Mr Gibbs properly, there were in-community enablers who allowed Mr Scruggs to live and prey in their heighborhood.
It’s clear that the criminal justice system in Philadelphia is a criminal enabler, because it does not take things seriously until they become very serious. We read about thugs who should have been off the street being on the street only when they do something really newsworthy, which, in Philadelphia, has meant killing a police officer. The system enables the petty thugs the freedom to graduate into the big time.
But there are other enablers. The people who live around the thugs, the people who befriend them, who tolerate their behavior, the people who know that their neighbors are bad guys dealing in crack and robbing cabbies and do nothing and say nothing, the people who wear the “Stop Snitchin'” t-shirts and the parents who give them the money to buy them, the people who see the goons as role models and the, let me be very blunt here, women who sleep with them, these people enable the thugs to remain thugs.
These are the people Mrs John-Hall needs to see, needs to tell us about. Instead, she wrote about Mr Gibbs, apparently a fine young man, but someone who is being made a hero simply for doing the right thing. Too often, it seems that doing the right thing is the exception rather than the expectation.
And that told us more about the problem than Mrs John-Hall ever realized.