Why Officer Charles Cassidy is dead (Part 2)

There it was, on the front page of today’s Philadelphia Inquirer:

    Did police fail to act on tip?¹
    By Barbara Boyer and George Anastasia, Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writers

    Eleven days before Officer Chuck Cassidy was shot and killed, suspect John Lewis was identified to police as the gunman who held up a Feltonville pizza shop, but no arrest warrant was obtained.

    After learning that from an Inquirer reporter yesterday, Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson ordered an Internal Affairs investigation to determine why the detective assigned to the case never got that warrant.

    Had a warrant been issued, Lewis might have been in custody before Oct. 31 – the day Cassidy was shot when he interrupted the gunman holding up a West Oak Lane doughnut shop. Cassidy died the next day.

    “If we made no attempt to apprehend him, that’s inexcusable,” Johnson said. “It’s very disturbing. But this still doesn’t mean that it would have prevented Officer Cassidy from being shot.”

    In another development, police confirmed they had questioned Lewis shortly after the killing but released him because they had been focused on another suspect.

    On Oct. 20, an employee of Oasis Pizza identified Lewis – a regular customer – as the gunman who had held up the eatery that night.

    “If they had caught the guy,” the murder of Cassidy “would never have happened,” the 21-year-old worker, who identified herself only as Melendez, said last night. “They left me with the impression that they knew where he was at, but they never caught him.”

    Police would not identify the assigned detective or her supervisor, citing the internal investigation. Those familiar with the case say the detective, an experienced veteran, is distraught over Cassidy’s death.

This just boggles my mind. But it points out exactly what I wrote before about the government of the city of Philadelphia: it doesn’t take crime seriously. But, perhaps I wasn’t exactly right, because I had written that the city “does not treat ‘minor’ crimes seriously” — and somehow armed robbery² doesn’t fall within what I would define as a “minor” crime.

Michael Nutter, who was recently elected to be the city’s new mayor, has named his appointment to replace the ineffective Sylvester Johnson as Police Commissioner. Former Washington, DC, police chief Charles H. Ramsey has his work cut out for him, because the Cassidy case demonstrates an appalling lack of professionalism or even caring within the Philadelphia Police Department. A veteran detective had identified John Lewis as the perpetrator of an armed robbery, and did nothing. Police questioned Mr Lewis in connection with the murder of Officer Cassidy, but let him go (reasonably enough at the time), in part because the detective in question apparently did nothing to even put Mr Lewis on any sort of suspect list had he come into contact with police for any other matters.

Maybe the most telling part of the article was a one sentence paragraph kind of far down, and onto the “jump” page (A16) in the print edition:

    Johnson also noted that 10,000 warrants are out for people wanted in the city.

Ten thousand warrants? There have been at least 352 people murdered in Philadelphia so far this year, and Mayor John Street’s and Commissioner Sylvester Johnson’s police department is so disorganized, so terribly run, that nobody is out picking up these 10,000 wanted fugitives?

Well, perhaps that explains why the “experienced veteran” detective never got a warrant for Mr Lewis’ arrest — even though his address was known and he lived with his mother, a city corrections officer — because she knew that nobody would actually do anything about it.

On page A-11 of the print edition is a full page “Thank you” from the family of Officer Cassidy. A very well done photograph of the officer, with some sunlit clouds, the sun at the top of the page, his badge, number 2342, the top of the Declaration of Independence, the shoulder emblem of the Police Department and Independence Hall covers most of the page.

With Sincere Thanks . . . .

There are no words to express the deep gratitude our family feels for the outpouring of support from the people of Philadelphia and beyond. Your generosity, thoughts, and prayers have been overwhelming, and we truly cannot thank you enough.

Never in our lives did we think we would be in this unfortunate position. This tragedy has changed our lives, but with your continuing prayers and support, we will move forward, always treasuring the memories we have of Dad.

Judy, Katie, Colby and John Cassidy

Could the family have ever known that this thanks and tribute would appear in the same issue in which the Inquirer documented the utter failures of the department’s leadership?

Commissioner Johnson said:

If we made no attempt to apprehend him, that’s inexcusable. It’s very disturbing. But this still doesn’t mean that it would have prevented Officer Cassidy from being shot.

Uhhh, it doesn’t? It doesn’t only if the commissioner thinks that Philadelphia’s catch-and-release program would have turned an armed robber back out on the streets — which is, I suppose, quite possible.

I don’t usually write in anger, but I’ll admit it: I’m absolutely furious as I’m typing this. Charles Cassidy is in his grave because the government of the city of Philadelphia, from Mayor Street, who supposedly leads the city, to Commissioner Johnson, under whose leadership the department doesn’t do its job, to District Attorney Lynne Abraham, whose department let John Lewis get off with a “treatment program” after he had been arrested for selling drugs, and then dismissed a robbery charge against him, didn’t do their jobs! All of them are directly responsible for this fine officer’s death.

The “experienced veteran” detective who didn’t do anything to have Mr Lewis arrested? She’ll probably face some sort of administrative punishment. Her supervisor, who wasn’t supervising her work? Probably a letter or reprimand in his personnel jacket, ruining any chances of promotion.

But Mayor Street and Commissioner Johnson? They’ll retire to honors and fat pensions. District Attorney Abraham? The same. I’d like to say that they all ought to be sharing a cell with Mr Lewis, but they’ve committed no real crime. Instead, they just did their jobs, jobs for which they were paid a lot of money and given a lot of honor, so poorly that a brave man is dead.

¹ – The Philadelphia Inquirer, Thursday, November 15, 2007, page A-1
² – Although the article does not use the term “armed robbery,” Mr Lewis was identified, in the first paragraph, as “the gunman who held up a Feltonville pizza shop.” That sounds like armed robbery to me.