While Judge Wendy Pugh was dismissing murder charges against Officer Mark Dial on Tuesday, I was watching the first episode of Tigre Hill’s new docu-series “72 Seconds in Rittenhouse Square” about the murder of Sean Schellenger.
I had been interviewed for a brief segment, where I talked about the significance of Frank Rizzo to the city of Philadelphia. Reflecting on his legacy, I said, “When I was growing up, there was no bad side to Frank Rizzo. I grew up in an Italian-Irish family, working-class, blue-collar grandparents, and they loved Frank Rizzo. He had been the police commissioner for years before he became mayor. He was law-and-order; he represented the thin blue line. The Frank Rizzo that I know, and that I remember, and that I love, was someone who took on the bad guys.”
I then mentioned policing had become more “nuanced,” and the Frank Rizzo that I loved would not exactly fit into the current mold. To be honest, very few old-school police officers would fit into the new politically correct and socially conscious mold, where the words used and the risks taken are very different than the ones that faced a police commissioner who walked around in a tuxedo with a nightstick in his cumberbund.
That was confirmed in the starkest of terms with the case of Officer Dial, who was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Eddie Irizarry.
Irizarry, who had a knife, had been pulled over for driving erratically. While there is some dispute about what warnings were given and what the victim did before Dial opened fire, there is no question that Larry Krasner overcharged the cop. There was little evidence of first-degree, malice aforethought murder, despite what some have pointed to, including a video of the incident.
Family members and professional cop haters are not as discriminating with their legal expertise as a sitting judge, so I have no problem with her honor’s decision to dismiss the charges. The person to blame is a DA who is openly hostile toward the police force and views them as the enemy.
A message to DA Krasner: If you aren’t smart enough to lodge accurate, supportable charges, don’t be surprised when a judge who actually understands the law and criminal statute slaps you down. You have not served the victim’s loved ones in the process by building up false hopes for high-profile prosecutions on flimsy grounds.
When I heard about the judge’s decision, I had two thoughts. The first one was that this was the kind of thing that wouldn’t have happened under Rizzo. Yes, there was police misconduct and racial profiling. But in the 1960s and 1970s, the police department didn’t have to deal with prosecutors who were attempting to undermine their work. The police weren’t perfect, and neither were the prosecutors. But they weren’t waging war against each other, either.
My second thought was that I needed to get all of my shopping and errands taken care of before nightfall because riots and looting were preordained. And I was right.
In fact, I actually got caught up in the mayhem. I was on a bus riding down Chestnut Street in Center City near the Foot Locker and saw police tape and detours because a marauding band of violent men and women had vandalized and looted the store. Later that evening, I saw on the news video of the looters strutting out of the store, some nonchalantly carrying out clothing, electronics, and other stolen goods. Far from being spontaneous, there is evidence that the riots were actually orchestrated online.
The city has tried to say the riots weren’t related to the dismissal of charges against Officer Dial. They are desperate to separate the vandalism and animalistic behavior of some Philadelphians from what they believe to be “legitimate” peaceful protests. But they can’t do it because the conduct is intimately intertwined.
In a city that no longer respects law enforcement and believes that criminals are innocent until proven guilty, but police are always guilty, even when acquitted, we have enabled these outbursts of anarchy. These looters might not know who Eddie Irizarry was, but they do know that Mark Dial wore a badge, and they have such hatred, disrespect, and disregard for the system that they will take any opportunity to try and attack it.
To anyone who thinks the city was worse under Rizzo, get used to the new “politically correct and socially conscious” code of conduct.