Friday, March 27, 2015

High Number of Philadelphia Police Shootings "Part of a Larger Pattern”


 
March 27, 2015 - Dan Heyman, Public News Service (PA)
PHOTO: A Department of Justice report that found a shooting a week by Philadelphia police shows problems that are part of a bigger picture, according to groups working to change law enforcement in the city. Photo courtesy of the ACLU of PA.
PHOTO: A Department of Justice report that found a shooting a week by Philadelphia police shows problems that are part of a bigger picture, according to groups working to change law enforcement in the city. Photo courtesy of the ACLU of PA.
HARRISBURG, Pa. - A Justice Department report that found a high number of shootings by Philadelphia police confirms what critics have been saying, the American Civil Liberties Union says.

According to the DOJ, Philadelphia police shot about one person a week for the past eight years - a much higher number than in New York City, which has a far larger population. Four out of five of those shot were African-American, the report said.

Mary Catherine Roper, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said this fits what the ACLU and others working to change policing in the city have found.

"The same issues that we have identified come out in this report," she said, "a lack of training, a lack of accountability and racial disparities."

The Philadelphia Police Department requested the Department of Justice study and said it is attempting to address the issues.

Roper said the shootings happened in spite of a falling crime rate and fewer assaults on police. One of the disturbing patterns shown in the report, she said, is the number of cases when the police shot people who offered no potential threat.

"The report spends a lot of time talking about the shooting of unarmed suspects," she said, "and that obviously is the most concerning part of it."

Roper said the solutions for the high number of shootings are similar to what is being recommended for other issues. She said the department needs more transparency, much better accountability and - most of all - better training to emphasize de-escalation and non-lethal force.

"Police officers who are simply not given adequate training in de-escalation and alternatives to shooting people," she said. "There are ways to conduct law enforcement without hurting people."

The full report is online at scribd.com.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Resistance to Gas Pipelines Spreading

Dan Heyman, Public News Service (PA)
MAP: Huge pipelines originating near the West Virginia/Pennsylvania border and intended to carry Marcellus and Utica natural gas to eastern markets are running into spreading resistance from landowners on the routes. Map courtesy of Appalachian Mountain Advocates.
MAP: Huge pipelines originating near the West Virginia/Pennsylvania border and intended to carry Marcellus and Utica natural gas to eastern markets are running into spreading resistance from landowners on the routes. Map courtesy of Appalachian Mountain Advocates.
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Huge pipelines intended to carry Marcellus and Utica natural gas to eastern markets are running into spreading resistance from landowners.

Richmond-based Dominion Resources and its partners have filed about 100 lawsuits against landowners who are resisting surveying crews for theAtlantic Coast Pipeline.

Now landowners in the path of a different pipeline, the Mountain Valley Pipeline, have filed preemptive suits to stop surveying crews hired by the Pittsburgh-based EQT energy company and its partners.

Isak Howell is an attorney with Appalachian Mountain Advocates, a non-profit organization that represents dozens of landowners along each line.

"These companies are proposing to use the right of eminent domain -– the extraordinary power to take private property against the landowners' wishes – and it should not be granted lightly," Howell states.

Each pipeline would cost billions of dollars, run for hundreds of miles and carry billions of cubic feet of gas a day. They are designed to carry Marcellus and Utica natural gas to North Carolina and Virginia, with other connections.

Both projects would go through rugged, hard-to-build-in terrain. The companies argue the projects would put people to work and would lower gas prices, which they maintain would be good for the economy.

Howell says the landowners don't expect to see any benefit in their region, just the negative impact on land and water.

"They're definitely going to have a huge environmental impact out on the land,” he stresses. “The companies should be held to the letter of the environmental laws before these pipelines are ever approved."

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will determine much of the future of both projects. Both cross national forests, which complicates the picture. And the landowner lawsuits in state courts will also need to be addressed.