Monthly Archives: August 2016

Philly Voice: Philly needs ‘massive external event’ to overcome deep-seated corruption

The Philly Voice provided great local coverage by Michael Tanenbaum of my piece in The Hill on Philadelphia’s explosion of corruption.  This in-depth piece outlined the issue in great detail and seeks to motivate local readers into creating necessary checks and balances for local elected officials.

To read the article, click here.

The Hill: Why Kaepernick, Beyonce and Black Lives Matter fail to understand cops

My latest piece in The Hill focuses on the needed clarification of roles so that the public can best understand what law enforcement does, and what roles are best left to social services to avoid deadly misunderstandings on the street.

To read the full story, please click here.

The Hill: All corruption is local in Philadelphia

On August 29, 2016, The Hill has published the conclusion of my series on public corruption, with this piece that details the ridiculous ‘culture of corruption’ in Philadelphia.  Over the three-article series, ethics issues at the State Attorney General’s Office and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office were highlighted…raising the question as to who (other than the FBI) enforces corruption in America’s fifth largest city if both the state and local prosecutors are potentially compromised.

Please read and share the final installment by clicking here.

The Hill: Pennsylvania corruption runs deep, Kane was the latest victim

My latest piece in The Hill was the second installment in an exposee on public corruption in Pennsylvania.  This piece focused on state and congressional corruption, with more to come on corruption in Philadelphia.

Please click here to read the piece on The Hill.

St. Louis Post Dispatch: What’s missing from Justice Department’s Police Investigations

The St. Louis Post Dispatch republished my Hill commentary on the DOJ Investigation in Baltimore.

Their coverage can be viewed by clicking here.

The Hill: Political blowback hampers FBI corruption probes

My latest piece that ran in The Hill yesterday was entitled “Political blowback hampers FBI corruption probes”. It focuses on public corruption and the FBI investigations therein. This will be the first in a series on corruption using Philadelphia as a key example, and how it can serve as a cautionary tale for other states and cities.

Click here to read the piece in The Hill and let me know what your thoughts are.

Rules to the game: Cops, criminals and the complexity of urban policing

As published this morning in The Hill:

Last weekend violent riots broke out in Milwaukee, WI, following the police shooting of 23-year old Sylville Smith, who was armed with a stolen semiautomatic handgun during a foot pursuit. Civil protests turning violent is unfortunately becoming a new norm in the divide between the African American community and the police agencies serving them, with similar protests in Ferguson, MO and Dallas, TX resulting in the unfortunate loss of life and property.  However, when looking back on the adversarial relationship between criminals and law enforcement; this new norm has not traditionally been “part of the game”.

“The game” is street vernacular in abbreviation for the “crime game” or “drug game” that encompasses the criminal activities conducted professionally in the community. Those employed in “the game” are commonly referred to as “players”.  Now, your more experienced players know that if you’re committing a criminal act and the police arrest you, chase you, or use force to apprehend you; then that’s part of “the game” and the police are doing their job in coming after you.  Examples of this are evident in the unexpected “business” relationships that arise between those in “the game” and law enforcement officers.

Outside Baltimore, MD, the name Melvin Williams may not ring a bell. Most of us remember Williams as the actor who played the neighborhood Church Deacon on the venerable HBO crime drama, “The Wire”.  However, Williams real fame is from his stint as “little Melvin” Williams, the West Baltimore drug kingpin that The Wire’s ‘Avon Barksdale’ character was actually based on.  The little known truth behind how Williams ended up inspiring the character as the drug kingpin who was the focus of seasons 1-3 of The Wire as well as how he came to be a player on the show in seasons three and four was that he was friends with Ed Burns, the show’s co-creator who was himself the Baltimore City Police Detective that helped put Williams away in 1984. In 2003, Williams was released from prison and reconnected with Burns, who put him on the show.

Also of mention is Frank Lucas, the heroin kingpin arrested by New Jersey Narcotics Task Force Detective Richie Roberts in the 1970s, inspiring the 2007 film “American Gangster”. What’s little known to the public is that while working with Roberts up to and through his 1975 conviction, Lucas and Roberts became close friends and stayed in touch through Lucas’ prison sentences from ’75-’81 and ’84-’91 and stayed friends since; to includes Roberts being godfather to Lucas’ son, Ray.  Also from New Jersey, Joey “Coco” Diaz, an actor and comedian who in the late 1980s was imprisoned for an armed drug kidnapping, stated on his podcast “The Church of What’s Happening Now” that “even though he was a career criminal he never resented the police, they had a job to do and it was understood”.

The truth is, any criminal or urban law enforcement officer will tell you, the streets are a workplace.  Law enforcement officers and members of the community make up a workplace in where no roles are 100% clear, considering the criminals are often victimizing members of the same community that they live, and good citizens in that community often know them, their relatives, and often times the law enforcement officers that come to arrest them.

So if we’re to believe the rhetoric in the media that pushes a “racially-driven, killer cop” narrative, despite all officially-collected data pointing to the opposite, then how can community policing examples dating back over forty-five years with famed examples like Williams/Burns and Lucas/Roberts exist?  The truth is that even a career criminal will you that you can’t run from the police and not expect to be chased and tackled. If you point a firearm at a police officer, then a career criminal expects that they will be fired upon.  If you’re known to the police and have multiple priors at a certain location, then you know that they can’t just walk away when you physically resist arrest.  These are long standing rules and are common-place to anyone in “the game”, so what brings upon this change in our public narrative that has people protesting, rioting, and assassinating law enforcement officers in the name of armed, potentially deadly suspects like Sylville Smith or Alton Sterling?

If nothing else has been learned from the civil-rights era riots of Watts, Newark, Detroit, the 1992 LA riots, and last year’s riot in Baltimore; it takes generations, if ever, for a community to recover from the damage inflicted in this unrest. However, it seems that the narrative behind these riots is changing, and a belief that law enforcement should simply allow a myriad of dangerous criminal behavior to exist persists in those who are taking to the streets in the protests that are too often becoming riots.  If more people took a note from the precarious “business” relationship between law enforcement and those in “the game” on the streets of urban America, maybe there wouldn’t be such outrage over the inevitable outcome of an incredibly bad choice to raise a weapon at a police officer.

A. Benjamin Mannes (@PublicSafetySME) is a national subject matter expert in public safety. He serves as a member of the Peirce College Criminal Justice Studies Advisory Board in Philadelphia and is a Governor on the Executive Board of InfraGard, the FBI-coordinated public-private partnership for critical infrastructure protection.

What’s Missing from the DoJ Civil Rights Division’s Police Investigations

baltimore police doj report

Vanita Gupta, the head of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, discussed the department’s findings on the investigation into the Baltimore City Police Department with Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Associated Press/Brian Witte

Today, I was published in The Hill, in regards to the US Justice Department, Civil Rights Division’s release of a scathing, 163 page report on Wednesday, which details their investigation into the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD). The report concluded that BPD has exhibits systematic racial bias against African-Americans.

This DoJ report is quite similar to the ones written following investigations in Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Ferguson, MO and Albuquerque, NM following controversial police uses of force.

However, in reviewing the report’s findings, one is left to wonder what elements are missing from these scathing reports that seem very quick to cite race as the pivotal factor in their conclusions.  Furthermore, one is left to wonder what the lasting effect these reports and their resulting consent decrees have on policing in their respective cities. At the end of the day, the nature of these DoJ reports can beg the question of their effectiveness.  Could a better use of governmental resources can easily be directed at the reasons crime is so high in the very communities where these DoJ reports are focused? If we, as a collective, recognize the job of the police, in responding to and preventing crime in the context of the high-crime areas where these investigations are conducted; then we can understand these statistics much better.

Please read the whole article and my talking points by visiting The Hill by clicking here, free of charge.