Together, African American narcotics officers and the Guardian Civil League have filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia, the Philidelphia Police Department, and two narcotics supervisors; the basis for this lawsuit arose from the officers’ claims of racial discrimination and retaliation. The discrimination, officers’ say, is a result of their not wanting to cooperate with the narcotics bureau commanders orders to falsify drug-arrest paperwork.
The civil rights lawsuit highlighted a few of the major issues circulating within the Philidelphia Police Department; narcotics bureau commanders told their officers to disregard and ultimately ignore the department’s rules, withhold and change the names of the informants as well as other information used during drug prosecutions. By refusing to carry out such arrests, the African American narcotics officers say they have since been racially discriminated against.
The Guardian Civic League represents African American Police Offices in PA.
The practice of falsifying and lying about information in drug cases is referred to as “flipping”. Flipping is done when the commanding officers encourage and expect their officers to hide or lie about the source of recovered drugs if an arrested suspect is willing to cooperate and provide information on other crimes. Simply put, flipping is a shortcut to the traditional way of working with a confidential informant; it undermines the rules required to ensure due process and integrity.
If police officers are being encouraged to lie and cover up crucial information that is necessary for proper prosecutions, there are a number of serious issues that follow. The practice of flipping highlights the integrity of evidence and the validity of prior and current prosecutions. Additionally, there could be serious implications for officers who behaved in such ways; many of the individuals arrested by these officers may have been wrongfully accused or prosecuted.
Similar to Massachusetts, Philidelphia does have tangible rules in relation to their confidential informant program and they are made publicly available online. Some of the rules include conducting a full background search of any potential informant, obtaining signatures and photographs of the intended informant, as well as obtaining a host of biographical information.
As of now, the federal lawsuit is pending and no one has been charged with a crime. Defense attorneys in Philadelphia, however, are beginning to raise an issue and make an effort to obtain information about the officers and illegal informants that are involved in the lawsuit. Defense attorneys believe, rightfully so, that officers may have exculpatory evidence about their clients. You can read more about the issues of this case here.
If you have any questions about a case in Massachusetts or if you are an attorney looking for advice, please feel free to contact me today; I am happy to help and may be of assistance to you.
Visit our website to learn more about some of the frequently asked questions in a Massachusetts drug case, including information about confidential informants in Boston, here.