General hattip on all of this to Romenesko.
A while back, I wrote about Busted, Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Lasker’s book about their coverage of corrupt cops in Philadelphia. At that time, I asked what they had accomplished, given that the bad cops were still on the street.
Last week, the Philadelphia Inquirer (the other daily newspaper, and the one that got soundly beat by Ruderman and Lasker on the story) ran a piece “Why an accused Phila. officer is still on the force” purporting to answer the question of why Thomas Tolstoy hadn’t been fired yet, even though he’d been accused of sexually assaulting three women. There are various reasons, but the Inquirer‘s key one:
The documents also show that actions the victim ascribed to two Philadelphia Daily News reporters who wrote about her assault further undermined the criminal case by damaging her credibility and complicating a federal investigation.
The woman told investigators that the reporters – whose account of the assault and other police abuses would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize in 2010 – provided her with gifts, paid her bills, offered her money to hire a lawyer, and told her that she could collect a financial windfall if she talked to them and not to law enforcement officials, according to the documents.
She also told investigators that the reporters were aware that an associate of hers had pressured her to lie about the circumstances of the attack. And she said one of the reporters encouraged her to give an exaggerated account of the raid, saying it would help in a potential lawsuit.
The woman’s accusations of impropriety by the reporters – included in detailed interview summaries signed by FBI agents – imperiled an already precarious case, according to three high-ranking officials familiar with the investigation.
Uh-huh. Ruderman and Lasker deny this, of course. Ruderman has posted a response on Facebook. And it’s worth pointing out that these accusations only involve one of the three women, and have nothing to do with the separate allegation that Tolstoy was one of the cops caught on tape stealing from bodegas.
Philadephia magazine has published their own piece about the problems of the Inquirer story. Points:
- “Tolstoy was placed on desk duty and being investigated for allegedly attacking Naomi nearly a year before the Daily News printed her story.”
- “Naomi wasn’t the only woman to make sex assault allegations against Tolstoy.”
- And, of course, “Philadelphia Police don’t excel at making cases stick against fellow cops.” This probably bears some deeper examination:
I’ve lost track at this point, so I can’t tell you how many APD officers have been fired and reinstated. But I don’t think it’s near 90%. (This is the last breakdown I have, from 2011, and covers disciplinary cases short of firing as well as firings.)
I’m trying to keep an open mind here. But right now, the Inquirer story strikes me as a major daily newspaper carrying water for a bunch of dirty cops.