The recent publication of Busted by Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker, the Pulitzer Prize winning reporters who broke the 2009 story about corrupt narcotics officers who framed innocent citizens and robbed alleged drug dealers and Philadelphia bodegas is well worth reading. It confirms that police corruption in Philadelphia did not end with the Frank Rizzo era. In fact, well after Ruderman and Laker exposed the crimes of seven officers, allegations arose that other officers, members of the Philadelphia Narcotics Field Unit, had routinely planted evidence and robbed suspects in the course of raiding private homes and making arrests for drug-related offenses. Their lack of credibility led the Philadelphia District attorney to dismiss charges against dozens of defendants. Others who had been convicted and were serving long sentences had their convictions reversed, and are now suing the officers and the City of Philadelphia for violations of their civil rights.
The compensation of victims of false arrests and wrongful convictions is one goal of 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, the federal statute providing a cause of action of the deprivation of constitutional rights. Busted reminds us that its protections are as necessary now as they were in the 1870s when it was passed into law.