Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Philadelphia Judge Craig M. Washington is either the single stupidest person in the history of the American judicial system or he is the most callous, ignorant and disrespectful. There is no middle ground for the actions that Washington took yesterday at the 35th police district here in the former 'City of Brotherly Love' which can no longer claim that moniker with any credibility whatsoever. The latest in a string of murders of Philly cops happened just days ago when young, bright and talented police officer John Pawlowski of that very 35th district was gunned down in cold blood on our increasingly violent streets. Police officers with badges, guns, vests, and with fellow officers just a radio call away (or closer in Pawlowski's case) are not safe, so you the average citizen most certainly are not safe. It was under these circumstances that Mr. Washington, whom to recognize with the title 'Judge' would be a severe travesty of that institution, marched into the very home of the 35th district on Tuesday morning. Washington was there to preside over 'divisional hearings', a process by which members of the court go out into the community and conduct preliminary hearings in criminal cases. They do this in order to better serve the community. The process of appearing at your local police district for what can sometimes be multiple hearings before the criminal case even gets underway is far more convenient for most victims and witnesses than having to travel downtown. It is a win-win, as the victim/witness gets convenience and the justice system gets those same victims and witnesses actually showing up and actively involved in the case. This process is what brought Washington to Broad & Champlost, the home of John Pawlowski and his fellow brother and sister 35th district officers, on Tuesday morning. Understand that while divisional hearings have been held at the 35th district for years, these are obviously not normal circumstances inside that building. With one of their own gunned down just days ago, the officers there are still in shock and still processing their grief. After all, John Pawlowski has not even been buried yet. Washington finally began to process the cases before him after arriving late, a bad habit that a number of justices have gotten into all over the city. At some point well into the proceedings he noticed a memorial display that had been setup which featured a photo of officer Pawlowski and some flowers. Washington turned to court officer Blanca Rodriguez and ordered her to remove the picture, saying that it was "inappropriate" and a "distraction" to the proceedings. Now had it ended at this point we could perhaps write off Washington as simply the most stupid individual to ever mar the bench with his presence. I mean at this point we possibly could say that he just didn't get it, that he was too intellectually and emotionally inferior a human being to process the situation. But then he went more than a step further. The court officer refused to take down the memorial, and Washington stormed off his bench and out to the office of the 35th district's commanding officer, Captain John McCloskey. He demanded that McCloskey order the memorial taken down during the court proceedings. McCloskey, being both a human being and a true leader of men, denied Washington's request. The incensed Washington, ego bruised, then marched to a police Inspector who also turned him down. Washington had now gone from possibly stupid to utterly childish as he stomped around the district building crying and whining for someone to listen to him and do what he said, after all this was his court and he was the judge, which meant he was the boss here. He stormed back into the area being used for the court hearings, took officer Pawlowski's picture, and in the act that finally showed his colors he turned the fallen hero's picture over on its face. What Washington failed to consider was that this was not a courthouse and he was not the boss. This was a police facility, a particular facility where a family of officers were in grief and mourning. This was their house, not his. He was lucky to get out physically unscathed. Members of the police union, FOP Lodge #5, were notified and arrived at the building and immediately confronted Washington, who scurried from his bench like a dirty, slimy, frightened rat. He ran out into his car and hastily pulled away from the district, possibly contacting a police wagon as he did so. In these final actions, Washington proved exactly who he is. The man is not stupid, he is quite simply ignorant and disrespectful and cared more about his ego than the memory of a murdered police officer. Philadelphia is less safe today because John Pawlowski is dead and Craig Washington will still be hearing criminal cases in a courtroom. In a final act of cowardice by the local judiciary, the top judge in the Municipal Court system backed her man's actions by saying that Washington's moves were proper and did not show disrespect. Judge Marsha Niefield, who herself should feel shamed and embarrassed this morning after her 'rally around my buddy' statement: "I understand that emotions are running high, and that is completely understandable considering the tragic loss of the officer. That having been said, Judge Washington attempted to maintain the proper court decorum consistent with other places." If the circumstances were not so tragic that statement would be comically ignorant rather than arrogantly so. The fact is that the memory of a fallen hero, John Pawlowski, and his fellow officers of the 35th district were completely and utterly disrespected yesterday by Washington. His actions show the street thugs how police officers can and should be viewed and treated by them. If this is how we can treat them in their own house, then we can do even worse when they come into our neighborhoods or down to our corner. What Washington did yesterday at Broad & Champlost was nothing short of judicial misconduct.