31 October 2007

campus lock down

Around 10:30 this morning, about 15 blocks away from campus, a police officer walked in on a hold-up of a Dunkin Donuts and was shot in the forehead by the robber. This was the third police officer shot within four days in Philadelphia.

The shooter is still at large and, according to the news, we are facing "one of the largest manhunts in Philadelphia history, involving officers from 'every single district in the city.'" As a result our campus is in a "lock down," classes are canceled and we are being told to remain inside our buildings until the lock down is lifted. Campus security used their new "text message" emergency system to spread the alert quickly.

The shot officer is currently hospitalized in critical condition, but amazingly is still alive last I checked the news. His injury, of course, is a terrible thing and one cannot help but feel compassion for the officer's family and co-workers. Even if the officer survives, I can't imagine he will ever recover fully.

Yet, this is also an incident occurring in a city that has already suffered more than 320 homicides since the beginning of this year. According to the homicide map of the city, at least 30 of those homicides have occurred as close to campus as the shooting this morning. And, judging by Philadelphia's homicide clearance rate - that is, the percentage of perpetrators who are apprehended - probably close to half of those 30 murders have not resulted in an arrest.

This time, however, we have a "lock down" and "one of the largest manhunts in Philadelphia history." Perhaps I'm cynical, but the response seems disproportionate relative to similar crimes, even granting the proportionately greater seriousness of shooting an on-duty officer. I suspect that if the victim had been a more typical victim - a 20-something black female shot by her boyfriend or a young man shot in a drug deal gone bad - we'd only be hearing about it later tonight on the evening news - not inside my office with sirens all around and helicopters circling overhead.

I hope the measures currently being taken are effective and the perpetrator is caught. I pray he can be brought to justice in a manner commensurate to the seriousness of his crime and that no one else gets hurt in the process of his hunt and capture.

But I also hope and pray that the wider patterns of violence that currently plague our city can receive some similar attention and concerted effort. No matter who the victim may be, every victim's family deserves to see justice carried forward and all our neighbors should be able to live with a sense of security and safety.

Update 31 Oct: The lock down was lifted around 3:15pm. The shooter is still at large.

Update 1 Nov: Tragically, officer Cassidy who was shot yesterday at 10:30am, died this morning at 9:40am.

Update 6 Nov: The killer was found and apprehended in Miami, Florida. He'll be returned to Philadelphia for trial.