Police controversy in Philly, State College

  • Emily Previti/PA Post
Marie Cusick’s last day on the StateImpact Pennsylvania team was Friday. A smart, funny and supportive colleague, Marie will be missed. Before her departure, she recorded an episode of The Why about the decommissioning of Three Mile Island’s Unit 2 reactor. The discussion includes background on nuclear decommissioning and what’s next at TMI. Listen here. -Emily Previti, Newsletter Producer/Reporter

‘In the best interest of the department’

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

A police SUV drives with its lights flashing in Philadelphia, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019.

  • Philadelphia’s police department is in turmoil. Mayor Jim Kenney on Tuesday announced that the acting commissioner had resigned and that he had named a woman, Christine M. Coulter, to fill the job on an interim basis — the first time a woman has led the department in the city’s history. Coulter — “a three-star deputy and the highest-ranking female in the department,” WHYY reports — replaces Richard Ross, who stepped down Tuesday just days after two female officers filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and racial and gender bias, according to Billy Penn. By Wednesday afternoon, Ross was denying the claims and the city had reached a temporary agreement with the plaintiffs, reports the Associated Press.

  • Ross’s departure also happened within a week of two shootings in as many days in North Philly that injured nearly a dozen people, Ryan Briggs reports for PlanPhilly. Five people were hurt in one incident; six officers were injured in the other (a seven-hour shootout that had escalated from a warrant service in the city’s Niceville section). Yesterday, The Appeal’s Josh Vaughn confirmed that Maurice Hill, the alleged Niceville shooter, was a federal informant — helping to explain the leniency shown to him by the feds in the past, as well as Hill’s presence in the community despite an extensive criminal history.

  • In State College, an internal investigation cleared police who shot and killed 29-year-old Osaze Osagie while responding to a mental health check. Local officials defended the findings to outraged residents during a community meeting this week. Min Xian was there and has this story for WPSU out of the event.

Best of the rest

Dan Schatz / Submitted

A group of middle school students who met at West Chester Friends School brought the idea of the plastic bag ban to the borough council.

  • At least one Pa. community is flouting the state’s prohibition against plastic bag bans. Emily Pontecorvo has this story for StateImpact Pennsylvania explaining why West Chester recently went ahead with their banBucking the trend that has seen communities across the country ban the bags, Pennsylvania’s moratorium took effect one year ago on the legislature’s second attempt (Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed the measure the first time around, but let it stand when it came through as part of the FY18-19 budget for reasons he has never articulated).

  • State Sen. John DiSanto, R-Dauphin, says he’ll pay $14,000 in back property taxes, and the lawmaker blamed the arrears on “an oversight,” according to what DiSanto’s chief of staff told PennLive’s Jan Murphy. Jan’s story details how the Lebanon County property — not located in his district — fits into DiSanto’s business interests.

  • Uber and Lyft are being sued for providing “substandard or nonexistent options” for people who use wheelchairs, NPR’s Eric Westervelt reports. An attorney for the nonprofit Disability Rights Advocates, one of the lead parties in the suit, told Eric the two Silicon Valley darlings “could start an innovative accessibility revolution, … [but have] chosen not to.” Listen or read in full here.

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Internal police review: State College shooting of Osaze Osagie justified