And That’s the Problem, Lt. Healy

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

The Philadelphia Daily News interviews nine men the city’s police department has arrested for carrying guns, even though all nine were carrying legally.

Eight of the men said that they were detained by police – two for 18 hours each. Two were hospitalized for diabetic issues while in custody, one of whom was handcuffed to a bed. Charges were filed against three of the men, only to be withdrawn by the District Attorney’s Office.

The civil-rights unit of the City Solicitor’s Office confirmed that it is handling eight such cases. Two of the men interviewed by the Daily News said that they rejected settlement offers from the city ranging from $3,500 to $7,500. One accepted a $5,000 offer.

Most of the cases hinge on what local authorities call the “Florida loophole,” under which a Pennsylvania resident can obtain a nonresident permit to carry a concealed weapon through the mail from another state, even without a permit in Pennsylvania.

The “loophole” is unpopular with Philadelphia cops, who say that it allows those denied a permit here or whose permits were revoked to circumvent Philadelphia authorities and obtain it elsewhere.

But proponents say that it’s necessary because Philadelphia has unusually strict criteria for obtaining a concealed-carry permit. Philadelphia, according to police and gun owners, relies heavily on a clause that allows denial of a permit based on “character and reputation” alone.

Agree or disagree with the law, it is the law, which the police are sworn to uphold. Some police officers in Philadelphia apparently feel they can simply ignore it. The department brass doesn’t seem particularly concerned.

Despite following the law, all of the men said that they were treated like criminals by city cops who either ignored their rights or didn’t know the laws.

Lt. Fran Healy, special adviser to the police commissioner, acknowledged that some city cops apparently are unfamiliar with some concealed-carry permits. But he said that it’s better for cops to “err on the side of caution.”

“Officers’ safety comes first, and not infringing on people’s rights comes second,” Healy said.

It doesn’t get more succint than that.

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70 Responses to “And That’s the Problem, Lt. Healy”

  1. #1 |  JOR | 


    Well, are those concerns really with anarchy per se? Even the original idea of urban police forces was not to have a clique of modern Spartans who can do as they please with the helots – it was to simply pay some dudes to do, full time, what everyone has a right and duty to be doing anyway. Right? So the concerns you raise seem to be issues more with radical propertarianism than legal egalitarianism (and they’re concerns I’d share – I don’t think radical propertarianism is morally plausible or practically desirable), and I’d think that the threshold of permitted uses of force would tend to depend on certain social consensus on when force is permitted, and how much – with or without a state. If you have an anarchic society where everyone thinks it’s okay for anyone to intervene on behalf of battered spouses (because it would be okay for a battered spouse to defend her – or him – self), and for anyone to eject intruders from their property, then those specific problems don’t seem to come up. For what it’s worth, I don’t think anarchy would even be attainable or sustainable in a culture where, among other things, people turned a blind eye to their neighbors battering their spouses. But with or without a state, that is most definitely a cultural issue.

    Or in other words, I don’t think anarchy would solve everything that’s wrong with the world; it’s orthagonal to many matters that happen to be very important. If most people think it’s okay for a man to beat his wife (or a wife her husband, or a man his husband, or a woman her wife, or whatever), then whether they have a state or not is really kind of a separate issue – the real problem is that these folks are just fucked up, and their ideas need to be changed. And that’s hard work, one way or the other.

  2. #2 |  BoogaFrito | 

    Many job and college applications ask if you’ve ever been arrested, not convicted, of a crime.

    It is against the law for an employer to ask an interviewee if they’ve been arrested. If this has happened, you have grounds for a lawsuit. They can only ask about convictions.

  3. #3 |  Chris | 

    Make violations of civil rights under color of authority a capital offense and this won’t happen anymore.

    And if individuals deem that they need to enforce my new coda on the police in their jurisdiction, I won’t shed a tear.

  4. #4 |  derfel cadarn | 

    When the police acting in this manner obstructing law abiding folks in their daily lives through ignorance of the law or direct malfeasance it is unacceptable.When the law no longer applies to public servants is it any wonder that they are hated and loathed.
    The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

    sic temper tyrannis

  5. #5 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    My point is, in a system of “anarchy,” people may be forced to use more force to protect their rights than current police officers would have to employ, or they will just have to tolerate intolerable situations. Spouse batterers will continue their violent ways, because “a man’s home is his castle.” Child abusers will be free to molest without those damn meddling cops and child protection investigators.

    I don’t believe the equation can be simplified like this. The current complaint is not that police are using too much for to protect rights. The current complaint is that the police are using so much force for all types of things (not just protection of rights) that they are now the biggest threat to public safety. The state protects the state with so much violence as to make the public better off without the state.

    Please remember that “those damn meddling cops and child protection investigators” that you reference do a tremendous amount of harm along with sometimes stopping child molestation.

  6. #6 |  Pablo | 

    #51–can you cite a statute prohibiting that?

    My understanding is that employment lawyers recommend against asking about arrests that did not result in a conviction because such would tend to disproportionately weed out minorities (another sad effect of the “war on drugs”). Maybe that is an EEOC guideline to but I’m not sure it is actually prohibited. I’ve seen applications that asked about ALL arrests, including charges that were dismissed or given first offender treatment. And if you take the bar exam (or apply for any professional license) anywhere, they go over your past with a fine-toothed comb.

  7. #7 |  Chris W | 


    The only application I’ve seen like that is for the Air Force Officer Training School. I would imagine the extensive background check for applying to the FBI, et al. would also be allowed cover that. I can’t say I’ve ever seen it on an application for anything in the private sector (defense contractors?).

  8. #8 |  Cynical in CA | 

    “Officers’ safety comes first, and not infringing on people’s rights comes second,” Healy said.

    I think it is well past the time that all human police officers were replaced by indestructible robots. That would lay the officer-safety issue to rest permanently. Then these fucking pussy human police officers could find a line of work more to their level of danger, like toll-booth operator or garbage picker.

  9. #9 |  Cynical in CA | 

    P.S. Glad to see a discussion of anarchism that I had nothing to do with.

    BTW, violence remains constant in any political system, it’s just a matter of how it’s directed. Of course those favored by the present political system want nothing to do with anarchy, what’s in it for them?

  10. #10 |  Tom | 

    All you folks advocating better or tougher laws against false arrests etc. I don’t think y’all realize it is still an agent of the state who gets to decide if it was a false arrest. Even if the cop could under the law be held personally responsible, no prosecutor is going to file charges. They need the cops cooperation to boost their conviction rate. No Judge is going to find the cop guilty. They need them too.

    I wish I had a solution to this problem.

  11. #11 |  Pablo | 

    #57–I think what most of them are advocating for in this discussion is greater civil liability, which is a different issue than criminal liability (though more criminal liability would be nice too). Criminal charges are prosecuted by the police and DA’s while civil suits are pursued by private attorneys and decided by jurors.

    Due to the qualified immunity doctrine, it is very difficult to sue cops for even the most egregious behavior. Even when they are sued the settlement does not come out of their own pocket or pension–it is paid by the taxpayers. What most of us advocate for is to take away the qualified immunity doctrine and make it possible to go after the cop’s assets/pension to pay any damages.

  12. #12 |  EH | 

    It seems pretty simple to break this down: a citizen’s has rights only to the extent that a police officer isn’t scared. Once police departments are stocked with people dumb and paranoid, we’ll have no more rights.

  13. #13 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Whaddya mean, “once?”

    “Police departments are stocked with people dumb and paranoid — we have no more rights.”


  14. #14 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    #51 JOR:
    Thank you for elaborating on your earlier points and engaging in productive discussion. Whether you or I agree on the “ultimate goal” (whatever that is), it is was a quality exchange of ideas.

  15. #15 |  2nd Ammendment - Alive and Well | 

    These are the times that we need to be reminded of the principles on which this country was founded. The “police” do not create the laws, they are merely public “servants” whose sole job is to enforce the laws which “we the people” allow to come to fruition. BTW – There are too many laws.. This government is overstepping its boundaries and needs to be reined in – immediately. We are more than capable of protecting ourselves. These cops are demonstrating more and more their pathetic cowardice – they are shameful examples of humanity. Keep resisting.

    Please, please wake up, America.

    Thomas Jefferson wrote:

    “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”

    “Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state.”

    “No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms.”

    “One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them.”

    “The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive.”

  16. #16 |  supercat | 

    //Qualified immunity needs to become much more qualified.//

    If judges followed the Constitution, they would recognize:

    -1- Unconstitutional actions are illegitimate.

    -2- Illegitimate actions by definition form no part of a government agent’s legitimate duties.

    -3- Agents have no legitimate immunity for actions outside their legitimate duties.

    If judges would recognize those things, that would take care of a lot.

  17. #17 |  Max D. | 

    OK, this situation sucks, but if they men were carrying CONCEALED, then how did the cops know they had guns?

  18. #18 |  jasonhellion | 


    i love when people quote thomas jefferson… what a real defender of freedom! well except for his slaves i guess…

  19. #19 |  Ken | 

    For whatever good it’ll do, I reckon I could shun Philadelphia, and make sure the city administration and Chamber of Commerce know that I won’t be applying for any tenure-track teaching positions there, thus won’t be available to serve as a tax battery, and neither will I be spending time or money there for any other reason. I’ll be sure to let ’em know why, too.

    For whatever good it’ll do.

    As for remedies for the cases such as the ones in question, I’ve always favored permanent forfeiture of LEO commission. That way, a big-city bad actor can’t go become the problem of some small town or rural county elsewhere. Let ’em do “Will that be grande or vente?” or “Welcome to Costco…I love you” for the rest of their days.

  20. #20 |  “Officers’ safety comes first, and not infringing on people’s rights comes second” | Cop Block | 

    […] to Radley Balko of the The Agitator, The Philadelphia Daily News interviews nine men the city’s police department has arrested for […]