Tragic Reminder

The seventh officer killed since May 2006 leaves Philadelphia grieving.

We’re going to change the culture of this city.”

Mayor Michael Nutter said this Friday night following yet another tragedy in Philadelphia.

The city is left to mourn once more – the seventh time since May 2006 – over a Philadelphia Police officer killed in the line of duty.

Officer John Pawlowski, 25, was shot in the chest Friday night in Olney. Shortly after arriving at the hospital, Pawlowski succumbed to his wounds. The suspect, Rasheed Scruggs, was shot by the fallen officer’s partner and was also transported to the hospital in critical condition.

Simply put, the violence needs to stop.

“I am very angry about this. Very angry,” Nutter said at Albert Einstein Medical Center shortly after the officer died. “And the city will not rest until we’re able to take the necessary actions to protect our police officers [and] citizens.”

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey carries a heavy heart as the cop-killing trend continues in this city. In his year heading the department, the city has seen an overall decrease in violent crimes – including murder.

But that doesn’t make the news of cops killed in the line of duty any easier to bear.

“This is something that’s going to weigh very heavy on the hearts of everybody,” Ramsey said. “I’ve been in policing for 40 years, and I’ve not seen this happen like this before.”

The mantra of “change” has been one of the most overused in the past year. Yet, despite the progress being made on the streets of Philadelphia, more change will always be needed. It starts with taking firearms and repeat offenders off the streets.

More times than not, it is that particular combination that leads to tragic events like Officer Pawlowski’s death. Ramsey described Scruggs as an “unsalvageable” career criminal who should never have been on the streets.

His next date in court for his previous charges would have been tomorrow.

Pawlowski patrolled the 35th District, the same once patrolled by Officer Chuck Cassidy, who died in November 2007 a few days after being shot by another career criminal. Pawlowski leaves behind a wife, who is two-months pregnant.

Black bands will reappear on badges of police officers throughout the city. The Fraternal Order of Police building on Spring Garden Street already draped a black cloth over its entry. These acts are both poignant memorials for the officer and painful reminders of the violence within our city.

In one sense, these acts are necessary. If we simply forget, change will be stagnant.

And that, we cannot afford.

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