Archive for HPD

Top Ten Potential Theme Songs for The City of Harrisburg

This post really shouldn’t require much of an explanation, but with the Sunday morning, eleventh-hour press conference held by Governor Rendell and “Mayor” Thompson about the state bailout (it IS a bailout)yesterday combined with the announcement of a HUGE lawsuit filed by TD Bank against the City and the half a million dollars we’re short on payroll and the looming clouds of bankruptcy gathering up the Susquehanna River, I thought it was a great time to suggest a new theme song for Our Fair City.

So here, in no particular order, are my Top Ten Potential Theme Songs for The City of Harrisburg. ©


Tennessee Ernie Williams- Sixteen Tons

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store

Merle Haggard- Working Man Blues
Sometimes I think about leaving, do a little bummin around
I wanna throw my bills out the window catch a train to another town
But I go back working I gotta buy my kids a brand new pair of shoes
Yeah drink a little beer in a tavern,
Cry a little bit of these working man blues

Desmond Dekker – The Israelites
Get up in the morning, slaving for bread, sir,
so that every mouth can be fed.
Poor me, the Israelite. Aah.


Cast of Annie – It’s A Hard Knock For Us

It’s the hard-knock life for us
It’s the hard-knock life for us
No one cares for you a smidge
When your in an orphanage
It’s the hard-knock life
It’s the hard-knock life
It’s the hard-knock life!

Elvis Presley – In The Ghetto
Then one night in desperation
a young man breaks away
He buys a gun, steals a car,
tries to run, but he don’t get far
And his mama cries

As a crowd gathers ’round an angry young man
face down on the street with a gun in his hand
In the ghetto

Steve Miller Band- Take The Money and Run
Billy mack is a detective down in texas
You know he knows just exactly what the facts is
He aint gonna let those two escape justice
He makes his livin off of the peoples taxes

Bobbie sue, whoa, whoa, she slipped away
Billy joe caught up to her the very next day
They got the money, hey
You know they got away
They headed down south and they’re still running today

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZwLsvO6YTw

The Beatles- Taxman
(if you drive a car, car;) – I’ll tax the street;
(if you try to sit, sit;) – I’ll tax your seat;
(if you get too cold, cold;) – I’ll tax the heat;
(if you take a walk, walk;) – I’ll tax your feet.


Bruce Springsteen and The Sessions Band – Pay Me My Money Down

Oh pay me, oh pay me,
Pay me my money down,
Pay me or go to jail,
Pay me my money down

Rolling Stones – You Can’t Always Get What You Want –
And I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, “We’re gonna vent our frustration
If we don’t we’re gonna blow a 50-amp fuse”

P. Diddy, Puffy Puff Daddy – All About The Benjamins
You should do what we do, stack chips like *Hebrews*
Don’t let the melody intrigue you (uh-uh)
Cause I leave you, I’m only here
for that green paper which lead you

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcckWzjJMIg

A Night In The Life Of A Harrisburg Police Officer (Part II)

This is Part IIof a three-part blog post about my ride along with the Harrisburg Police Department on the night of October 30, 2008. Part I is an overview of the program, my goals for participating and is the timeline up until roll call.

Part II will feature the events of the night. I scribbled fastidiously in my best shorthand each call we were dispatched to and page after page of questions I had for the officer I was riding with. His answers were brutally honest, eye-opening and sometimes shocking- but he was absolutely forthcoming and eager to talk with a member of the proverbial fourth estate about the work the HPD does on a daily and nightly basis.

And the final part will be my conclusion. The events and content of the eight hour program couldn’t possibly be summed up in one quick post (and I know how short all of our attention spans are).

11:15 PM- Wild In The Streets

We hit the beat shortly after eleven. My curious little mind chock full of questions for my partner for the night. For sake of this story, we’re going to call him X.

Adjusting myself in the front seat of the brand new Chevy Tahoe and fastening my seatbelt, we proceeded out of the parking lot, around the block on Front Street and up Market towards Second.

Making the left on Second, I immediately felt as if we were on display. Everyone notices a police car. Especially at just past eleven on a Thursday night on Second Street.

“Okay, here’s how it’s gonna work” X began “I’m gonna give you this flashlight [a big two foot Mag Light] and when we get to a call, you get out of the truck with me and hang onto the light. They’ll probably think you’re a P.O. [parole officer] so they shouldn’t really fuck with you too much. But if they do, just be cool. If they ask you any questions, just tell them to ask me.”

“Alright, so…you want me to get out and just sort of act like I belong?”

“Yup. You’re safer on the street with me than you would be in the truck alone”

We hit the light at Second and Locust and I noticed even more the cold glares we recieved from some passers by. Patrons at the Second Street Saloon who were at the outside tables made a double-take and even the homeless dude who’s perch is in front of the Commerce Bank started walking in the opposite direction.

“So how’re the new cars?”

“They’re great, man. But really, at the end of the day, it’s just a car. Y’know? At first it was really cool, but now…they’re just cars. The odd part is that before [the new squad cars] we had more guys than running cars. Now, we’ve got more cars than guys.”

“So, would you say the novelty has worn off?”

“Yeah, more or less.”

The Tahoe cruised down Second and we made a small route up Verbeke to Third and around the bar circuit. From inside a police vehicle, I began to take notice of more of my surroundings than normal. I didn’t pay much attention to the road, rather, I found myself peering into the dark alleys and watching the nuance of people milling about on the streets.

“What would you say is the biggest problem in Harrisburg with regard to the crime?”

“Drugs. Hands down, drugs.”

X went on to explain that the majority of crime in Harrisburg- muggings, robberies, break-ins- are pretty much all drug-related. Crack and Heroin are the biggest culprits. And crack is readily available and quite affordable on the streets of Harrisburg.

“Would you say it’s mostly city residents or out-of-towners looking for drugs?”

“I’d say it’s probably 50/50″ replied X.

Which was rather surprising to me. I would have thought that it would have been far more out-of-towners coming in looking for a fix. But I guess that I wasn’t that surprised to learn that we have such a large crack-smoking population in this fine City.

11:42 PM- Sequestered On Fourth Street

X was the patrol supervisor for the night. Therefore, we weren’t locked to one specific area of the city. Instead, we were like the support band of the big show. We visited and offered support for almost every call that came in.

We were dispatched to a house on Fourth street. The display on the Metro system told us that a woman thought that her landlord drugged her drink and that she felt strange.

We arrived at the home at the same time as the EMS and entered the premises. There was an elderly black woman sitting on her couch, coffee cup on the table in front of her. X strolled in confidently, but I couldn’t help constantly looking over my shoulder and being hyper-aware of the neighbors footsteps upstairs.

I watched and listened as the woman told X how her television wasn’t talking to her anymore and that she thought her landlord came into her apartment when she was out and drugged her bottle of soda.

After determining that her strange feeling was merely a result of the coffee she was drinking, we left.

Surely the night had to get more exciting than this.

Midnight- The Most Dangerous Time For An Officer Is Between 10PM and 1AM.

“Is there an area that’s worse than others for crime in the city, X? Or is it pretty much all over?”

“Dude, it’s everywhere. Walking down the streets here, you’re just not safe. You really have to look over your shoulder and not make yourself a target. And walking home from the bar- you’d think that you’re doing the right thing by not driving, but these guys [criminals] are sort of like opportunists. They see a drunk guy or girl walking all alone down Penn Street and that’s it.”

Shocked. Simply shocked I was that X would be so blunt- but not surprised at his answer. And as I thought about it, I realized he’s right. Sure, it’s great that we’ve got the bars on Second. But what about after the bars? You are a target if you’re walking alone. You can get mugged or robbed in an instant.

X told me about a woman who got held up the weekend prior. She was walking home with a pizza when she was accosted and told the robber “You can have my purse, but I’m keepin’ the pizza!”

So, now we’ve got a sense of humor established.

1:16AM- Traffic Stop

“Floating” is a term used to describe when a crackhead “loans” his car to a crack dealer in exchange for, um, crack.

Sounds like a fair trade, I guess. You get some crack, your dealer gets your car.

The vehicle which was stopped on Seventh street was a known drug user/car floater. Many times, these type of things are a big distraction for police departments because the car isn’t officially stolen although the crackhead will often report it as if it were.

And if the car turns up in East Pennsboro (or any surrounding boro) it wastes the time of the officer in the neighboring community because of the time and resources behind recovery of a stolen vehicle…which isn’t really stolen.

After a quick talking to, the Floater is sent on his way and we talk for a few minutes with the responding officer.

“I’ve pulled guys over before and they’re holding their crackpipe out of the window when I walk up.” X recalled.

I start to realize there’s a recurring theme to this night.

2:17AM- Domestic Disturbance Call

Domestic violence calls, I learned last Thursday, always result in someone taking a ride to the clink. But they’re difficult for the officer if there isn’t any noticeable injury on either party.

The woman who claimed to be “the assaulted” was across the street talking with an officer and two officers were in front of the couple’s home talking with the man. He said she’s an old crackhead and that he never hit a woman. She said he’s a heavy drinker and is running around with different women.

He said, she said.

“Most times, you need to get the people separated so they can both cool off. Give em a few hours to calm down, ’cause if we were to leave these two alone right now and then something happens, we’re in a heapload of shit.”

Even though there wasn’t any noticeable injury to either party, the man did have an outstanding traffic warrant and was taken away in cuffs.

Problem solved.

2:55AM- Domestic Disturbance Call

Another one. Similar story. Man came home drunk. Woman was tired of it. He hit her and left. She didn’t want to press charges, she just wanted him to leave.

Four hours into our shift, I’m beginning to feel like a well-armed, roving baby sitter wearing a bullet-proof vest.

“So how long are you gonna be out tonight? You in for the long haul?”

“Sure am, X. Start to finish.”

“Cool, so- we’re doing a raid on a house up in Penbrook at 6AM. You wanna come?”

Do I!?!

A RAID!? Like, swat-team, guns ablazin, yelling and helmets and riot gear raid! I was stoked! Finally some excitement in this night.

But not before visiting a few more crackheads…

Come back for the conclusion of my night with the Harrisburg Police on Thursday…

Or click HERE for the conclusion.

A Night In The Life Of A Harrisburg Police Officer (Part I)

This is Part I of a three-part blog post about my ride along with the Harrisburg Police Department on the night of October 30, 2008. Part I is an overview of the program, my goals for participating and is the timeline up until roll call.

Part II will feature the events of the night. I scribbled fastidiously in my best shorthand each call we were dispatched to and page after page of questions I had for the officer I was riding with. His answers were brutally honest, eye-opening and sometimes shocking- but he was absolutely forthcoming and eager to talk with a member of the proverbial fourth estate about the work the HPD does on a daily and nightly basis.

And the final part will be my conclusion. The events and content of the eight hour program couldn’t possibly be summed up in one quick post (and I know how short all of our attention spans are).

Having lived in the city for just about five years now, I’ve been the victim of a handgun crime, have had my home vandalized, my car was innocently hit-and-ran and I know more than a bakers-dozen of people (first-hand) who have been mugged, beaten or burglarized within the confines of this Capitol city.

I’ve participated in countless conversations and debates with plenty of fellow citizens about the how’s and why’s of local crime. And I’ve read the coverage (or lack thereof) in the local newspaper of some of the more heinous crimes which happen nightly within our city limits.

And after all of the talk and debate, message board chatter and barroom banter about the ills and dangers of living and surviving in the City of Harrisburg, I decided that I wanted to see first-hand what it’s really like on a typical shift of a Harrisburg Police Officer.

I contacted City Councilwoman Patty Kim and inquired about who I would need to speak with to arrange a ride along. (Councilwoman Kim participated in one about two years ago while she was Public Safety Chair).

After making the necessary phone calls, clearing my outstanding ticket and signing my life away waiver, I told the officer in charge of arranging the ride alongs that I wanted to go out on the most dangerous, busiest and bloodiest shift that he’d allow- and it was Thursday night- 11P-7A patrolling Allison Hill. (Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest and bloodiest, apparently, but safety concerns prohibit ridealongs on weekends)

I arrived at the station shortly before eleven- large coffee in hand- and just in time for roll call. For the few minutes I was early, I was privy to hearing the next shift of officers bust each others chops and poke fun at their acknowledged shortcomings. It was mostly the veterans joshing the new guys- not unlike a football locker room.

It was comical, actually- and this jostling was my first glance into the reality of the Harrisburg Police- and that reality is simple- these guys are human beings- good people with good families and modest homes; and the common uniting factor amongst the HPD is the desire- the want, the need to protect the citizens of this community. To say their job is “difficult” would not do justice- “Difficult” is parallel parking. “Difficult” is negotiating a mall parking lot during the holidays or making it to work on time after a three day weekend.

The Harrisburg Police exist in a precarious place- the proverbial rope in a tug-of-war between the Mayor and City Council- with jobs and salaries and good, qualified and honest officers being bargained or whittled away by poor city accounting and mismanagement of available funds.

Prior to roll call, I was chatting with one of the officers- “About ten years ago, we were just over two hundred [officers] strong; now, we’re at about one fifty”.

(Twenty five percent of the Harrisburg police department has been eliminated in some form over the past ten years because of budget restraints, retiring officers and difficulty in hiring new recruits due to the Mayor’s residency rule. City of Harrisburg Police officers are now required to reside in the city.)

Roll call began and the Captain briefed the team of ten on the goings-on of the night.

“Alright guys, we’ve got the league minimum tonight” (An officer explained to me earlier that they try to have fifteen patrols at any given time- but the minimum that they can begin a shift with is ten officers on duty)

“We had our first shooting of the night, guys” he began; and proceeded to explain that a male was shot in the leg and was en-route to Hershey Medical Center with minimal injuries.

“On a positive note, there were forty three burglaries in October.”

Forty three burglaries!? And that’s positive? I thought to myself. Later in the night, the Captain would explain that crime in the city is actually down in numbers. Although smaller crimes- muggings and break-and-entries are still prevalent and will become more so- as we approach “Robbery Season”, which normally begins mid-November – as the holidays approach. But the season started early this year.

Patrol assignments were issued after updating the team that the officer’s involved in the Ryan Westover brutality case were, in fact, cleared of all wrongdoing after the investigation revealed that Westover attempted to choke an officer with his radio cord prior to his injury.

He seemed relieved that he was cleared- but also acknowledged that the newspaper most likely wouldn’t report on the charges being dismissed. (WHTM reported tonight; PennLive still has only the initial story)

“You ready, dude?” My partner for the night asked-

“You bet, man. Let’s go!”

“Alright…did they give you your armor?”

I chuckled “Yeah… got it man…”- (He wasn’t joking)..”Oh…you…you’re serious?”

“Dude, it’s like Beirut out there. We gotta get you a vest.”

So, for the first time in my life, I strapped on a Kevlar bullet proof vest, stepped outside for a smoke and waited patiently for my ride-along to begin….

Click Here For Part II

[EDIT: 5:09PM 11/7/08: In the spirit of full-disclosure, the above reference to PennLive not updating the status of the Westover story, the online news site did report on the clearance of the officers in the case- at 11:43 this morning. Nearly twelve full hours after this post was published and plugged on the Harrisburg Forum of PennLive.]