Last week, I published an article entitled “What’s Wrong with Pennsylvania’s State Police?” in which I detailed the arrests of several Pennsylvania State Troopers in recent years, for crimes ranging from statutory rape to murder. Originally, the focus of my article was to highlight three high-profile incidents which occurred in February of this year: the death of disgraced Trooper David Lynch, the conviction of Trooper Barry Tangert, and the arrest of Trooper Douglas Sversko.
However, while researching this topic I came across a 2003 State Police report which indicated that over 100 state troopers in Pennsylvania had been arrested in the preceding nine years alone. Since another eight years have elapsed since that original report, it’s anyone’s guess as to how many more troopers have found themselves on the wrong side of the law. As a result of that 2003 report, the focus of my article shifted from three recent incidents, to exposing an ongoing epidemic of “Troopers Behaving Badly” and the lack of public outrage.
Not surprisingly, my Feb. 19 article resulted in many personal emails, most of which were supportive. Other emails predictably pointed out that “there are a few bad apples in every bushel”. While this sentiment is undoubtedly true, this article will attempt to prove my contention that the pattern of arrests concerning Pennsylvania’s state troopers is far beyond acceptable levels, and cannot be written off using the “few bad apples” excuse.
In order to illustrate this point, one need not look any further than the public outrage directed against the Catholic Church over the course of the past decade. This public outrage, of course, was the result of several highly-publicized sex scandals, some of which resulted in the legal prosecution of Catholic priests.
Now, we cannot argue that these events did not provoke much reaction from the general public; one would have to be a cave-dweller in order to have missed all of the news stories. The best estimate for the number of Catholic priests accused of sex crimes is provided by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in a comprehensive study which examined sex-crime allegations between 1950 and 2002. According to the John Jay Report, allegations were made against 4,392 priests. Bear in mind that this report counts the number of allegations, and not actual criminal convictions. In total, the percentage of Catholic priests who faced accusations amounted to less than 4% of the total number of Catholic priests in America. The total number of arrests or convictions in these cases amounted to 75, or less than 1/10 of 1%!
Let’s compare this number to the number of Pennsylvania state troopers who were not merely accused, but actually arrested for various crimes from the period of nine years covered by the Pennsylvania State Police report published in 2003. This report found that 82 state troopers were arrested for felonies and misdemeanors, and another 25 troopers arrested for summary offenses, for a total of 107 arrests in the time period for which the study was conducted. Since there are approximately 4,545 Pennsylvania State Troopers, this total amounts to 2.35%. Assuming that the rate at which state troopers were arrested from 1994 to 2003 is identical to the rate of similar arrests between 2003 and 2011, it is safe to assume that the actual percentage is closer to 4.4%.
In other words, Pennsylvania’s esteemed state troopers are arrested at a rate 44 times higher than the child-molesting Catholic priests we’ve all heard so much about. So, where is the public outcry?
Now let’s look at another highly-publicized scandal- steroids in Major League Baseball. Senator Mitchell’s 21-month investigation, which came to be known publicly as the “Mitchell Report”, named 89 MLB players who allegedly used steroids. Despite the allegations, only 28 players have been suspended by the league for testing positive for anabolic steroids. According to MLB rules, teams can expand their roster to 40 players from September to the end of the regular season, which means that in any given season, there are 1,200 Major League Baseball players. This means that 2.3% of baseball players have been “convicted” of using steroids. You will notice that this percentage is almost identical to the 2.35% of Pennsylvania State Troopers who were arrested between the years of 1994 to 2003.
We’ve all heard about the sex scandal in the Catholic Church. We have all heard about the steroids scandal in baseball. Why, then, do Pennsylvanians continue to ignore a scandal with even more direct implications in our daily lives?