I REMEMBER Philadelphia’s open-air drug markets. They thrived in the city’s poorest communities like drug-fueled drive-thrus that sometimes stretched for blocks.
There was 8th and Butler, a picture of violence and chaos. There was Germantown and Cambria, where men yelled “Works!” as they sold needles to addicts near Fairhill Cemetery. Yet another corner, 5th Street near Allegheny, was home to orange-topped crack capsules.
I know because I was there.
I heard the lookouts yell “Agua!” when police rode by. This was the warning call, and in such moments, dealers stashed their drugs, police feigned ignorance, and customers waited anxiously for the farce to play out.
That pervasive drug culture calmed some in recent years, but one thing never changed. There were always bad police officers benefitting from the scourge of drugs, and in the 18 years since I kicked the drug habit that took me to those corners, not much has changed.
This week, federal prosecutors charged six Philadelphia narcotics officers with robbery, extortion, kidnapping, conspiracy and related offenses in connection with a six-year corruption scheme.
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Solomon Jones is an Essence bestselling author and award-winning columnist. He is the creator and editor of Solomonjones.com. Click here to learn more about Solomon