Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny: Book Review: "Police, Politics, Corruption"

Is this where I put in key words such as sex, lesbians, vampires, Christopher Lloyd and others things to which this blog do not pertain, but by putting them here, I may get hits from all the Christoper Lloyd lesbian vampire fans (and you know who you are)? This is the primarily humorous and occasionally rambling writings of Leon Tchaikovsky, humor writer. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Book Review: "Police, Politics, Corruption"

Tchaikovsky Sounds Funny

Frank McKetta’s book presenting the history of the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) offers some eye opening historical criticisms of the PSP. It is especially noteworthy as the author is a former State Police Commissioner. While much of the book relates past events in which the author does not have direct knowledge or participation, it is fascinating to read an expose researched and written by the person who was at the top of an organization. It is clear that Colonel McKetta deeply cares about the proper roles police should have.

Colonel McKetta is especially critical of local police departments throughout state history. He notes that local politicians determine police budgets, hire Police Chiefs, and decide which laws should be enacted and guide the degree to which existing laws should be enforced. What results are highly politicized police forces that are sharply influenced by local leaders. Unfortunately, criminals have learned to become forces within local politics and then guide police investigations and enforcement away from areas they don’t want the police to notice.

Decades ago, it was official state policy that state police officers could not investigate local crimes. Thus, gamblers and racketeers operated in parts of the state with the local police in their pockets and without fearing the state police. In the 1960s, Reading hosted the largest gambling location east of Las Vegas, according to Colonel McKetta. The PSP had its own problems, as the author claims several people achieved leading State Police positions with sponsorships from politicians with organized crime connections.

Colonel McKetta describes his efforts to clean up the PSP. Readers will particularly notice his descriptions of how he kept the legislature updated and how he actively sought and listened to their advice. Legislators and legislative staff developed a better understand of how the State Police operated. In particular, they realized to recognize and resist complaints from politicians who were trying to continue to keep the State Police out of investigations in their political areas. According to the author, the State Police thus was able to make significant progress in destroying racketeering operations.

Colonel McKetta describes other forces that tried to work against him. He tells how a District Attorney told him he would receive $10,000 a month if he would halt State Police raids in the DA’s county, an offer he refused. Since he left the force, struggles have remained. The book describes how Attorney General Ernie Preate was able to get the Crime Commission eliminated after the Commission stated they had information that Mr. Preate was receiving campaign contributions from illegal video poker operators. The book further claims that waste processors made illegal campaign contributions to Governor Ridge’s campaign.

Organized crime does continue in Pennsylvania. Yet, there was an era when state officials could do little about that. That has changed, and this book provides great descriptions into how those changes were achieved. Students of state politics and Pennsylvania history will find this book a worthy addition to their reading.


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