Parole Bd. Drags Heels On Slain-Cop Report

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AT DEMOCRATIC House policy hearing in N.E. Phila. on Tuesday, at MaSt Community Charter School, State Rep. Brendan Boyle tells Penna. Parole & Probation Chair Michael Potteiger: “Parole officers are under too much pressure to look the other way.” Photo by Rory McGlasson

BY RORY McGLASSON/ The family of a slain Philadelphia police officer are still waiting on a report from the State Board of Probation & Parole about his murder.

It’s been 68 days since police officer Moses Walker, Jr. was slain by an alleged killer who was on “house arrest” – and allegedly was unmonitored by parole officers.

Family members were expecting information as a Democratic House Committee Panel met, seeking answers this week. But both panel members and family  left with little information, with only a  promise of a report at some unknown future date.

Officer Walker, 40, who was off duty at the time, was slain in August during an armed-robbery attempt. Rafael Jones, 23, who was arrested and charged in Walker’s death, was on parole and supposed to be wearing an electronic device. He later failed a drug test.

It sparked a hearing under State Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Northeast). The Board of Probation & Parole had asked Boyle to delay this hearing while it gathered information. Boyle complied, putting it back until last Tuesday.

Boyle chaired the panel on Tuesday, expecting details of why Jones was left unmonitored during the 10 days he was out of prison. But Michael Potteiger, chair of the Board of Probation & Parole, provided few details during his 30-minute testimony.

“Parole officers are under too much pressure to look the other way,” said Boyle. He added two Philadelphia-area parole officers had reached out to him after Officer Walker was murdered.

FAMILY OF SLAIN police officer Moses Walker, Jr. attend Democratic House Committee Hearing on Parole Policies at MaSt Community Charter School. Photo by Rory McGlasson

In response, Potteiger told the panel more information was needed before a report could be released. State Reps. Kevin Boyle and Ed Neilson pushed Potteiger to make the report public as soon as possible. In return, he said he would, but some of the information might not be made available to the public.

Walker’s family members who were in attendance on Tuesday left perplexed no report was made available at the committee hearing, as had been promised.

Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 President John McNesby, and Angus Love, executive director of Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, also spoke at the policy hearing. Philadelphia legislators on the panel were Ron Waters, Maria Donatucci, Kevin Boyle, Brendan Boyle, and John Sabatina, Jr.

Both state and county parole agencies have long complained of high caseloads and understaffing, which creates pressures on parole officers to skimp on supervision.

Gov. Tom Corbett has pushed through a 2012-13 budget which contained a 6% increase for Probation & Parole, to $114 million. He has added 60 new staffers since he took office, to 1,204, mostly field officers. But it takes a long time – six months to a year – to bring new officers in this demanding field up to full field performance.

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