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Semper Vigilans — Investigating Class and Race Rivalry
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Semper Vigilans — Investigating Class and Race Rivalry

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"’Wow' was my first reaction. It didn’t fit the offense... To me, it didn’t make a lot of sense."

— Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross at an August 28 press conference     

There are two kinds of detectives: either pompous in behavior and bias in observations of crimes including their own, or modest and intelligent enough to never allow class and race to get in the way of solving a crime in the otherwise nauseous. Tragicomic human condition.  In the United States the ascendancy of moral decay and general decadence among the upper classes and the corruption in government and police institutions under the Trump regime makes the reign of Louis Philippe I look like modest gangster behavior of 'mere' exploitation of the French masses before the outbreak of the French Revolution of 1848. 

It doesn't take a detective to discern the recent increase of homicides in Philadelphia. According to the weekday newspaper Metro, “There have been 218 homicides so far this year in Philadelphia, a nine-percent increase over this time last year, and a rash of recent killings of teenagers and young people over the summer." If that weren't sufficiently worrisome, Metro notes, "The scandal currently roiling the detectives in the Philly Police Department's Homicide Unit is about an allegedly racist letter prompted by someone's rib lunch being improperly disposed of.”[i]

Philadelphia Police Headquarters

During the current American era, when crimes, especially race and hate crimes, are being committed at an ever-increasing, dangerous rate, there emerges within the American social milieu a nearly bizarre form of criminal methodology in which the dominant Anglo-American culture, that is, what is known as "White Culture," seeks to impose its smothering standards upon the habits, culture, sensibilities of hapless national minorities.  

Allow me to explore the reasoning behind the this so-called 'criminal' or perhaps perverse act by a white Philadelphia detective who took it upon himself to lecture a black fellow detective on his egregious behavior or failure of etiquette or better still, deficit in public hygiene for the proper or improper disposing of food waste at their shared place of employment.  As related by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, a letter was written and signed by detective James "Jimmy" Crone to a black detective, who left some half-eaten spareribs in a trash can in the Homicide Unit kitchen.

Detective Crone's viciously insulting missive to his black coworker stated, in part:  "As I'm sure you were not burdened by significant schooling, and were birthed to an alcoholic, absent father and a rancid whore of a mother, you simply are ignorant of the fact that you are little more than an upright animal. The conditions of our workplace are not glamorous or accommodating, but we can make it tolerable to be inhabited by decent, civilized human beings by following some simple rules of propriety. I am not in any manner trying to embarrass you, just the opposite: I'm here to offer my guidance and assistance in helping you make the difficult transition from a grotesque, primal animal to tolerable coworker."[ii]

Semper Vigilans — Investigating Class and Race Rivalry

Certainly I am no Monsieur Lecoq, that famously shrewd French detective so brilliantly invented by the French author Emile Gaboriau. I can only conjecture as to why the troubled white detective would become so demented and racist in his remarks towards a fellow detective who happened to be African American.  While Philadelphia currently may be fashionable in the real estate realm as a less-expensive substitute for living in Manhattan,  there are not too many sections of Philly, as it is known to admirers, which boast an “enviable reputation” for safety — since, even among the elite suburbs of that city once celebrated for its remarkable political zeal in the framing of the U.S. Constitution during the American Revolution — there is the rank odor of random murders, racial confrontations, and periodic eruptions of armed tensions between the local residents and the police.

Emile Gaboriaru

In contrast, however, are the tempered words of Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, a seemingly rational person whom might be compared to Gevrol, the inspector in the classic French novel mentioned at the beginning of this essay. While Commissioner Ross conveys an astute observation concerning racism in his city, he made no reference to the possible outbreak of imminent class and race war emerging not only in Philadelphia but throughout all of the United States as well. Commissioner Ross, according to Metro, pointed out some language in the offensive letter "touched on historically derogative references to African-Americans, and said it could be a sign of a need for racial bias training among the police force.”[iii]  And then Commissioner Ross was further quoted about the racist incident in the Homicide Unit, "None of it is panacea," Ross said, [but] "we have a higher standard we have to live up to."[iv] 

I realize Commissioner Ross is admitting that even “racial bias training among the police force” will be no cure-all for the deadly disease of malignant racial hatred spreading across the United States. And indeed having classes on racial tolerance among the Philadelphia police and detectives will not solve the issue of simmering racial hatred initiated and fomented by the present regime in the White House.

However, in my own modest way I shall through close scrutiny and analytical deduction attempt to explain why the white American detective wrote such a vicious and condescending admonitory screed to the black American detective in the first place.  What first needs to be researched is the class background of the said white detective, James "Jimmy" Crone. Does Detective Crone come from a modest middle class family, or a lower-middle class family, or even a white working class family, where by the mere matter of being a white American he feels exceptional, that is he feels that as part the Anglo-American patrician class, he can ‘educate’ and berate those who he does not consider his equal in class or race?  Was he simply jealous of the African American detective because he had solved more crimes than he had previously, and that rage, that very jealousy drove him to excessiveness in his way of exploding out to his victim, without lynching him to a street lamp in Philadelphia, how he was far more ‘civilized’ that his rival, the black detective?  It is at least comforting to know that the detective Jimmy Crone did not completely lose his temper and bludgeon his fellow detective in a rage over a lunch of half-eaten spareribs thrown into a trash can.

Semper Vigilans — Investigating Class and Race Rivalry

Certainly, these days we are afflicted by far worse odors than discarded ribs. Such as, for instance, finding multiple people murdered on the streets or in the countryside for simply expressing their beliefs for wanting a more equal society, for decent pay for their work, for better health care. But I must remember, that like Lecoq, I should to stick to the facts of the case as it actually happened, and not add too many speculative variables on why such an incident took place in the Homicide Unit in the Philadelphia Police Department on a scorching summer day in the United States of America in a city known as "the Cradle of Liberty." I give you my word: Henceforth, I shall be ever watchful.


[i] https://www.metro.us/news/local-news/philadelphia/philly-police-racist-letter-jimmy%20crone

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

Author: Luis Lázaro Tijerina