top of page
  • Reverend James Squire

We Tolerate (not agree with) What We Understand

As we made our way through my Ethics course, I would give the students certain slogans to guide their ethical thinking. One of them is the title of this blog. We tolerate, don’t necessarily agree with, what we understand so that we can move forward with any issue. There was an article written in the Inquirer yesterday about the judge, Wendy Pew, in the Irizarry shooting by Mark Dial, a police officer. The circumstances were that Dial believed that Irizarry had a gun. He shot the suspect before the victim even got out of the car as he felt threatened by the person in the car. It seemed like it was an open and shut case that the policeman would be found guilty of murder. The judge acted by not supporting any counts leveled at Dial. He was free of all blame.

However, the entire article was about the character of the judge, Wendy Pew. She was written about by several different people with clout in the community including lawyers and politicos. She was the daughter of a casino magnate, went to Hamilton College, and Villanova Law School. You may recognize the last name, Pew, as she married into a very wealthy family with a lot of clout as well. She was described as someone as “even keeled, and straight forward…if the police say X, she will go with the police…she accepted the testimony of police officers as true…she sacrificed lunch to keep cases moving…she made good judicial decisions.”

I could go on as it was a very LONG article. There was not one word of criticism of her personal judge attributes. I was about to break out and sing the words of an old hymn, “How Great Thou Art.” I thought about running through my neighborhood with a bullhorn proclaiming her the best judge in Philadelphia, but then I remembered some things that my Ethics students would have pounced on right away.

The press sees themselves as above reapproach in their writings where they are the new ethical barometer for all things, but not this time! Look at the title of this blog. The judge has never said anything to help me and others understand why she made such a decision or didn’t defend it in anyway. It didn’t appear certainly in yesterday’s article which portrayed the judge as flawless. When was the last time that you saw a LONG article in the press about a judge who has no judicial flaws? As the reader, I really don’t care about everything that was written about her. I want to know why she made the decision that she made against what is referred to as a “reasonable person standard.” I for one thought she was wrong, and I am not alone. Perhaps that was the reason for the news article which seemed to me like a recommendation that I would write for a student’s application to college. Although I know that you can’t indicate that the student is perfection personified.

The whole article communicated that the judge was a person with great power. The name Pew in itself would have people begging and scraping before her. The family has a foundation that gives a great deal of money to others. Pew is synonymous with wealth and power. Irizarry is not a name that would get anyone’s attention.

But here is where the ethical rubber hits the road. What was it like for black people in general and the Irizarry family in particular to hear that verdict with little or no explanation? It would be devastating as well for a black person and a member of the Irizarry family to read that article about Wendy Pew’s attributes without any mention that she has clay feet like the rest of us. Why was the article written when to the best of my knowledge no other judge would be celebrated in that biased way?

My students and I or any other reasonable person wouldn’t be able to move forward unless we understood her reasoning. All she said was “I agree 100% with the defense of Mark Dial.” My simple question is “Why? The DA is appealing the case. The breaking in of businesses after the Irizarry family had a peaceful vigil had nothing to do with this verdict. It was an excuse for what thieves were going to do anyway. It was an opportunity for the crime to be committed by a Philly influencer.

Two additional points: Another saying that I wanted my students to hold on to for life is that “someday you may have to speak truth to power.” It will test your courage.

It is an opportunity that you shouldn’t miss. John McCain (Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life) and John Kennedy (Profiles in Courage) wrote books about its importance.

I just wrote a blog about unions where “absolute power can corrupt absolutely.” We don’t have a police problem. We have a police union problem that comes to the aid of its worst offenders of ethical standards. A good many of the killings of black people in our nation for traffic issues are done by those police who have a history of violence or bad decision making. Right now, a good many police who fake illness or injury and don’t work for long periods of time or get a second job have a listening ear by Police Union leadership.

If Mark Dial’s trial is not retried by the DA, we may hear his name again in another situation. That pattern has been established. Allow the Police Unions to negotiate salaries and benefits for their members, but don’t allow them to be part of the process of facing any dereliction of duty including killing another person. Why? Dial’s killing of someone who never stepped out of his car will have others tacitly encouraged that they will not be held accountable for their actions. Likewise, the black community will continue to feel vulnerable.

I sat in an office this morning with a group of people. There was a black girl of about the age of 7 seated in her grandmother’s lap. Her sweatshirt had one word on it. That word was JUSTICE, the very word that defines political ethics. Justice is more important than the power inherent in the name Pew. Even that little girl knew that!

11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page