police reform

Changes to Police Oversight in Philadelphia Expected Soon

The mayor's office told NBC10 that top city officials are planning to expedite reforms to the city police department.

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UPDATE: Mayor Kenney and Police Commissioner Outlaw have released 31 reforms to policing in Philadelphia and oversight for the city police department. Click here for the story.

As Mayor Jim Kenney's administration feels increased pressure to strengthen police oversight following weeklong protests and a letter from City Council members, top city officials are now working on reforms, the mayor's office told NBC10.

What those reforms look like could come as early as Tuesday afternoon, a Kenney spokesman said.

"The Mayor and his leadership team are the midst of internal discussions on strengthening and expediting our ongoing efforts toward police reform, and that includes the role of the Police Advisory Commission in that process," city spokesman Mike Dunn said in an email. "We anticipate having more to say later today."

Fourteen of the 17 City Council members wrote a letter to Kenney on Monday recommending 15 new policies to reform the police department on the heels of mass protests in Philadelphia and across the country over the last week. The protests came in response to the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died following an arrest in Minneapolis.

"Philadelphia can’t breathe. In the poorest big city in America, during a global health pandemic and a massive economic crisis, the people of our city are telling us that police reform cannot wait. We must hear them and act decisively," the letter from Council members began.

Among the recommendations are:

  • Fully resourced, independent police oversight, including authority to conduct contemporaneous, independent review of civilian complaints and use-of-force incidents.
  • Establishment of specific criteria for designation of an investigation as internal.
  • Expanded reporting of civilian complaints and internal investigations, as well as specific criteria for limitation of information reported.
  • Systematic reforms to eliminate unconstitutional “stop and frisk.”
  • Explicit prohibition of sitting or kneeling on a person’s neck, face, or head.
  • Council and community input, including a public hearing, on any collective bargaining agreement relating to law enforcement personnel.

Kenney in 2017 made changes to the city Police Advisory Commission, which is made up of nine citizens supported by a small full-time staff, to make its directive more review-based and less involved in citizen complaints. The PAC would have its budget of $640,000 decreased by $115,000, to $525,000 in Kenney's proposed 2020-2021 budget.

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In New York City, the civilian board that hears complaints against the police department has a $19 million annual budget.

In Chicago, the police accountability office has a nearly $14 million annual budget.

"We need to institutionalize civilian oversight so it can’t be cut when there is a downturn," PAC executive director Hans Menos said in an interview with NBC10 on Monday. "Too bad we’re not like Chicago and New York. They absolutely tie their oversight budget to their police department budget."

The budget for the Philadelphia police department during the current fiscal year is $776 million.

Citizens who want to file a complaint against police can file a complaint with the department through it's Police Board of Inquiry. The PBI holds hearings, though Menos says those hearings are not publicly announced until the day they are scheduled and are held in a room that fits only four people.

"These internal disciplinary hearings are held at the Police Department offices, similar to how other City Departments hold disciplinary hearings in their offices," Dunn, the city spokesman, said in an email. "The meeting is not open to the public, and the size of the room is sufficient for the number of people who are usually present at the hearing. If a larger room is needed, one is found."

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