Philadelphia City Council heard widespread support for reforms to policing, including a chokehold ban and requiring public input to police union contracts, during a hearing Tuesday afternoon at the same time police officers arrested protesters inside a municipal building.
Council’s Committee on Public Safety listened to testimony on Tuesday afternoon for two police reform bills: one that would require public hearings as part of the bargaining on police union contracts, and another that would ban certain police arrest techniques including chokeholds.
“Let’s put money into the people,” the Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler told City Council, urging that money now spent on the police department be redirected to education and mental health services. “It’s time to turn on the light and put the process out to the public."
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Police Advisory Commission executive director Hans Menos testified that police union contract negotiations always have involved salaries and benefits, but exclude another issue.
“References to any reforms are noticeably absent,” Menos said, urging Council to pass legislation that improves public input in the bargaining process.
Numerous others, including Philadelphia residents, argued in support of both proposed bills. A retired nurse from Northeast Philadelphia described the current bargaining system for police union contracts as a "racist, flawed" one that needs to be more transparent and accountable to the public.
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw testified in support of the legislation that would ban certain tactics like a chokehold or an officer kneeling on a citizen's neck during an arrest.
Outlaw said she was open to listening to ideas for smart reform.
"[Police] must be willing to listen and respect people of different backgrounds," she said.
Both bills are expected to be voted on by the entire Council at their meeting Thursday, June 25. They are part of larger reform packages put forward by a broad majority of Council and Mayor Jim Kenney.