One year after protesters filled streets following the death of George Floyd and Philadelphia found an unflattering national spotlight criticized for its response deploying tear gas on them, the city is claiming progress in police reform and racial justice and promising more work in a new report.
City officials and participants in an initiative borne out of that moment called Pathways to Reform, Transformation and Reconciliation are releasing a one-year report Tuesday that details efforts to support minority-owned businesses, address racial disparities in the COVID-19 pandemic, create more transparency in policing and address concerns over certain monuments and city landmarks.
In a letter included in the report, Mayor Jim Kenney said the city has “taken dozens of steps towards bettering public safety, invested millions of dollars into marginalized communities, and implemented multiple programs and initiatives to increase wellness and build relationships in our neighborhoods.”
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“Unpacking decades of systemic racism cannot simply be carried out in a single year,” Kenney said in the letter. “But we believe we are well on our way to learning from our past, taking accountability for our mistakes, and driving change that will make our government and our city stronger for all Philadelphians.”
The report doesn’t set out specific recommendations, but instead lays out efforts underway and changes made over the past year including banning no-knock warrants and the use of teargas for demonstrations. It also details how the city has addressed recommendations made in other reports like an independent review of the protests and the city’s use of tear gas on Interstate 676 in Center City and 52nd Street in West Philadelphia.
It also highlights some changes the city is seeking in current negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents officers in the city. Those include bringing back residency requirements for officers, overhauling the departments disciplinary code, revising the grievance arbitration process and allowing the police commissioner to transfer officers at her discretion.
The report addresses what residents and visitors see on city streets and buildings, highlighting the installation of a mural called “Crown” “to recognize the voices of the summer’s protesters,” the removal of the statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo and the still-uncertain fate of the Christopher Columbus statue in Marconi Plaza. It raises the possibility of more changes, saying the steering committee helped to develop a database of about 7,000 monuments, public art, streets and more to be considered in a landmarks and monuments review process.
The release of the one-year report comes as the administration and city council are negotiating over an fiscal year 2022 budget, with funding for gun violence prevention one of the prime sticking points.