PHILADELPHIA, PA — Fourteen city council members wrote a letter to Mayor Jim Kenney expressing they cannot support a $14 million proposed increase to the police budget for the 2021 fiscal year.
The letter was signed by Kenyatta Johnson and co-signed by 13 members of council, including Council President Darrell President Clarke.
“Police reform in Philadelphia Mayor Kenney, 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. Policing is difficult, dangerous work. It is vitally important work. For exactly those reasons, the Police Department must earn and maintain the trust of the communities it serves. Sadly, many of our most vulnerable citizens feel less safe, not moreso, in the presence of our police. Meaningful policy changes will require a blend of legislation, executive action, collective bargaining, and other means,” the letter said.
According to the letter, the police department consumes a sixth of our annual operating budget, three quarters of a billion dollars. Since 2016, the police budget has increased by about $120 million. Given the deep cuts proposed to other departments, council members said they cannot accept the increase.
The council members added that Philadelphia must make meaningful policy changes to ensure transparency and accountability. The letter included recommendations in addition to a set of reforms announced by council leadership on June 5 as part of the New Normal Budget Act:
- 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.
- Inclusion of community members and outside experts on the Use of Force Review Board (automatically reviews police-involved shootings) and Police Board of Inquiry (hears civilian complaints that are deemed sustained by Internal Affairs investigation). Charging and presentation of cases to both boards by independent civilian personnel. Notification to public of hearing time, location, and subject matter.
- Early warning systems to track indicators of risk for serious misconduct and to enable nondisciplinary remedial action.
- Systematic tracking and reporting of incidents in which officers witnessed the use of inappropriate or excessive force by a colleague.
- Non-punitive peer reviews of serious incidents, separate from criminal and administrative investigations, to identify systemic reforms that safeguard against such incidents. Incidents reviewed should include both incidents causing harm and “near misses.”
- Detailed guidance regarding the circumstances under which firearms may and should be unholstered or pointed. Require reporting of such actions, similar to reporting required for discharge of a firearm.
- Explicit prohibition of sitting or kneeling on a person’s neck, face, or head.
- Systematic reforms to eliminate unconstitutional “stop and frisk.”
- Outside review of police code of conduct to inform the collective bargaining process.
- Inclusion of community representatives and outside experts in any collective bargaining process relating to law enforcement personnel.
- Council and community input, including a public hearing, on any collective bargaining agreement relating to law enforcement personnel.
- Restoration of residency requirements for police personnel.
- A plan to enhance racial and geographic recruitment diversity, with reporting on progress