Philadelphia police diversity: City Council moves to diversify force, curtail stop-and-frisk, strengthen oversight
“It is essential that, while I recognize there are multiple investigations going on, that at least one of them is public,” she said. “We need a truth-and-reconciliation process.”
Council members will tackle two additional police accountability bills when they return in the fall. One proposal, by Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson, would require a public hearing on the city’s initial proposal to the police union during contract negotiations. The other, by Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, would codify and clarify the department’s ban on officers using choke holds and other dangerous tactics to restrain subjects.
Also on Thursday, Council approved a $4.8 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that includes last-minute changes to Police Department funding. Responding to protesters urging leaders to “defund the police,” the lawmakers and Kenney last week struck a deal that cut $33 million from the mayor’s original proposal for the PPD, nixing a planned $19 million in additional funding and shifting $14 million by moving crossing guards and public safety enforcement officers to the Managing Director’s Office.
Critics have said the measure, which applies to the entire municipal workforce and not just police, will limit the talent the city can attract. But Councilmember Cherelle L. Parker, who carried the bill on Clarke’s behalf, said that argument ignores the talent available to the city from its own residents.
“If what you’re saying is that we cannot find Philadelphia residents, out of our 1.6 million population, with all of the institutions of higher learning that we have here, to fill positions in the city of Philadelphia, then that is shame on us,” she said. “The people policing the city of Philadelphia should look like the city of Philadelphia.”
Clarke this week faced significant behind-the-scenes opposition for attempting to restore the requirement. But after a show of unity by Council leadership in a statement supporting the measure Wednesday evening, lawmakers on Thursday sided with Clarke in a veto-proof 16-1 vote.
Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr. authored the legislation approved Thursday that will place a referendum on the November ballot that, if approved, would create a Citizens Police Oversight Commission. While less powerful than oversight boards in some other cities, such as New York, the proposed new body would have more independence to investigate alleged police misconduct than the current Police Advisory Commission, which it would replace.
Another measure, by Parker, will let voters weigh in on the debate around stop-and-frisk, a strategy in which officers are allowed to frequently question and search subjects they have a reasonable suspicion of being involved in criminal activity. Parker said Philadelphia will be the first major city to let voters tackle the issue.
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