Proposed reforms include city residency for new recruits, a civilian oversight commission and public input for police union contracts
PHILADELPHIA, June 11, 2020 — City Council moved swiftly to propose reforms in the operations of the Police Department today, introducing legislation that requires city residency for new police recruits before hiring, establishes a police civilian oversight commission that voters will consider in November, and requires public input before any collective bargaining agreement is reached with the city’s police union.
Acting just three days after 14 Members of Council signed and delivered a letter to Mayor Kenney with a specified set of recommendations for policing reforms, Council members introduced a series of significant reform bills this morning at a regular Council Meeting held remotely due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“City Council is closely following the demonstrations and calls for reform in how policing is conducted in Philadelphia,” Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District) said. “We hear you. We get it. Council is listening, and Council is acting.”
Residency requirement for new police recruits. Majority Leader Cherelle Parker (9th District) introduced legislation at Council President Darrell L. Clarke’s request that requires applicants for civil service employment, including but not limited to police officers, to be residents of the city for one year prior to their appointment. Currently, police recruits and hires have six months to move into the city after their hiring.
“The police policing the citizens of Philadelphia should be residents of Philadelphia,” Majority Leader Parker said. “Their salaries are paid by city taxpayers. We’ve been hard hit by the pandemic, and their property taxes will help us rebuild what’s been lost economically as well. This reform will build more of a connection with those they are sworn to safeguard.”
Charter amendment establishing Civilian Oversight Commission for police. Council Majority Whip Curtis Jones Jr., introduced legislation to change the city’s Home Rule Charter to allow for the creation of a Civilian Oversight Commission for policing. This new commission would replace the existing Police Advisory Commission, and add enforcement and oversight mechanisms as well. The Charter amendment goes to voters in November. The specific reforms will be adopted by ordinance following the ballot question to the voters this Fall. The mayor said earlier this week he supports this reform.
“Most professions have checks and balances, that from time to time keep them on their toes,” said Councilmember Jones (4th District), who chairs Council’s Public Safety Committee. “A bus driver for SEPTA has a Board, a schoolteacher has the School Board and elected officials must report to the people. If you know nothing can happen to you, you are likely to do anything.”
Create a public hearing process prior to collective bargaining agreements with police. Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson (At Large) introduced legislation that requires a public hearing at least 30 days before the acceptance of a contract with the Fraternal Order of Police. This will ensure public input prior to the City’s approval of the contract.
“This past week we’ve seen our City rise up and demand change,” Gilmore Richardson said. “I want to thank the community groups and activists on the ground who have done the work to advocate for reform. We must continue to be responsive to our constituents and to ensure that our processes as a government are transparent and inclusive of their input.”
In other reform actions today, Council President Clarke and Councilmember Maria D. Quiñones Sánchez (7th District) introduced a Philadelphia Poverty Action Fund bill to advance the Special Committee on Poverty Reduction and Prevention’s recommendations to lift 100,000 Philadelphians out of poverty through a “moonshot” moment in partnership among leaders in business, philanthropy, academics, non-profits, and government.
“Philadelphia deserves a recovery budget that leverages public-private partnership to deliver direct investments in people, including rent subsidies, basic income, benefits access, and job training stipends,” Councilmember Quiñones Sánchez said.
Councilmember Quiñones Sánchez also introduced a Black stimulus budget proposal, calling for a $500 million capital investment in neighborhood corridors and affordable housing, in addition to direct operating investments through the Philadelphia Poverty Action Fund. The proposal is co-sponsored by Councilmembers Curtis Jones, Jr., Cherelle Parker, Helen Gym, Isaiah Thomas, Jamie Gauthier, Kenyatta Johnson, and Derek S. Green. Other councilmembers, including Kendra Brooks (At Large), have also been urging the city to create and fund a black stimulus plan fund for residents.
Council’s swift actions today followed its similar action last week, when a majority of Council gave preliminary approval to a New Normal Budget Act that will move $25 million from a recession reserve and target the funds into the need for affordable housing, health-care disparities among residents of color, a lack of healthy food options in under-served neighborhoods, the need for more living-wage jobs, and 400,000 people living in poverty.
“Between COVID-19 and the unrest and protests these past few weeks, the divisions and inequality in our city and country have never been clearer,” Council President Clarke said. “We have to act boldly and swiftly to address them and begin the healing. Everything must change. We cannot go back to that old normal. We need to create a ‘New Normal’ by addressing these disparities head on in our budget process. The New Normal Budget Act does that.”
Council is required to approve a new city budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1st by the end of June.
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