Councilmembers Clarke, Parker, Jones, Squilla

COUNCIL LEADERSHIP ISSUES STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF RESIDENCY REQUIREMENT LEGISLATION

In Cherelle Parker, Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Mark Squilla, News by PHL Council

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Philadelphia, PA – June 24, 2020 – Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District), Majority Leader Cherelle L. Parker (9th District), Majority Whip Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District) and Deputy Majority Whip Mark Squilla (1st District) today issued the following statement in regards to City Council Bill No. 200363:

We write in strong support of City Council Bill 200363, which restores a one-year residency requirement prior to employment for all civil service employees. The bill is designed to change and enhance the diversity and demographics of the Philadelphia Police Department, and create a force that better reflects the culture of the city it is sworn to protect and serve.

For more than five decades, it was law that no person could be a civil service employee for the city unless they had been a “bona fide” resident of Philadelphia for one year prior to their hiring. An attempt to remove this provision in 2001 was vetoed by then Mayor John Street. In 2008, then Councilman Jim Kenney revitalized the issue, and was successful. The reasoning behind the 2008 legislation: “Removing this residency requirement would expand the number of potential applicants and increase the competition for job openings, thereby improving the quality of the job applicants and enhancing the diversity of our workforce.”

Twelve years after the bill’s adoption, it’s worth reviewing whether the diversity of our workforce has been enhanced. Philadelphia is a “minority majority” city, where about two-thirds of residents are non-white. In the first two quarters of fiscal year 2020, our police force, which not only allows officers to be recruited from outside the city, but also allows officers to move outside the city after 5 years on the job, was about 43% minority. This is not reflective of city demographics, but it’s even worse when considering that it’s a drop from 46% minority the previous year. And, it’s woefully short of the Department’s goal of 58.4%. Looking at the demographics of the latest cadet class, the city seems to be continuing a recent trend of making the Police Department less diverse.

A more diverse Police Department will not be a “silver bullet” in curing its long-entrenched systemic issues, but it’s a step in the right direction. Does anyone believe that allowing the Police Department to continue its unsuccessful attempts at diversification will improve the situation? If they must look to hire from within the city’s borders and commit to their diversity goal, they have a chance at improving the culture within the force, and putting forward a department that better reflects the makeup of Philadelphia as a whole.

The idea that the city cannot recruit from within and find a ready, willing and able pool of police recruits is repugnant, and a slap in the face of the quality of our education system that we refuse to accept. If we are having difficulty finding qualified job applicants, the onus should be on us to better educate our residents. If we are having problems recruiting Philadelphians, we need to develop better tactics to recruit our citizens into family-sustaining careers. The police force should also review its employment test for any cultural biases making it more difficult for one group to successfully complete the test than other groups. Finally, if we truly can’t recruit and hire Philadelphians for certain jobs, there is a waiver process for the residency requirement.

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked economic devastation and widespread unemployment upon Philadelphia, disproportionately impacting people of color. Once the city’s hiring freeze is lifted, we have an unprecedented opportunity to hire from within our borders, to put our own citizens back to work, and to make real strides in diversifying our workforce. Bill 200363 is up for final passage on Thursday. We intend to vote for it.

 

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