PHILADELPHIA – City Council today introduced legislation that would change the Home Rule Charter to establish a new Office of the Chief Public Safety Director for Philadelphia, with the responsibility of ensuring public safety by coordinating resources within various city agencies, including Police, Prisons, Recreation and other departments.
The legislation to create an Office of Chief Public Safety Director is being co-sponsored by Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District), Majority Leader Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District), and Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District).
The resolution accompanying the legislation details how other cities, such as Chicago, Newark NJ, and Columbus have established similar public safety directors in an effort to facilitate more collaboration between safety-oriented city agencies. Public safety directors typically oversee the budget, operations, plans and development of city departments, providing coordination, guidance and approvals. These directors increase efficiency, communication and equity among these related agencies.
Under the legislation, the Chief Public Safety Director would be appointed by the Mayor, subject to the advice and consent of a majority of City Council. The Chief Public Safety Director “shall be a law enforcement professional and have at least five years’ experience as the head of a municipal or state government law enforcement agency,” according to the Resolution introduced today.
Because the legislation entails a Charter change to establish the office and position, it must be approved first by two-thirds of Council, and then by the voters of Philadelphia in the May Primary.
Council President Clarke said the idea for a Chief Public Safety Director for Philadelphia arose in part from trips that Councilmembers have taken over the last several years to see how other jurisdictions are coping with rising gun violence in their communities. When a Council delegation visited Trenton several months ago, Councilmembers learned how Trenton agencies work closely together, across departments, to communicate and coordinate that city’s response to violence. Trenton has experienced a significant reduction in gun violence over the last year.
“We know we need better coordination and collaboration in how Philadelphia departments and agencies respond to gun violence,” Clarke said. “A Chief Public Safety Director – whose chief responsibilities include fostering better collaboration among all relevant agencies in our city – is a policy initiative well worth trying.”
Under the proposed legislation, the Chief Public Safety Director shall have the power and the duty to perform these functions, in addition to the coordinating of resources among city agencies:
- Operational Guidance. The Director shall provide relevant City agency leaders with guidance and initial approvals of operational policies, work programs, and budgetary policies. The Director shall provide consultation on the budgets of safety-related departments and agencies.
- Evaluations. The Director shall prepare reports regarding public safety measures as directed by the Mayor. When necessary, they shall undertake studies related to public safety functions, evaluating the effectiveness of work programs and procedures of safety-related City departments.
- City Facility Security. The planning and implementation of security in all City-owned facilities shall be overseen by the Director (i.e., all municipal offices and facilities, recreation spaces, and school district buildings). Additionally, all City and School District contracts for security services are to be developed and overseen by the Director.
- Relationship Maintenance. The Director shall establish and maintain cooperative relations with civic and business organizations, schools, court offices, emergency services in other jurisdictions, and others interested in the maintenance of public safety.
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