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In Council News, Curtis Jones, Jr., Darrell L. Clarke, Featured, Kenyatta Johnson, News by admin

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PHILADELPHIA – City Council today voted 15-0 to override a rare mayoral veto of legislation to change the Home Rule Charter to establish a new Office of the Chief Public Safety Director for Philadelphia. The Chief Public Safety Director would be responsible for ensuring public safety by coordinating resources within various city agencies, including Police, Prisons, Recreation and other departments.

The Council legislation was originally co-sponsored by Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District), Majority Leader Curtis Jones, Jr. (4th District), and Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District).

Mayor Kenney sent the legislation back to Council today, marked “disapproved”, the legal term for a mayoral veto. Council then made the motion to “reconsider” the legislation – the term for a veto override. The override attempt passed unanimously at Council’s Meeting today.

“People want us to do something differently,” Council President Clarke told the press shortly after Council’s veto override vote was completed. “Municipalities and cities across the country have gone this way of public safety directors, showing a clear direction, and municipalities we’ve traveled to that have adopted this strategy are showing more coordination and collaboration in their law enforcement response. We need one office coordinating our entire focus on violent crime – which is the number one issue impacting Philadelphia.”

Some critics have suggested Council should move more deliberately and measured towards this reform, given that it involves amending the Home Rule Charter. But in a city that has suffered more than 1,500 homicides in the last three years, and over 4,500 shootings in the past two years, the Council President wasn’t supporting the criticism.

“Right now, given the urgency of the situation, we need to do something differently on public safety,” Clarke said. “Violence is impacting everything we do here in Philadelphia. People don’t want to hear about the Charter, which was written in 1954. People want to hear, ‘What are you going to do today to stop the violence here in the City of Philadelphia?”

Under the legislation, the Chief Public Safety Director would be appointed by the Mayor, subject to the confirmation of Council. The Public Safety Director should have law enforcement experience, or a comparable legal background, the legislation states.

Because the legislation involves changing the Home Rule Charter, it must first be approved by Philadelphia voters. Council President Clarke told the press he was hopeful the legislation would go before voters in time for the May Primary ballot.

“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.”

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