COUNCILMEMBER GAUTHIER CALLS FOR HEARING ON 911 POLICE DISPATCH
Today, Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District) introduced a resolution, co-introduced by Public Safety Committee Chair Curtis Jones Jr. (4th District), authorizing the Public Safety Committee to hold a hearing on challenges facing the 911 Call Center and the Police Department’s investigation into the police response to a 911 call about the first victim in this July’s mass shooting in Kingsessing. The resolution was co-sponsored by six other Councilmembers.
“Philadelphians need to know that when they call 911, they will receive help every single time”, Councilmember Gauthier said. “When the City fails to successfully respond to an emergency, neighbors lose faith in government’s ability to keep them safe – making it harder for us to combat gun violence and eroding the progress we’ve made to rebuild the essential bond between the community and police. I look forward to working with my Council colleagues and the Police Department to remedy the challenges facing 911, as well as hearing the results of the internal investigation into the botched response to a 911 call about the first victim in this summer’s mass shooting in Kingsessing.”
Three and a half years after an earlier 2020 Council hearing into 911 response times, the City faces a current situation where many 911 dispatchers feel “overworked, exhausted, and unappreciated”, Gauthier said Thursday. At the same time, constituents continued to inform Council about long wait and response times when they call 911. Some residents even report hanging up after waiting minutes for someone to answer their 911 call.
On July 2, 2023, 911 dispatch erroneously deployed police officers to an address three miles away from where Mr. Joseph Wamah Jr. had just been killed in Kingsessing. Two days later, Mr. Wamah’s suspected killer returned to the scene and allegedly killed four residents, including a 15-year-old boy, and wounded two more in the City’s worst mass shooting in 23 years. This botched police response further eroded community trust in the City’s emergency apparatus and cost the Police Department 44 hours in which it could have investigated Mr. Wamah’s death before the shooter allegedly returned to the same location and murdered four more people.
City Council has a responsibility to continue to investigate the challenges facing the 911 Call Center and support the Police Department as it takes action to remedy them. A hearing date in the Public Safety Committee has not yet been scheduled.
COUNCILMEMBER THOMAS’ EXONERATED JUSTICE RESOLUTION PASSES COUNCIL – REENTRY SUPPORT FOR PERSONS CLEARED OF CONVICTIONS AFTER YEARS IN PRISON
Over the past decade, approximately 40 Philadelphians convicted of crimes have been exonerated and released from jail. Unlike other states, Pennsylvania does not have an emergency reentry fund for the wrongly convicted. Councilmember Isaiah Thomas (At Large) introduced a Resolution last week to give access to supports to provide Exonerated Justice and eliminate barriers to reentry.
“We must give exonerated individuals a fair shot at life outside of prison, and provide the necessary guardrails for housing, education, and job opportunities,” Councilmember Thomas said on Thursday, after Council overwhelmingly approved his resolution. “This package is a crucial first step in ensuring justice for exonerated Philadelphians. I look forward to working with Community Legal Services, the Defender Association of Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvania Innocence Project to protect exonerated individuals going forward.”
The Exonerated Justice package consists of the following:
- Education – access to Catto Scholarships at Community College of Philadelphia expanded to allow for use in certificate and non-degree programs.
- Housing – access to Office of Supportive Housing lists for housing vouchers as well as counseling to assist with housing placements.
- Employment – amend Fair Chance Hiring legislation to include exonerated individuals to remove possible barriers to employment.
- Justice for Exonerees Fund – create an emergency City reentry fund to provide $500 to each exonerated Philadelphian upon release from prison.
- Reentry Support – assistance with applying to support and benefit programs, such as Medicaid for retroactive benefits and PHL City ID for photo identification.
COUNCIL REFLECTS & HONORS THE PASSING OF THREE LEADERS
It was a week of passings in the life of the City. First, the iconic Schools Superintendent, Dr. Constance Clayton, passed at the age of 89. Then, midweek, the interim President of Temple University, Joanne Epps, died suddenly, while at a Temple event, at age 72. Even as Philadelphia reeled from the loss of these two, major African American women role models, Councilmembers suffered another loss on Thursday, with the announcement that David Krain, a longtime labor official with AFSCME District Council 47 and a close friend to multiple Councilmembers, had died suddenly earlier that day.
It was a somber Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson (2nd District), who first noted Mr. Krain’s passing, his early support for the Councilmember’s career, and then member after member followed suit. An emotional Councilmember Jim Harrity (At Large), said he and Mr. Krain were fellow Masons, and “my friend for over 20 years.”
Councilmember Thomas introduced and Council passed a Resolution honoring Dr. Clayton, the first Black and first female Superintendent of Schools in Philadelphia.
MED Week Returns to Philadelphia on October 2nd
IN OTHER COUNCIL NEWS…
COUNCILMEMBER BROOKS ESTABLISHES A REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS TASK FORCE. The Resolution, by Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At Large), sets up a Reproductive Rights Task Force to examine and seek further safeguards for women seeking to exercise their right of bodily autonomy, particularly in light of moves by conservative legislatures and courts around the country seeking to limit or eliminate a women’s right to choose.
The resolution notes that Philadelphia City Council has taken a number of steps to better protect women’s rights, and that the Kenney administration has led public education events and published an action guide to protect abortion access, and in 2022 dedicated $500,000 in local funding for emergency assistance for those facing financial obstacles to accessing abortion care.
“Establishing a Reproductive Rights Taskforce to bring together providers, patients, experts and advocates along with City officials and elected leaders to coordinate government actions and advance recommendations is a necessary and vital step to protect and expand access to abortion and reproductive care in Philadelphia,” the resolution states.
The next Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, September 28, 2023, at 10 a.m. The Meeting will take place in person in Council’s Chambers on the 4th floor of Council. It will also air on Xfinity Ch. 64, Fios Channel 40, and stream at www.PHLCouncil.com/watch.