Councilwoman Cindy Bass’ statement on the Philadelphia Zoo incident.
I have great concerns about the incident which occurred July 5, when a teenager was arrested. I am specifically concerned about the zoo’s response. In its own statement, the zoo said the teenagers were beginning to leave after being asked to leave. This “public safety officer” was supposed to be a professional who knows how to handle escalating situations. Unfortunately, rather than meeting with her security team and creating a plan to constructively address the teenagers on the plaza, her response was to just call the police on a bunch of African American children. I would expect a so-called “public safety officer” would be more capable of finding solutions to dealing with issues on the plaza, rather than involving police simply because children were talking back to her.
I spoke with zoo officials following the incident, who expressed that issues with the teenagers have been ongoing. My question is: If the zoo knew there was an escalating situation on the plaza, what steps were taken internally to get in front of things?
There should certainly be repercussions to this employee flagging down police for something that was not a police matter. Further, I find that the zoo’s response to this incident—to make the claim that the child was not part of any organized sports group—amounts to nothing more than condescending victim-blaming. I have been made aware that the Philadelphia Police Department will be investigating this matter. In a City that recently dealt with another high-profile incident of unnecessary calls to police, I hope that the zoo takes the proper steps to ensure this will not continue to occur and that it will discourage unwarranted police contact and engagement, especially when they may be needed elsewhere for serious issues.
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Councilwoman Cindy Bass represents the 8th Council District, which includes Germantown, Mt. Airy, Nicetown, Tioga, Chestnut Hill, portions of Logan, and West Oak Lane. She is Chair of Council’s committees on Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs and Public Health and Human Services.