Elected officials joined Angel Davis, a tenant shot in the head during an eviction, in calling for reforms to a system that has led to 3 shootings in the past 4 months.
PHILADELPHIA – Today, elected officials, led by Councilmember Kendra Brooks (At-Large) and Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd Council District), stood beside Angel Davis and her lawyer, Bethany Nikitenko, as she announced that she is suing Marisa Shuter, the private attorney appointed by the court to serve as the landlord-tenant officer and responsible for carrying out evictions in Philadelphia.
The elected officials, including State Senator Sharif Street (3rd Senatorial District), State Senator Nikil Saval (1st Senatorial District), State Representative Morgan Cephas (192nd House District), and State Representative Tarik Khan (194th House District) spoke about legislation they are co-sponsoring in both the State Senate and the State House to bring public accountability to Philadelphia’s system of evictions.
“Our city is a national model for preventing evictions,” said Councilmember Kendra Brooks. “We can and must set a standard for public accountability as well. In every other municipality in Pennsylvania, this duty is carried out under direct government supervision, established guidelines, and public accountability. Philadelphia should not be the exception.”
Councilmember Brooks also shared a statement signed by nine members of City Council, including Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Councilmember Anthony Phillips (9th District), Councilmember Isaiah Thomas (At-Large), Councilmember Jim Harrity (At-Large), Councilmember Mike Driscoll (6th District), Councilmember Sharon Vaughn (At-Large), Councilmember Quetcy Lozada (District 7), and Councilmember Mark Squilla (1st District). The statement reads, in part, “Allowing a private, for-profit entity unfettered control over a core government function has led to unnecessary violence and trauma for countless Philadelphians. As elected members of City Council, we are committed to returning the responsibility for enforcing evictions to the public domain where it belongs.”
“After tragedies like what happened to Angel Davis, it is crystal clear that the current way the landlord-tenant officer performs evictions is violent, traumatic, and dangerous – and it cannot continue,” said Councilmember Jamie Gauthier. We know that we can do better, and it is time to restore safety, oversight, and accountability to this function.”
“One shooting is too many,” said State Senator Nikil Saval. “This series of shootings shows clearly that the Landlord Tenant Officer cannot be tasked to safely perform evictions in Philadelphia. Evictions are a matter of public health and public safety and must be handled by public officials with proper training and public oversight to safeguard the wellbeing of everyone involved. The legislation that my colleagues and I are committed to passing mandates this. It is time to bring evictions in Philadelphia under democratic control.”
“There should never be a situation where the landlord-tenant office, a private company, is bringing violence and harm to someone simply because they are not able to make a rent payment,” said State Representative Morgan Cephas. “The Philadelphia Delegation is committed to acting with urgency on this issue.”
“I am horrified by the recent shootings over the past few months by ‘landlord tenant officers’ during evictions,” said State Representative Tarik Khan. “Evictions are difficult times in neighbors’ lives and, when necessary, should be conducted humanely. I’m proud to be working with Representatives Krajewski, Green, and Cephas to ensure compassion, safety, and transparency during the evictions process.”
“Evictions are the worst moment of someone’s life,” said State Representative Rick Krajewski in a statement. These common sense changes are necessary to ensure these traumatic events are carried out with as much forewarning, accountability, and compassion as possible.”
“Over the course of the last few months we have had several incidents resulting in tenants being shot as a result of eviction,” said Councilmember Quetcy Lozada in a statement. “Philadelphia is the only municipality in the Commonwealth that uses private, for-profit officers to conduct evictions. This system needs to be reformed to establish better standards and oversight to ensure those who are most vulnerable are safe when experiencing housing insecurity.”