COUNCIL VOTES TO OVERRIDE VETO OF LEGISLATION TO CREATE OFFICE OF CHIEF PUBLIC SAFETY DIRECTOR
City Council this week 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 Thursday, 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.
“People want us to do something differently,” Council President Clarke told the press shortly after Council’s veto override vote. “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 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 rejected the idea of waiting.
“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 Council confirmation. 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.”
COUNCILMEMBER BASS’ RESOLUTIONS HONOR THREE LOCAL WOMEN LAW ENFORCEMENT LEADERS
Councilmember Cindy Bass (8th District) offered three Resolutions in Council this week honoring three prominent women in local law enforcement – Police Commissioner Danielle M. Outlaw, Sheriff Rochelle Bilal, and Prisons Commissioner Blanche Carney.
Councilmember Bass spoke about the many sacrifices that each of the women law enforcement leaders make every day for the citizens of Philadelphia. The two commissioners and the sheriff each took to the public microphone in Chambers to thank Council for their recognition.
“We show up every day, we face problems every day, we take the criticisms – and we just do the job,” Sheriff Bilal said.
The resolutions note many career accomplishments of each leader:
- On December 30, 2019, Danielle M. Outlaw was named Commissioner of the Philadelphia Department, making her the first Female African American Commissioner in the City’s history. She stands at the helm of the nation’s 4th largest police department which employs more than 6500 sworn officers and 800 civilians who work to help make Philadelphia a safer city.
- On January 6, 2020, Sheriff Rochelle Bilal was sworn in to lead the Office of the Sheriff for the City and Philadelphia County. She has the distinction to be the first elected African American woman Sheriff in the 181-year history of the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office.
- In April 2016, Blanche Carney was appointed to the position of Commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Prisons, making her the first African American woman to head the Department. With distinction she leads a staff of 2,300 employees and contracted staff which operates six facilities in Northeast Philadelphia.al dollars in the upcoming city budget process to support more classes of Public Safety Enforcement Officers in the years ahead.
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IN OTHER NEWS
Council President Clarke Resolution Names North Philadelphia Street in Posthumous Honor for Temple University Police Sgt. Fitzgerald. The resolution names the 1700 block of West Montgomery Avenue, as “Christopher Fitzgerald Way” to honor the life and sacrifice of Temple University Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald, who was tragically killed in the line of duty on February 18, 2023.
The Temple community and the City were shocked and saddened by the untimely death of 31-year-old Sgt. Fitzgerald, who was shot and killed in pursuit of a robbery suspect on Feb. 18th. The suspect, a Bucks County resident, was apprehended and charged with homicide the next day.
Sgt. Fitzgerald joined the Temple police force in 2021, quickly became known by his colleagues for his hard work and dedication to his oath to keep the public safe, and had his ranking posthumously raised from Officer to Sergeant on February 24. Sgt. Fitzgerald, who comes from a law enforcement family, served at Temple and the Philadelphia’s Sheriff’s Office; he also worked for the Philadelphia Board of Election during the 2020 election, and previously at Philadelphia Housing Authority as a corrections officer as well.
He leaves behind his wife, Marissa, four children, and a close-knit extended family.
OTHER SIGHTS AND SOUNDS FROM THE COUNCIL WEEK
Committee on Streets and Services 3-17-2023
Committee on Transportation and Public Utilities 3-20-2023
Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and the Homeless 3-20-2023
Committee on Housing Neighborhood Development and the Homeless 3-22-2023
Stated Meeting of Philadelphia City Council 3-23-2023
The next Stated Meeting of City Council is scheduled to take place on Thursday, March 30, 2023 at 10 a.m. in Philadelphia City Hall, Room 400 and will air on Xfinity Ch. 64, Fios Channel 40 and stream at www.PHLCouncil.com/watch.
Featured Photo: Jared Piper/PHLCouncil