Mayor Kenney proposes ‘immediate action’ in response to demand for police reform

By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Mayor Jim Kenney says he's taking immediate steps to address the demands of protesters — who dominated the streets of Philadelphia in response to the police killing of black man George Floyd in Minneapolis — including long-sought reforms to the police contract and the removal of a $14 million increase from next year's budget.

On Tuesday, the mayor released a statement saying the Philadelphia Police Department has made progress over the last four years, but the protests made clear it's not enough, so he’s advancing some short- and long-term measures that he hopes will bring meaningful change.

The statement reads, in part:

“Since 2016, the Philadelphia Police Department has implemented proactive measures to reduce pedestrian stops lacking reasonable suspicion by 92 percent, and officer-involved shooting incidents by more than 50 percent. We’ve dramatically expanded implicit bias and anti-racism training throughout the Department as well as the use of body-worn cameras. The Police Department has implemented a progressive discipline system for officers who conduct unconstitutional stops and frisks. In addition, the Police Department continues to work under the jurisdiction of a federal court to address unlawful stops and frisks, including racial disparities.
“But those who have spoken out on the streets of Philadelphia have made clear that the police reforms we’ve enacted over the last four years are not nearly enough. So, while we’ve been committed to reform, we realize now that there is much more to do to create real, lasting change.”

We will embark on a path toward real change in Philadelphia, and hopefully across America. We will seize this moment, and we will move quickly, because too many Black lives are being lost.This moment is a beginning. #BlackLivesMatterhttps://t.co/zUoflLjIdY

— Jim Kenney (@PhillyMayor) June 9, 2020

The measures include an immediate review and update of the department's use of force; greater transparency around complaints and internal affairs investigations; new staff positions focused on misconduct, brutality and equity; and an early warning system for detecting problematic officer behavior.

“That would identify those officers who are most at risk of getting in trouble down the road,” said Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw. She's also reviewing the hiring system.

Among the longer-term solutions: the creation of a permanent civilian Police Oversight Commission, which would replace and have more power than the current advisory commission; changes to state law regarding the use of deadly force and other concerns; and changes to the police contract, which would re-establish residency requirements, overhaul disciplinary procedures, and free the commissioner's hand in making transfers.

The changes would require cooperation from the state Legislature and success with the process of arbitrating a new police contract next year, though the contract changes may be the most difficult to achieve.

“It's frustrating for implementation of discipline, having that discipline often reversed,” Kenney said.

The city recently signed a one-year contract extension with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, which expires next June.

City Solicitor Marcel Pratt said announcing the city's goals in advance is a new approach.

“We're hopeful if we do reach an impasse with the FOP and the arbitrator has to render a decision, that all of the transparency and all of the public comment would play a role in how that decision is made,” said Pratt.

Kenney is also removing a proposed budget increase, which he said was to have gone to body cameras and training. City Council told Kenney on Monday that it will not increase spending for the police department, as he proposed in the revised budget he sent them on May 1. 

The mayor added that he stands with those who have taken to the streets to protest, and it's been a humbling experience for him and members of his administration.

“Many of us have realized that, as progressive and inclusive as we think we are, we still have a lot to learn,” he said. “We want to approach this open-mindedly, but some of these things have to happen. You saw nationwide, even worldwide, the distress and frustration people were experiencing.”

The FOP had no immediate response.