Woman says her protests are the reason Philadelphia Housing Authority police have new signage

#OccupyPHA protestors at the Philadelphia Housing Authority headquarters.
Photo credit Courtesy of #OccupyPHA
By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia Housing Authority changed the signage on police cars recently, and one woman who launched a protest outside of the agency's headquarters said her advocacy is part of the reason why.

"My family had been harassed," said Jennifer Bennetch, who spent five months camped outside of the newly constructed Philadelphia Housing Authority headquarters on Ridge Avenue in North Philadelphia.  

The campout was a protest she called #OccupyPHA. Bennetch and her supporters' goal was to bring attention to many unmet concerns of PHA residents, and one of hers related to PHA police.  

Bennetch claimed PHA police unlawfully exercised jurisdiction over her in 2016, even though she does not live in PHA housing.

"They would never identify themselves as housing police," she claimed, "and their cars looked just like Philadelphia police."

Bennetch said she began attending Board of Commissioners meetings three years ago, demanding more transparency over how the Sharswood revitalization project was being handled as well as transparency over the PHA Police. 

She said her initial contact with PHA officers caused her to go to Philadelphia police, and it took her some time to realize that she was being policed by PHA's private police force, so she demanded change.

"They were just kind of ignoring me," she said.

Bennetch and #OccupyPHA protesters had several clashes with police during their demonstration between April and August of this year. But three months ago, PHA made some changes, rolling out new signage for PHA police vehicles.

"We wanted to make sure they were distinguishable because all police cars tend to look alike," said Kelvin Jeremiah, president of PHA.

"These changes have been in the works for quite some time," he said, noting other changes are also in the works.

"If any other police force changed their whole signage," said Bennetch, "it would be in the media. But PHA just snuck this in."

Regardless of how it happens, Bennetch applauds the change. 

"I'm definitely just really excited and happy, but the struggle is not over," she said. 

Bennetch noted that she will continue to push PHA to change police uniforms and provide more transparency regarding the sales of PHA properties and much more. 

"I feel like I am this voice because I have put myself out there," said Bennetch, "because the people who are residents can't always speak for themselves."