The Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission, already understaffed and underfunded, received no consideration in the City’s five-year financial plan.
The Philadelphia City Council Chambers Room today was at, or close to, maximum occupancy ahead of the Mayor’s budget address. In attendance was everyone from the laymen and protesters to the most powerful of elected and appointed officials, including Police Commissioner Richard Ross, Mr. Seth Williams, the City’s first African-American District Attorney and Dr. William Hite, the Superintendent of Schools. And fans of Mr. Jim Kenney, the 99th Mayor of Philadelphia, moreover, supporters of his universal Pre-K initiative, lined the balcony of the grandiose space with signs that reflected their sentiment.
The aforementioned fanatics cheered every time Mr. Kenney referred to affordable, quality early-childhood education, which was often.
“Through an investment of $256 million dollars, in combination with state and federal funding, we could have 25,000 quality pre-K seats in Philadelphia over the next five years,” Mr. Kenney, who cited the City’s Pre-K Commission’s findings that Philadelphia could save $5.6 million per grade cohort if all children were enrolled in quality pre-K, said mid-way through his prepared remarks.
Missing, however, from the budget address, which laid out a proposed $550,000 annually for the Philadelphia Police Department to acquire body-worn cameras, was any mention of the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission, the City’s underfunded, under-staffed civilian oversight agency that recently garnered new responsibilities, including attending the scene of any officer-involved-shooting.
Mr. Kenney, when he was campaigning for the job as the City’s chief executive, never quite pledged to bolster the agency, but did say he would like to see the PAC’s budget increase to $1.5 million over the next three years. And on his first day as Mayor-Elect, Mr. Kenney told me the PAC, led by Mr. Kelvyn Anderson, needs “more resources and credibility.” But when time came to distribute the resources, the PAC was shunned, though they did receive one new staffer: Mr. Edwin Pace, the former Deputy Integrity and Accountability Officer of Public Safety at the Managing Director’s Office.
When reached for comment by Techbook Online, Mr. Anderson said of the budget-snub that he’s “definitely disappointed,” but sees the addition of Mr. Pace as “valuable,” considering he has done, and is expected to continue to do, “substantive investigations.” And to be fair, though the City has made no consideration for the PAC in the five year financial and strategic plan, they have recently made concessions as it relates to professional development. According to Mr. Anderson, the entire PAC staff is going to Las Vegas for nearly a week to receive training in investigating officer-involved-shootings.
Optimistic about the future, Mr. Anderson said he and the City are continuing talks about the needs of the agency, which includes moving it, once its lease is up this summer, to a more centralized location. As to why his agency didn’t receive a budget increase this year, Mr. Anderson understands the issue to be that the City wants to first map out a plan to consolidate the Community Oversight Board –established by former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to oversee the implementation of the Department of Justice’s and the President’s Task Force’s recommendations at the police department – with PAC, in an effort to streamline citywide public safety and police reform initiatives.
Thinking carefully about consolidation, said Mr. Anderson, is a good process to go through.
Philadelphia City Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., who in March of 2012 introduced a resolution to overhaul the PAC but has since become lax in advocating for it, today said:
“We’re going to fight to get them whole and we’re going to make sure they have the resources they need. We understand they’re a critical player. And you gotta have the yin with the yang; you gotta have the FOP, but a PAC, too.”
Councilman Jones, who spoke fondly of Mr. Kenney when he resigned from Council to seek the Mayor’s Office, said he knows Mr. Kenney’s heart is in the right place, but it’s his job to “ensure the budget is in the right place.”
“Don’t tell me what you love, tell me what you fund,” the Councilman stated.
Echoing the sentiment of the Councilman is Reverend Mark Kelly Tyler of Mother Bethel A.M.E Church, the oldest church property in the United States continuously owned by African-Americans.
“Jesus said where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”
Rev. Tyler, a radio host heard every Friday at 5pm on @900amWURD, was among those who attended a private meeting with the Mayor a few weeks ago about policing in Philadelphia. He said he’s heard some great talking points from Mr. Kenney, but now it’s time to back it up. Regarding the City’s excuse that they have to consolidate workloads, the Reverend finds that logic faulty, as the oversight board established by Mr. Nutter was a volunteer effort. Therefore, it should have no budgetary impact.
It’s been rumored that there’s simply no money at the moment to bolster the PAC, but Rev. Tyler, an active member of the advocacy group P.O.W.E.R (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild), denounces that excuse, too.
“Cities find the money for things that are important to them,” he said. “If we were facing a flood, we would find the money for that. The relationship between the black community and the police is at an emergency level; this is not a convenient purchase; this is not something we can live without.”
Philadelphians like Rev. Tyler is who Mr. Anderson said the PAC owes its existence to.
“These folks understand more than anyone the need for a robust (police oversight) agency and we’re tremendously grateful for their support.”
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