Two prominent Philadelphians, after hearing updates on police reforms, offer varying responses.
With his leg in a cast and a crutch under his right arm, Mr. Greg Brinkley, an activist, and former correctional officer, in 2014 at City Hall testified before a committee from the Department of Justice about the Philadelphia Police Department.
Mr. Brinkley, who referenced multiple controversial cases during his testimony, was among a number of Philadelphia activists that day who spoke ill of the police department which employs 6,000 officers.
It’s been more than a year since that hearing in Center City Philadelphia, and what came of it – and the review of the department that ensued – was a scathing report issued by the COPS Office entitled ‘An Assessment of Deadly Force in the Philadelphia Police Department,’ which served as the catalyst for a myriad of reforms, including having the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission (PAC) called to the scene of officer-involved shootings.
There are significant reforms though that haven’t been completed, and those will have to be negotiated with the police union, as they require work rule changes.
“They made a good start out of the gate,” Mr. Kelvyn Anderson, head of PAC, said of the police department he advises. “This is a large organizational change. I will take several years to play out.”
A private investigator on the case of Mr. Brandon Tate-Brown – a 26 year-old black man shot and killed while unarmed and fleeing by a Philadelphia police officer roughly three months prior to the release ‘of ‘An Assessment of Deadly Force in the Philadelphia Police Department’ – Mr. Brinkley said he would’ve preferred that a few years went by before the department was lauded by government leaders as a symbol of excellence.
Yesterday at a press conference to announce the progress the department has made since receiving the 91 recommendations, COPS (Community Orientated Policing Services) Director Mr. Ronald Davis gushed about how close to excellence the department was, and how they will soon be perceived as a national model.
“That’s bullsh*t,” Mr. Brinkley exclaimed. “How do you go from being plagued with problems in policy and training to, six months later, being a model for the nation?”
“If you look at the many things the police department did at the district level, great things have happened,” Mr. Anderson argued. “Ramsey drove the responsibility down to the captains. I’m starting to see more supervisors held accountable.”
That point, if true, isn’t lost on Mr. Brinkley, who himself many times has called for a reform that allows captains and sergeants to be sued personally for the malfeasance of their rank-and-file. But it’s the praise cops are receiving for doing their job that Mr. Brinkley is “insulted” by.
“They should stop acting like we should be grateful that they adopted things that they should’ve been doing all along. They owe citizens professionalism, courtesy, and transparency; we, taxpayers, don’t owe them sh*t!”
Mr. Brinkley and Mr. Anderson, who both today by phone at different times spoke exclusively to Techbook Online about the progress the department is making with reforms, had drastically different opinions on almost everything, including the incoming police commissioner, Mr. Richard Ross, who yesterday finally said he’s against HB1538, legislation that would keep private the name of officers involved in shootings unless they’re charged with a crime.
Mr. Ross at the press conference Tuesday morning called Mr. Charles Ramsey, the outgoing top cop, a great chief and informed the public he won’t do anything different than his predecessor.
“That’s the wrong message to send. Everybody, especially blacks who suffered at the hands of police, doesn’t think Ramsey was the greatest,” Mr. Brinkley said.
“Ross was speaking specifically to what Ramsey has done,” Mr. Anderson stated, adding he didn’t see anything wrong with Mr. Ross’ pledge of continuity.
Mr. Anderson, however, does hope Mr. Ross is more willing than Mr. Ramsey to allow “the public to participate in new policy roll-outs.”
The point that Mr. Brinkley and Mr. Anderson happened to agree on is probably the most important one: the public must exert energy on the state level to enact meaningful change in policing.
Mr. Brinkley, who feels the unwarranted praise of the police department was an attempt to placate the public and to get them to believe problems aren’t as bad as they appeared, wants the City to prepare to fight against the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 and to reform the arbitration process (a state law), which has many times enabled cops fired by Mr. Ramsey to regain employment.
Mr. Anderson wants to see a coalition of pro-police reform advocates put forth bills in Harrisburg.
“We’ve haven’t done that yet here in Pennsylvania,” he said.
Keep a look out in January 2016 for an NPR Music documentary starring Grammy Award-Winner Mr. Christian McBride and co-starring Mr. Christopher “Flood the Drummer” Norris.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™