Mr. Jim Kenney’s parting words a year ago today foreshadowed tonight’s stop-and-frisk town hall in North Philadelphia.
Mr. Jim Kenney’s parting words to me on this day last year, after being interviewed at a Mayoral forum on police and criminal justice reform co-organized by Techbook Online, foreshadowed tonight’s stop-and-frisk town hall that I’ll co-moderate in North Philadelphia at 3259 N. Broad Street and that’ll be broadcast live on 900amWURD, the city’s only black talk media outlet, where I’m a frequent contributor.
“Keep holding our feet to the fire,” Mr. Kenney asked of me before relinquishing the lectern to his then competitor, State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams, who a day prior had received the endorsement of the Guardian Civic League, an association for black police officers.
Mr. Kenney on April 29th, 2015, spoke with firmness about his feelings on policing in the City, his relationship with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 – “I won’t always agree with John McNesby,” he said – and how reforms to the system – for example, the arbitration process – can be achieved. Without qualification, Mr. Kenney, who that day suggested that a Pennsylvania State Representative introduce changes to the law that governs work-rule changes, said that not only should corrupt cops be fired, but convicted and jailed.
“Really good cops don’t want bad cops around,” he said, adding “I’m going to have a police commissioner with the courage to fire an officer.”
To his credit, Mr. Kenney, who’s been Philadelphia’s Mayor for less than five months and who while a candidate spoke unfavorably about stop-and-frisk, has ensured the implementation of progressive discipline at the Philadelphia Police Department – which means, unlike the times during the Nutter Administration, when officers perform a pedestrian stops without reasonable suspicion, there will be consequences.
And though that’s a great development, it’s not exactly what many Philadelphians thought would be the foremost change to the policing tactic. When Mr. Kenney, who on February 16th, 2015, called stop-and-frisk an “unfortunate policy,” said if elected it would end, the many Philadelphians I spoke to took that to mean officers would no longer just randomly stop people without evidence – or in others words, probable cause – that they’ve done something illegal.
A sizable and uber vocal portion of the (black) community wants the standard of stop-and-frisk to be raised to probable cause but the Mayor and the Police Commissioner appear focused instead on ensuring stops are done constitutionally, which means based solely on reasonable suspicion.
Since being elected, Mayor Kenney has been accused of walking back his promise to end stop-and-frisk, but he contends his position on the tactic, which was the cause for a 2010 class action lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia and a 2011 consent decree between the ACLU (Pennsylvania chapter) and the Philadelphia Police Department, hasn’t changed.
Tonight’s 7pm town hall, co-organized by Techbook Online and P.O.W.E.R, is all about clarity: the people want to know where the Mayor stands on stop-and-frisk and whether or not his vision is in line with the police commissioner, who himself has said that cities don’t have the power to end stop-and-frisk due to a Supreme Court ruling in the case Terry v. Ohio, which gives officers the right to stop citizens if they have reasonable suspicion a crime has occurred or is impending.
The public – many of whom say suspicion is too subjective and that’s what leads to the random stopping of mostly black men – wants answers, meaningful change towards quality policing, and, as was Mr. Kenney’s wish this day last year, will undoubtedly on the issue of policing in Philadelphia hold his feet to the fire.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™