The revamped Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission, which was announced by Mayor Jim Kenney last Friday ahead of a press conference at the Office of the U.S. Attorney where disclosed were the Philadelphia Police Department’s progress on the 91 recommendations issued by the Department of Justice, will count among its priority tasks the need to review reports germane to, and ensure compliance with, a newly established consent decree that decries the department’s treatment of the deaf and hard of hearing.
Cuffing deaf persons’ hands behind their back, making them unable to communicate, and failing to provide translators are issues Mr. Kelvyn Anderson, Executive Director of the PAC, claims he and his agency raised years ago after reviewing complaints and observing a trend; it was a complaint, according to Philly.com, that prompted the DOJ to review the matter.
Mr. Anderson said after Friday’s announcement – when the public learned the Philadelphia Community Oversight Board was merged into PAC, which also gained dollars and staff – some residents believed the agency would no longer be able to review individual complaints. The civilian oversight agency – which will soon move from its unassuming building near 9th and Spring Garden Street to footsteps from City Hall – will absolutely maintain its ability to review complaints, while gaining a more explicit role in reviewing policy at PPD.
A major policy PAC is already reviewing, and bringing out of the shadows, is that which govern body camera technology. Mr. Anderson told only Techbook Online today that the hearing at City Hall regarding body cameras will occur in the mid-afternoon of March 13th, and Mr. Richard Ross, the police commissioner, will participate; Mr. Ross has confirmed his attendance – though he and the department initially appeared hesitant months ago to organize and/or endorse such a hearing – and offered to me an explanation as to why last Friday.
“I actually look forward to the hearings, because I think you will find –and I have no doubt you will be there – that there’s a whole lot involved in these body-worn camera projects. And I think there’s a lot of people who believe you just throw on the body worn camera and just go run with. But there’s so many components; it’s such a complex issue; that I actually look forward to having that dialogue, because it’s only fair to the public, whether that be the PAC or whomever, to know all the nuances involved.”
The DOJ, from the remarks made Friday, appear satisfied with both PPD’s improved relationship with the PAC, and their implementation of a body-worn camera pilot. Other key areas of progress include updating of the use-of-force policy, recruit and in-service training and the establishment of a new unit for the criminal investigation of deadly force incidents.
“I can assure you, police reforms will not be rolled back in Philadelphia,” Mayor Kenney, responding to a question about the incoming U.S. Attorney General, said.
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Photo courtesy of the author.