Mr. Jim Kenney, when pressed by Black Lives Matter activists at a town hall, said he wouldn’t support a state law that shields the names of cops involved in shootings.
All hands on deck is the message from the head of the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission to the citizens of the city referring to a police anti-transparency bill, passed with bipartisan support in Harrisburg, that would keep private the names of cops connected to fatal officer-involved shootings unless they were charged with a crime.
Mr. Kelvyn Anderson, who has been calling for transparency long before it became a national trend and who is just now beginning to have access to areas and files once closed-off to his agency per recommendations made by the Department of Justice, suggested to me that if this bill, which is backed by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, passed in the senate, then it’ll not only negatively impact his work but the community at-large.
“Hiding things is never good,” he said, as we talked on Thursday about recent cases in Philadelphia and elsewhere that show how awfully tense things can be when the public isn’t granted an opportunity to view materials related to fatal officer involved shootings—videos, reports and employees’ names—that they, as the funder of salaries earned by government workers, own.
“The civilians are in charge of the police, not the police in charge of the civilians,” Mr. Kenney said to me the day after he became Mayor-Elect of Philadelphia.
Despite receiving the endorsement of the FOP Lodge #5, Mr. Kenney’s narrative on policing and civilian oversight in Philadelphia has remained consistent and optimistic: recruiting officers who exude courtesy and ensuring Mr. Anderson’s agency has “resources and credibility.”
In late April of 2015, as a front-runner candidate, Mr. Kenney at a Mayoral Forum themed around police and criminal justice reform said he wants to raise the budget for the PAC to “1.5 million over three years.”
Mr. Kenney, however, hasn’t been equally vocal on the issue of transparency, though he did at the Mayoral forum on April 29th co-organized by Techbook Online pledge his support for Brandon’s Law, a legislation named after Mr. Brandon Tate-Brown – who was shot and killed while unarmed and fleeing on December 15th, 2014, by a Philadelphia police officer whose name was kept secret for months—that would “require the Philadelphia Police Department to publish and archive the names of every police officer who shoots and kills a citizen, along with the detailed accounts of each fatal officer-involved shooting, including the ruling from the firearms review board and the District Attorney.”
Whereas, knowing fully Mr. Kenney’s stance on transparency is of the utmost importance as House Bill 1538 seems to have a chance at becoming law, Black Lives Matter activists organized themselves on Friday to question him about it while educating the community to its potential impact.
“How do you plan to maintain transparency and accountability if the bill passes?,” Mr. Asa Khalif, a cousin to the Tate-Brown family and well-known black radical, asked Mr. Kenney yesterday at Strawberry Mansion High School, where the last in a series of neighborhood town hall meetings organized by Mr. Kenney and members of his transition team took place.
According to Mr. Khalif and Mr. Ari Merretazon, a Vietnam veteran and celebrated activist who was in the audience, Mr. Kenney said he wouldn’t follow the law if it’s passed.
Unable to give an equally concrete answer when questioned about the bill a few weeks ago was incoming Philadelphia Police Commissioner, Mr. Richard Ross, who seemed well-liked by Mr. John McNesby, the president of the police union.
“I’m not ready to weigh in on it as of it yet, Mr. Ross said on November 11th to a reporter, citing that “there’s plenty of time” to talk about it with Mr. Kenney and the transition team.
The only thing is, there isn’t plenty of time, and that fact, compounded with Mr. Ross’ unwillingness to go on the record with a solid answer, has angered Mr. Khalif, who was “impressed” with Mr. Kenney’s calm demeanor at Friday’s town hall when things got a bit tense on this issue, but was disappointed Mr. Ross wasn’t present.
Mr. Khalif thinks Mr. Ross made a deal of some sorts with the FOP, and that’s why he won’t speak out on, or about House Bill 1538.
“It’s not an exam, it’s a yes or no question,” Mr. Khalif stated, “we’re not going to tolerate that level of dismissiveness.”
Mr. Khalif said if Mr. Ross is unprepared to discuss this bill, then he should prepare himself to encounter the movement.
Mr. Khalif and his comrades weren’t disruptive at last night’s event, though tensions was certainly high, Mr. Merretazon said, adding the activists “did a good job” informing the public about the bill.
“Only four people in that room in North Philadelphia heard of the bill,” Mr. Khalif said.
By the end of the night, people had physical information about the bill, one flyer even had a script for those who want to call Pennsylvania Governor, Mr. Tom Wolf and demand he go record and say he’ll enact his veto powers if it reaches his desk.
“The governor’s silence is scary,” Mr. Khalif, who’s planning a rally and protest march in Center City Philadelphia on the year anniversary of Mr. Tate-Brown’s murder, told Techbook Online by phone this morning in an exclusive interview. “This bill is f*cking scary,” he added.
‘Exploring Generations of Black Activism,’ a live broadcast featuring black male thought-leaders on Saturday, December 19th, 2015 beginning at 1pm EST and heard exclusively on www.TheDrVibeShow.com, will be moderated by Christopher “Flood the Drummer” Norris.
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