Not long ago, Mr. Kelvyn Anderson, the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission, was a frustrated bureaucrat serving a Mayor who, though as a Councilman worked to establish the city’s civilian oversight apparatus, grew increasingly indifferent to it.
So blasé was the Nutter Administration to the PAC that Mr. Anderson, in attempt to gain access to data he was allowed to view, had to threaten the use of his subpoena power. Mr. Anderson was fully vindicated in March of 2015 when the Department of Justice said the Philadelphia Police Department doesn’t fully cooperate with the PAC and recommended they do the opposite.
Nearing 2016’s end, the circumstances are dramatically different for the PAC and Mr. Anderson, who weeks ago became the Vice President of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement.
An avid biker and purveyor of media, Mr. Anderson now, thanks in large part to the DOJ, sits on the Firearms Review Board – the body that analyzes and offers a ruling on officer-involved shootings – he and his investigators are called to the scenes of OISs, the PAC’s budget for independent legal counsel was just bumped up with an extra $25,000 and, any day now, City Hall will announce that the Philadelphia Community Oversight Board – established by former Mayor Mr. Michael A. Nutter to oversee the implementation of the DOJ’s recommendations – will merge into the PAC, ensuring that there’s maximum and meaningful community participation in the police reform process and that recommendations issued by the PAC are, as Mr. Anderson put it, “solid and unassailable.”
2016 “tremendously exceeded expectations,” Mr. Anderson said, pointing to one event in particular: standing with Black Lives Matter activist Mr. Asa Khalif and I to call on the PPD to hold a public hearing on body cameras, to which the mammoth agency declined.
Next week, Philadelphia City Councilman Mr. Curtis Jones, Jr., will meet with Mr. Anderson to set a date for a public hearing at City Hall on body camera technology, a measure of inclusion that, though recommended by the DOJ and others, was viewed as unnecessary by the PPD.
“A lot of people are interested in this public hearing,” Mr. Anderson told me today, which is the opposite of the PPD’s outlook: public interest wasn’t high enough on this topic to warrant a solicitation of on-the-record testimony. “Anytime the department puts new technology into place… it should always be vigorously examined,” Mr. Anderson added.
Many pages in the soon-to-be-released annual report from the PAC will be dedicated to body camera technology, and the policies that govern them. The report won’t be made public until after the official announcement of the PCOB/PAC merger, Techbook Online exclusively learned today.
“We want to present the public with the details of how we’re going to proceed with the commission,” Mr. Anderson, in a phone interview, stated.
In the immediate future, Mr. Anderson will be lobbying the Governor of Pennsylvania to veto HB1538, a bill that today passed in the Senate which would keep private for thirty days, maybe longer, the names of officers involved in fatal shootings.
Earlier this week, when I spoke to Mr. Anderson while he was in Las Vegas, he said the controversial bill would crush police transparency. When asked today, in hindsight, what should he and the City of Philadelphia done differently in terms of advocacy, Mr. Anderson said “we should have had our own bill” to put forth; “we should be proactive, not always on the defensive.”
Mr. Khalif – who said he was happy to hear of the recent developments related to Mr. Anderson, who “for too long was given the short end of the stick” – agrees on the point of a Philly-pushed bill and blames the City’s lawmakers, the Black and brown ones in particular, for neither advocating against HB1538 nor educating their constituents to its potentially negative impacts.
“They went and had a press conference to condemn Donald Trump, so why not have a press conference about this? They dropped the ball,” Mr. Khalif said.
Mr. Anderson hasn’t ruled out traveling to Harrisburg, if a hearing is held on HB1538, to voice his opposition. But is hands are quite full in Philadelphia, given the DOJ’s collaborative review partnership with the City, already extended beyond its initial completion date, will end this year once the final report is issued, yet many big changes still have not been implemented at the PPD, most notable among them is the recommendation to have a third-party investigate fatal officer-involved shootings.
Once the merger is complete, the PAC will be in an even greater position to affect change in Philadelphia policing, but that alliance still won’t be quite enough to usher in full transformation. To truly transform policing in the City, said Mr. Anderson, the public at-large will have to shoulder some of the work, too.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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Photo courtesy of the author.