Minutes before a press conference regarding body-worn camera (BWC) policies was to be held on the steps of the Roundhouse at 750 Race Street in response to an unanswered question regarding the inclusion of civil rights activists in BWC policy development, a communication from the Philadelphia Police Department eight days in the making was released to Techbook Online and it contradicts a statement on the subject matter authored by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The PPD contends, according to its statement, that community input was considered in the development of the department’s BWC policy, yet the DOJ, in its published assessment of the department, said that “recent conversations with the PPD indicate the PPD BWC policy was developed by a multidisciplinary working group within the PPD that included a representative from the Fraternal Order of Police.”
Mr. Kelvyn Anderson, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission, was among those today who spoke before the news media on the steps on the PPD’s HQ and he confirmed that his agency has been excluded from the policy development process altogether, despite the PPD’s claim that “agencies that help safeguard civil rights” contributed to the policy’s best-self. To date, Mr. Anderson – who announced this afternoon that he’s asked his board for permission to quickly convene public hearings on this issue – hasn’t been given a reason as to why neither he nor his colleagues, let alone the advocacy community, aren’t viewed as assets in the BWC policy development process.
“We need a broad discussion on how body cameras will work and what the retention period is and the other specifics of how body cameras will be utilized in Philadelphia,” Mr. Anderson, who talked with the police chief of Spokane, Washington, and learned of the success they had with establishing BWC policy in conjunction with the community, told the news media. “We need to re-establish trust between our communities and the police department which serves them; one of the most important ways of doing that… is to allow citizens to have input into the policies that directly impact them.”
Mrs. Tanya Brown-Dickerson – whose eldest son, Mr. Brandon Tate-Brown, was killed in December of 2014 by a Philadelphia police officer –said she would love to be included in the BWC policy development process but doesn’t feel good about her chances if not even Mr. Anderson, a civilian oversight practitioner who as of late has been traveling the nation as a thought-leader, is being accommodated.
Mrs. Brown-Dickerson, who has made a few campaign stops with Mrs. Hillary Clinton as apart of the ‘Mothers of the Movement,’ compared the PPD’s behavior to that of a “rebellious teenager.”
The Department of Justice in March of 2015 issued a recommendation to the PPD which is quite clear: “The PPD should collaborate with the multiple stakeholders in the development of policies and protocols for use of BWCs.” By its own admission, the PPD didn’t collaborate – which means to WORK jointly – with the public, specifically civil rights activists, to develop policy but rather met with “various community members, groups and organizations” to discuss a myriad of “concerns, practices and policies.”
Mr. Anderson implied that the PPD’s response wasn’t good enough and that a big, new policy, like that which will govern BWCs, can’t be established via a conversation or two with select groups of people whose name and affiliations haven’t been made public.
The City of Philadelphia, under the leadership of then Mayor Michael A. Nutter, promised the public that all recommendations from the DOJ as well as those authored by the President’s Taskforce on 21st Century Policing would be implemented. Mr. Asa Khalif of the Pennsylvania chapter of Black Lives Matter called on the City keep its promise.
“If you truly want to mend some of the hurt in communities, honor your word,” Mr. Khalif, a cousin to the late Mr. Tate-Brown, said.
Mr. Khalif said today’s press conference organized by Techbook Online forced the hands of police officials who would have otherwise stalled on releasing a statement for a long as possible. If meaningful change isn’t seen soon, Mr. Khalif assured me that the coalition formed today would again apply pressure.
Mr. Greg Brinkley, a private investigator who worked on the Tate-Brown case and who formerly served as the President for the Philadelphia chapter of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, said the Mayor should be acquired into the conversation and petitioned to direct his Police Commissioner, Mr. Richard Ross, to be transparent.
A member of the PPD, who spoke to me off-the-record, agreed with Mr. Brinkley, saying that though Mr. Ross has good intentions, on this issue it’d be best to go over his head.
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Photo courtesy of the author.