Following the fatal officer-involved shooting of Mr. Brandon Tate-Brown, the Department of Justice found flaws in the Philadelphia Police Department’s use of deadly force policy and issued 91 recommendations to mitigate it. More than a year after the shooting, 90 percent of the recommendations have been completed.
Mr. Brandon Tate-Brown, a 26-year-old black man, was laid to rest a year ago Tuesday after being shot and killed by a Philadelphia police officer while unarmed and fleeing.
He was shot in the back of the head after a brief struggle because Mr. Nicholas Carrelli, a rookie on the force at the time, believed Mr. Tate-Brown, who broke free from their grips, would be able to reach his car, where a gun was said to be.
Despite there being two officers on the scene on December 15th, 2014—Mr. Heng Dang, also a rookie, was partnered with Mr. Carrelli—neither of them secured the gun when Mr. Tate-Brown exited the car as ordered, which, if that’s not a breach of policy, it is, at the very least, irresponsible.
Mr. Carrelli, a white man who claims to have feared for his life, choose not to chase Mr. Tate-Brown, his statement to Internal Affairs revealed, but rather create room between them so that he could get a good shot though he was armed with a Taser.
None of above—the failure to secure the gun, the pairing of two rookies or Mr. Carrelli’s abandonment from the force continuum (a Taser should’ve been used to subdue an unarmed man)—is considered by Mr. Charles Ramsey, the outgoing police commissioner who served the City for eight years along with Philadelphia Mayor Mr. Michael A. Nutter, as failure in training, despite three months after the shooting the Department of Justice released a candid, objective and independent review of the Philadelphia Police Department and found major flaws in their training and use of deadly force policy.
“It was a justifiable shooting,” Mr. Ramsey, who called the review process of Mr. Tate-Brown’s case fair and objective, said today during a press conference where it was announced that the police department has completed 90 percent of the recommendations laid out by the DOJ – 21 are complete and 60 are in the process of completion – leaving only nine of them, which involve contracts and collective bargaining with the unions, incomplete.
Mr. Ramsey, when talking this morning about the progress the department has made since the shooting of Mr. Tate-Brown—for example, revising use of force policies to provide clear and concise direction and amending its policy to include a stronger prohibition on shooting at moving vehicles—said he’s close to inking a Memorandum of Understanding with the Pennsylvania State Police to investigate officer-involved shootings, whether they be fatal or ones that result in injury.
When asked whether, given the public outcry around Mr. Tate-Brown’s case, it would be retroactively investigated by that agency, Mr. Ramsey said: “I’m not prepared to give a statement on that one way or another.”
Mayor Nutter has never addressed Mr. Tate-Brown’s case publicly, and today the only thing he said about it was “It’s tragic that the young man was killed.”
Though the murder of Mr. Tate-Brown sparked quite an outrage and led to a year’s worth of protests and civil disobedience, the number of officer-involved shootings in 2014 were down from 2013—when there were 11 people killed by police—and even fewer have been killed in 2015: just two fatalities reported.
The Philadelphia Police Department, according to Mr. Ronald Davis, Director, COPS (Community Orientated Police Services) Office, isn’t far off from excellence and the department will soon be used as a national model.
“What we learned from Philly will be shared with 16,000 police departments,” Mr. Davis said.
“We want the best police department in the United States of America,” Mayor Nutter said, noting that he believes Philadelphia Mayor-Elect, Mr. Jim Kenney, and incoming Police Commissioner, Mr. Richard Ross, will follow through with the remaining recommendations.
Mr. Kenney—who not only has mentioned Mr. Tate-Brown by name but has expressed sympathy to the deceased’s mother and attempted to appear at a rally last week commemorating the year since his death but had previous commitments out of town—has thus far differentiated himself from his predecessor. Mr. Ross, however, has not, and will not.
“People expect this dramatic change in leadership. We have one the greatest police chiefs in the country, why would I choose to do anything different?,” Mr. Ross stated today.
Ms. Megan Malachi, an activist with the Philly Coalition for REAL Justice, last week at the protest honoring the life of Mr. Tate-Brown said with the appointment of Mr. Ross, the city faces a “continuous era of fascism and police brutality.”
Wherever Mr. Ross is scheduled to appear, so, too, will activists be present, Ms. Malachi said.
“We’re going to ask questions and demands these cops (Mr. Carrelli and Mr. Dang) are charged,” she exclaimed.
And though Mr. Kenney has stated he supports the language of Brandon’s Law, proposed legislation that ensures the names of officers involved in shootings are made public, Ms. Malachi urged the community to “keep the pressure” on the Mayor-Elect to ensure its implemented properly.
“Nothing will change unless we stay in these streets. They don’t give a damn what we say after these elections are over; we need to keep our presence in these spaces,” said Ms. Malachi, a school teacher who has used the case of Mr. Tate-Brown as a lesson plan.
Mr. Nutter, speaking about the protests in the city, today said activists have the right to demonstrate, and as long as they’re lawful and peaceful, they can expect the cooperation of the police department, even if the police are the reason for the protest.
“They have every right to be angry and upset,” Mayor Nutter said.
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