PHILADELPHIA - The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and its Philadelphia chapter will join a chorus of supporters today urging Philadelphia City Council to support a strong and well-funded Citizens Police Oversight Commission, or CPOC.
City Council is considering a bill to implement a ballot initiative passed by voters last fall for a new commission to replace the existing Police Advisory Commission. Council members and Mayor Kenney are considering how much power to grant the new commission and its funding level.
The legislation was introduced by Councilperson Curtis Jones, Jr., with 11 additional co-sponsors. In testimony supporting the bill before the Council, ACLU-PA Executive Director Reggie Shuford will note the importance of creating a commission that can engage in independent investigations, free from interference by the administration, and that can act as a prosecutor during disciplinary hearings.
“Let’s be clear: the problems with policing in Philadelphia and in the United States cannot be solved with one initiative or one commission,” Shuford said. “But this new commission is an important step forward. If implemented with the powers granted in this bill and with the right funding, the commission will provide another layer of accountability with the ability to root out police officers who abuse their power.”
Jones’ legislation, Bill 210074, includes several key components for strong oversight, according to the ACLU. Those include investigatory power, participation in charging decisions, the authority to function as an administrative prosecutor during disciplinary hearings, and the ability to recommend to the police commissioner what form of discipline should be imposed on an officer who commits a violation.
A recent report found that police-led investigations into misconduct have led to the dismissal of 85 percent of residents’ complaints, and, while two-thirds of complaints were submitted by Black people, the Internal Affairs Bureau was 21 percent more likely to find in favor of the resident if they were white. Another study found that, of the 71 officers who were dismissed for misconduct between 2006 and 2017, 62 percent were rehired.
Finally, a new report being released this week by the Police Advisory Commission found that, between 2015 and 2020, less than one percent of complaints filed by residents led to discipline of PPD officers.
In his testimony, Shuford will be critical of the Kenney administration’s proposed budget for the commission, which is just 0.2 percent of the Philadelphia Police Department’s annual budget of $727 million. Other major cities appropriate higher funding levels for their oversight commissions, including New York at 0.65 percent of the NYPD’s budget. In Chicago, the oversight commission’s budget cannot be less than one percent of the police department’s funding.
“The commission will be crippled if it’s underfunded,” said Lois Hagarty, president of the ACLU-PA’s Greater Philadelphia chapter. “A commission without teeth and without the right funding will be a paper tiger.”
Last week, Shuford submitted a letter in support of the legislation to City Council, which is available at this link.