PHILADELPHIA - Earlier today, Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney announced his intention to rescind his proposed increase to the Philadelphia Police Department’s budget for the 2021 fiscal year and committed to a wide array of reforms, including more restrictions in the department’s use-of-force policy, the creation of an independent police oversight commission, greater transparency in regards to complaints about police behavior and internal affairs investigations, and community input on contract negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police.
The mayor’s announcement was released one day after 14 of the 17 members of City Council told the mayor in a publicly released letter that they would not support the proposed $14 million budget increase for the department. In their letter, the council members argued for extensive policing reforms, including many of those cited by Kenney in today’s announcement.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania released a statement in response. The following can be attributed to Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:
“First city council members and then Mayor Kenney heard what people have been crying out these last two weeks and, really, for years: Policing in Philadelphia is fundamentally broken. Only bold change will fix it. We applaud these elected officials for responding to the collective outcry of the people they serve.
“If budgets reveal a city’s values and priorities, Philadelphia’s values and priorities are significantly misplaced. For years, this city has spent billions on the criminal legal system while human services have starved. The result is a police department that has engaged in abusive and racist behavior repeatedly and without accountability. It is time to minimize the police department’s responsibility and outsized presence in residents’ daily lives, to greatly shrink its budget, and shift those resources to people-oriented services.
“Another way to increase public confidence in an institution where there is very little is to hold accountable those officers who have inflicted brutality on people who have been in the streets these last two weeks. We call on Commissioner Outlaw, Mayor Kenney, and District Attorney Krasner to do that immediately. In the city where the concept of free speech was first put to paper, there is no place for officers who have no respect for fundamental constitutional rights.”