April 03, 2022
Philadelphia lawmakers are considering efforts to bolster the police department in an effort to deter crime, nearly two years after freezing the police budget in the wake of widespread protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a now-convicted Minneapolis police officer.
On Thursday, Mayor Kenney revealed his $5.6 billion budget proposal, which, among other things, includes an estimated $23.7 million increase in funding for the Philadelphia Police Department. The police budget currently sits at $727 million, and has remained flat since 2020.
On Wednesday, Councilmember Cherelle Parker revealed her own plan to boost the city's police presence. Her five-point community policing initiative would combine the city's current violence prevention initiatives with wider police presence in every part of the city in order to reduce violent crime rates.
"It is time to reimagine policing in Philadelphia and implement a true community policing plan to ensure the safety of everyone in Philadelphia," said Councilmember Parker. "I am calling for hiring 300 new beat and bike police officers, addressing quality of life issues, providing more support for victims of crime, and truly engaging the community in public safety. We have a plan that will work, and I am going to do everything I can to ensure that it is implemented across our city."
Councilmember Parker noted that homicides are not the only thing contributing to the feelings among residents that the city is "wholly unsafe," and lists carjackings, non-fatal shootings, and other forms of violent crime as proof of the surge in violence across all areas of the city.
There were 562 homicides in the city in 2021, a 60-year high for Philadelphia. As of Saturday, there have been 122 homicides in 2022, according to city data.
The decision to boost funding for the police department is a departure from the laws fast-tracked by City Council in the wake of the George Floyd killing and subsequent protests across the city in 2020.
Among the legislation passed was an ordinance that requires all new city employees — including police recruits – to live in the city for at least once year prior to being appointed to the department. Kenney told The Inquirer that the residency requirement is among the major reasons why the department has struggled to recruit and retain officers.
The city's current budget allows for 6,380 police officers, and the department is currently facing more than 400 vacancies. Parker's plan would add 125 new positions for police officers in addition to filling 175 "foot beat" officer vacancies.
Other than hiring more officers, Parker's plan includes an estimated $1 million to boost recruitment efforts and diversify the department. The plan also includes hiring public safety officers to enforce traffic and parking issues in order to provide additional support against violent crime.
Parker's plan would provide additional funding for the Commerce Department and the Streets Department to add security cameras, require the Streets Department to repair nearly 13,000 defective streetlights, and increase funding to improve corridor cleaning.
The plan seeks to start the process for implementing 911 texting in the city, and would provide support to fill all remaining 911 dispatcher vacancies, which was estimated at about 100 in October, according to 6abc.
The plan seeks to improve community engagement to prevent crime. Among these enhancements is a proposal to increase funding for restorative justice programs and other alternatives to incarceration, and enforcing youth curfews. Other proposals include long-term workforce development and increased funding for neighborhood preservation and affordable housing.
The Mayor's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, Jim Engler, Mayor Kenney's Chief of Staff, told The Inquirer that the Mayor supports "a number of things" in Parker's plan.
Parker's community policing plan already has support from several members of City Council, including Council President Darrell Clarke. Also on Thursday, Councilmember Derek Green proposed a separate effort to bolster the police department.
Green's bill would offer new trainees to the Philadelphia Police Department a series of bonuses of up to $10,000 in an effort to attract new recruits and fill the department's estimated 480 vacancies.
The proposal would split the $10,000 into three payments, including $3,000 for graduating the Police Academy, $3,000 for completing on-the-job training, and $4,000 at the end of their first year as a police officer.
The community policing plan will be discussed at length over the next several months, as City Council deliberates Mayor Kenney's budget proposal.