Philadelphia elected officials call for state, local reform of community-police relationships

PHILADELPHIA, June 2 – In the midst of civil unrest across Pennsylvania ignited by the murder of George Floyd, elected officials from Philadelphia introduced a series of much-needed reforms aimed at improving community/police relationships.

“What happened to George Floyd was a lynching. It doesn’t matter if it’s a knee or a noose, a man’s neck doesn’t know the difference,” said state Rep. Jordan Harris, House Democratic Whip. “Our city and our state are seeing its often-ignored communities lash out at the long history of injustice. Their feelings are valid, and our local and state government is overdue to acknowledge those feelings and begin to heal this festering wound and bring justice to the black and brown community.”

“George Floyd is the latest life lost at the hands of systematic racism that continues plaguing this country, and it's imperative that we act now to protect our communities of color from further heartbreak," said McClinton, D-Phila./Delaware. "I am committed to working with my colleagues in the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus to pass the necessary reforms to help law enforcement weed out and hold bad actors accountable for their actions while working to strengthen community-police relations across the commonwealth." 

“The last few days of protest and police interaction in the city of Philadelphia have brought to light many areas of policing that need to be addressed and improved across our city,” said state Rep. Jason Dawkins, chairman of the Pennsylvania House Philadelphia Delegation. “The safety of our communities and the officers who serve them should always be our top priority. Our suggested reforms begin in hopes of keeping us all safe, resident and police alike, so voices of protest can be heard while our neighborhoods and the police who are there to protect them can do their jobs and better serve each resident of Philadelphia.”

“Too many times we’ve seen police using unauthorized tactics or excessive force, in some cases leading to deaths that could have been prevented,” said state Rep. Stephen Kinsey, chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus. “Our goal is to rebuild trust between officers and the community and that starts with accountability. We need to do better.”

The reforms target actions that can be taken by the governor, the General Assembly and local city councils, and include, among other things:

  • Outlaw the use of chokeholds or any other action that constricts an airway by law enforcement.
  • Establish an independent review process for any incident law enforcement encounter that results in serious injury or death.
  • Require law enforcement to be mandated reporters of officer misconduct or corruption.
  • End stop and frisk policies that disproportionately target black and brown communities.
  • Create a deputy inspector general focused on deterring, detecting and preventing misconduct, brutality, waste, fraud and abuse within law enforcement agencies.
  • Create a civil unrest damage recovery fund.
  • Create an independent civilian-led and managed review board with subpoena and disciplinary powers to recommend internal affairs and criminal investigations.

“The simple fact is that interactions between the police and the black and brown community are broken, and far too often those broken interactions involve someone needlessly losing their life at the hands of law enforcement,” said state Rep. Donna Bullock. “We need a total overhaul with input from our community, our faith leaders, and our elected officials to ensure that we create a system that no longer perpetuates systemic racism but truly provides equal justice for all.”

“The Defender Association uses public data to analyze the reasons why police stop individuals, so we know firsthand how policing decisions impact people of color, and how that impacts public safety,” said Keir Bradford-Grey, chief defender of the Defender Association of Philadelphia. “The data is clear: making our community safer requires more accountability and transparency from the police. The public is not safe when those who are sworn to protect us abuse that authority and treat our communities with less dignity, and subject us to more harm and trauma. It’s time to put an end to the long-standing systemic racism that has overshadowed our goals of public safety.” 

“This is about police accountability, transparency and equity,” said Kevin Harden, Jr., attorney at Ross Feller Casey, LLP. “We cannot allow the FOP to walk into conference rooms and negotiate diplomatic impunity. Bad cops are not more important than black lives.”

A full list of proposed reforms can be found here