Will FOP Contract Hamstring Some Philly Police Reforms?

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By Kenneth Lipp and Dustin Slaughter 

Several key recommendations from the Department of Justice COPS Office for Philadelphia Police reforms may be blocked from implementation by “contractual conflicts” with the Fraternal of Police, according to a “Reform Matrix” document created by the Police Department and obtained by The Declaration.

The spreadsheet lists the 82 recommendations delivered earlier this year after a collaborative review with the Department of Justice of the PPD’s use of deadly force. According to the target dates given next to each recommendation, the Police Department should have already met basic completion criteria for about one-half. Several are due this summer. All  have 12/31/15 or prior in the target date column, with the exception of many  recommendations which have no date at all, but rather “Pending” or “N/A”

The Assessment of Deadly Force in the Philadelphia Police Department report, by George Fachner and Steven Carter for CNA Corporation, pairs the recommendations with findings about the department’s current practices. Each finding of a total of 48 include decimal point recommendations (e.g, Finding 1, Recommendations 1.1,1.2,1.3, etc).

But several components considered crucial to reform by members of the oversight community seem to have hit an impasse at prohibitive terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the City and FOP Lodge 5.

One stymied reform would have involved streamlining the OIS review process by combining the Uniform Firearm Review Board (UFRB) and Police Board of Inquiry (PBI) into one integrated board. The Justice Department’s review found that an “integrated board would eliminate the inherent conflict in the two-board system, and allow the department to speak with one voice in terms of officer misconduct and accountability.”

Two other, though no less crucial, proposed reforms involve interviewing and videotaping officers involved in shootings within 72 hours of an incident. The review concluded that because “many departments afford officers anywhere from one to three sleep cycles,” the Philadelphia Police Department “should no longer wait for the completion of a criminal investigation or the declination of charges by the [District Attorney’s Office].” Further, the review urged department shooting teams to “interview officers as soon as all other interviews have been completed but not longer than 72 hours after an OIS.”

Joanne A. Epps, Dean of Temple University’s Beasley School of Law and recently-appointed chair of the mayor’s new Police Community Oversight Board (created specifically to oversee implementation of the DOJ reforms), emailed The Declaration that PCOB “has no public position on the matter” and that “ethics rules discourage me from speaking for the Board,” when reached for comment late last week.

Another big step toward more accountability is missing from the Matrix, says Police Advisory Commission Executive Director and Civilian Oversight Board member Kelvyn Anderson.

Anderson will play an active role in most stages of the proposed reform process, as both head of the City’s civilian police oversight body, and a member of Mayor Nutter’s oversight board appointed specifically for the purpose of implementing the DOJ recommendations.

Multiple findings  of the report deal with the PPD’s history of denying the PAC access to records it needs to review complaints filed with the Commission, for example number 46: The PPD does not fully accommodate the PAC in its role of providing independent civilian oversight of police operations in Philadelphia.

Under the 47th finding, that “Distrust in the ability of the PPD to investigate itself pervades segments of the community…” and that “a lack of transparency in investigative outcomes help cement this distrust,” the report’s authors offered 3 recommendations.  The second is another which points out the need for more access by the PAC to shooting investigations.

Recommendation 47.2, “PPD should enter into an agreement with the Police Advisory Commission, allowing a PAC observer access to all pertinent documentation related to an OIS investigation,”  was due for completion according to the target date of 5/27/15. Anderson says this is not the case. A Memorandum of Understanding is still being fine-tuned, he says, and lacks appropriate arrangements with the Internal Affairs Division as well as the Commissioner’s signature.

Anderson also notes the absence of a timeline for ensuring immediate access to officer-involved-shooting scenes by a representative of the Police Advisory Commission.

“Many of the questions that have come up around Brandon Tate-Brown, and the most recent shooting up in the 35th with the gentleman who was having a seizure,” might be better answered, and to the community’s satisfaction, says Anderson, if his Commission is allowed to perform its observer function.

“We need to be on scene immediately,” he said, “as soon as the department is aware of a shooting we should be notified, and be able to observe, and question witnesses, if necessary, to do what we’re supposed to do.” This is consistent with the full recommendation in the CNA report, which reads, in part:

“PAC observers should be called out to the scene and receive a briefing from the lead investigator prior to the release of the crime scene. In addition, PAC observers should have the names of all involved persons and witnesses so they can conduct their own interviews if deemed appropriate.”

An emailed request for comment to the police department’s press spokesperson was not returned by publication.

Embedded below is the reform matrix as provided to City Council in response to questions about the 2016 department budget, it is an early draft, from which some content has been removed in the online copy.

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About Kenneth Lipp

Kenneth is a writer and researcher. He’s from Alabama, and will not apologize for it. He moved to Pennsylvania in 2012, but has been in love with Philadelphia since a late-night stroll down Ben Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum in July of 2011 with the love of his life. He is interested in telling Philadelphia’s dynamic and absolutely unique stories with the zeal of a constantly enamored newcomer. Kenneth is also passionate about government transparency and protection of whistleblowers, most notably PFC Chelsea Manning. His research and reporting on law enforcement and surveillance have been featured in various publications, including Rolling Stone (Meet the Private Companies Helping Cops Spy on Protesters) and Popular Science (Boston Tested Crowd-Watching Software That Catalogues People's Skin Color). His training is in both genetics and history and he likes the joke about being a helicase and unzipping your “genes.” He’s driven to know, and thinks you can handle, the truth. Follow him on Twitter @kennethlipp.

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