City Council poised to cut $33M from Philly police, implement reforms

Protesters at Dilworth Park
Photo credit Kristen Johanson/KYW Newsradio

UPDATED 2 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Philadelphia City Council committee, in the middle of the night, gave the thumbs-up to a $5 billion budget deal that would slash $33 million from the Philadelphia Police Department and pay for law enforcement reforms.

The city had to address a $750 million budget gap, created, in large part, by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Mayor Jim Kenney said Thursday that it pains him to reduce some services and lose hundreds of jobs, but the deal helps protect the city's most vulnerable and creates some flexibility.

The cut to the police budget is actually $14 million more than what the mayor and Council proposed last week.

This extra savings comes from moving the cost of public safety officers and crossing guards to the managing director’s office.

With that comes a call for changes, including body cameras, implicit bias training, a police oversight commission and a deputy inspector general to handle police issues.

He calls the spending plan "both reckless and irresponsible under the guise of police reform."

McNesby says the department looks forward to "the day of responsible budgeting and reform that will best serve all the residents of Philadelphia."

Council President Darrell Clarke says Black Lives Matter protests and political unrest in the city following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and responses to the health crisis, have shined a spotlight on the disparities that have existed — and a new normal needs to address that. 

Part of that new normal: $25 million for anti-poverty measures and $20 million for the Housing Trust Fund.

Kenney said the most difficult decisions were examined through the lens of racial equity.

"The budget intentionally limits the impact of service delays or cuts on people of color, who are disproportionately impacted by the virus and already suffering from decades of systemic inequality," he said Thursday.

And some arts-and-culture cuts that caused outrage would be undone, including $1.35 million that the Cultural Fund and the African-American Museum in Philadelphia would otherwise have lost.

There are also some tax increases to watch out for. Nonresident wage tax will inch up to 3.5% (from 3.44%), and the parking tax would go up to 25% (from 22.5%).