New police oversight commission approved by City Council

Philadelphia City Hall.
Philadelphia City Hall. Photo credit Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — On Thursday, Philadelphia City Council passed a bill that dissolves the current Police Advisory Commission, replaces it with a Citizens Police Oversight Commission and beefs up its powers.

Voters approved creation of the new commission last November.

The bill that Council passed establishes how the nine members will be chosen.

City Council will appoint a nominating panel. The mayor will take public recommendations, conduct interviews and send nine names to Council for approval.

The bill also lays out the commission's powers, including access to crime scenes, witness and officer interviews, all records and databases, and the right to subpoena evidence and testimony.

“We have an opportunity to build and launch a ship,” the bill’s sponsor, Council member Curtis Jones, said before the vote.

“But even with the passage of this ordinance, we still have to fuel that ship through properly giving it a budget so that it can sail beyond what we do here today.”

Jones estimated the new commission will cost about $17 million to build up through July of 2022. The previous commission had a budget of $500,000 and a staff of six. It was seen as ineffective in investigating and disciplining officers, since it was purely advisory.

Jones proposed the new Oversight Commission during last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. It was intertwined with other police reform legislation including public testimony on the police contract and a ban on officer use of potentially fatal restraints.

"This is a great start. I think it’s a comprehensive bill," said Council President Darrell Clarke, who said there is still more to do.

The measure passed 16-1, with Council member Brian O’Neill, who represents the Northeast, voting no.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio