By Christopher “Flood the Drummer®” Norris
3.16.17: Philadelphia – (Politics): One of the most important yet often neglected government agencies in Philadelphia, the Police Advisory Commission – which was recently augmented via a merger months in the making and is awaiting the appointment of board members: the Mayor of Philadelphia Mr. Jim Kenney in January said he’s committed to ensuring the social justice community is represented on the commission – is in limbo after its longtime Executive Director resigned and was replaced days ago with an interim employee that served in the former Mayoral administration.
A source in the Mayor’s Office said the appointment of Ms. Erica Atwood, who served as the Director of Community Engagement and later as the Director of the Office of Black Male Engagement while Mr. Michael A. Nutter – who neglected to invest in the civilian oversight agency and ensure collaboration between it and the Philadelphia Police Department, despite him being the one who, as Councilman, lobbied for its existence – served as Philadelphia’s chief executive, is very temporary; her focus is said to be drafting a job description for her replacement and neatening up the agencies infrastructure.
Yet, even with the word interim emphasized, the appointment of Ms. Atwood, who runs her own consulting firm, has caused a shift in morale within the agency, according to a source, and even a member of City Council this week told me of their concern.
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The former executive director of the agency, Mr. Kelvyn Anderson, was very much of a wonk, and was, before his resignation, pursuing the most recent, and highly coveted stop-and-frisk data in order to, among many things, measure the police department’s progress in reining the practice in: Mayor Kenney – who campaigned on eliminating the controversial policing practice that’s often executed in the absence of both probable cause and reasonable suspicion – told me in December that the public would be happy with the most recent stop-and-frisk numbers; those number have yet been released.
Mr. Anderson, who is a national thought-leader on civilian oversight, was also planning to penetrate the police department’s walled-off body camera program. Already, the absence of Mr. Anderson, who stood with me and other activists in the summer of 2016 to call for a public hearing at City Hall on body cameras, which materialized on March 13th of 2017, has been felt.
For example, Mr. Anderson was aiming for maximum community participation at the body camera hearing, and instead, the community’s participation was limited to the section for testimony rather than on a panel where they could dialogue and both answer questions from and pose questions to those on the Public Safety Committee. Moreover, in addition to no community activist or resident of the 22nd Police District, where the pilot occurred, being solicited for their testimony, no one from the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission was asked to testify – that means, on the record, only one side of the City’s policing story is documented thus far.
No estimated date has been stated for when a full-time replacement of the PAC will be chosen. In the meantime, the agency is expected to soon engage the various neighborhoods around the issue of body camera policy and will continue to help citizens file complaints on police and investigate cases presented to it.
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