New Philadelphia police oversight commission nearing launch

Philadelphia City Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr. introduced the ordinance creating the Citizens Police Oversight Commission.

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After nearly two years, the creation of Philadelphia’s new and more empowered police oversight agency may be in the home stretch.

The agency, first proposed two years ago in the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, has been making slow progress, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Philadelphia City Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr. introduced the ordinance creating a police oversight agency that may be coming to fruition. (Photo: Screenshot/Jared Piper, PHL Council)

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney pledged police reforms in May 2020, and the City Council approved the new oversight agency in June 2021

Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr. — who introduced the ordinance creating the new agency — last week put forth the nominations of nine people to serve as oversight agency commissioners. The Citizens Police Oversight Commission replaces the Police Advisory Commission, which faces criticism for being ineffective.

The new commission will review citizens’ complaints, investigate alleged officer misconduct and make audit and policy recommendations. They will also have subpoena power and access to crime scenes and records.

The new committee doesn’t have a budget yet. However, it could seek $2.7 million in funding, almost three times more than the old commission’s budget, Anthony Erace, the executive director of the current advisory commission, told The Inquirer.

When the council approved the new committee, Erace acknowledged the police department’s flaws.

“I honestly think that the Police Department has known for a long time that the process was broken and needed reform,” Anthony Erace told the outlet last year. “I’ve never met anybody who said, ‘No, it’s great. It works fine.’ But there’s this feeling in government that’s sort of Kafkaesque. Everyone knows what’s wrong but doesn’t know how to fix it.”

Still, Erace said it could be years before the agency is at full staffing. 

“Slow and deliberate is better than fast and emotional,” he said.

City officials believe the new commission will make a difference. 

 “I hope it is every bit as impactful as we dreamed it would be,” said Samantha Williams, Jones’ director of policy.

The Philadelphia City Council is expected to hold a hearing as soon as next month to vet the nominees for the new police council. The new members will take their seats sometime after, marking the official beginning of the Citizens Police Oversight Commission.

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