Philly po­lice pro­gress­ing af­ter con­cerns

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - STATE -

PHILADEL­PHIA — The Philadel­phia Po­lice Depart­ment has made a “sub­stan­tial ef­fort” to im­ple­ment re­forms in its use of deadly force and is an ex­am­ple for the coun­try amid the cur­rent cli­mate of com­mu­nity and po­lice ten­sions, fed­eral of­fi­cials said Fri­day.

The city’s po­lice depart­ment had been part of a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort with the Depart­ment of Jus­tice’s Com­mu­nity Ori­ented Polic­ing Ser­vices Of­fice to make changes to its cul­ture and pol­icy since 2013.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment found a trou­bled agency it said was mo­ti­vated by fear and a use of force that dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fected black peo­ple. But by De­cem­ber 2015, the Jus­tice Depart­ment praised Philadel­phia for mak­ing a re­mark­able turn­around on 91 rec­om­men­da­tions for im­prove­ment.

In an in­terim re­port Fri­day, the fed­eral of­fice’s di­rec­tor, Ron­ald Davis, said the Philadel­phia po­lice have com­pleted 61 of the rec­om­men­da­tions — up from 21 about a year ago — and has made “demon­stra­ble progress” on 22.

“We will never get com­fort­able,” said Philadel­phia Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Richard Ross. “This does not mean we’re at the fin­ish line. This is the path we need to take, and we’re will­ing to do that. We do re­al­ize there are is­sues in polic­ing.”

Of­fi­cer-in­volved shoot­ings have steadily de­clined in Philadel­phia over the past decade. In 2007, there were more than 60. In 2015, there were 23.

City of­fi­cials an­nounced this month that vi­o­lent crime is at its low­est in Philadel­phia in a gen­er­a­tion. Also, the amount of shoot­ing in­ci­dents re­ported in the city in 2016 was 1,591 — the low­est to­tal in six years. But the num­ber of shoot­ing vic­tims was 1,280 — the high­est num­ber since 2011.

Na­tion­wide, the over­all crime rate is lower now than it was 20 years ago.

The past three years have been marked by a na­tional con­ver­sa­tion and un­rest around com­mu­nity polic­ing in mi­nor­ity neigh­bor­hoods, sparked by the deaths of un­armed black males in Fer­gu­son, Mis­souri; Cleve­land; New York City; Charleston, South Carolina; and Chicago. The Jus­tice Depart­ment has an­nounced numer­ous in­ves­ti­ga­tions into such de­part­ments around the coun­try, un­cov­er­ing a cul­ture of bias, lack of trust and the need for train­ing.

The Philadel­phia depart­ment vol­un­teered to un­dergo fed­eral scru­tiny and its re­forms are vol­un­tary, not part of a con­sent de­cree.

For­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric Holder and out­go­ing At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta Lynch were both sup­port­ive of crim­i­nal jus­tice re­forms; it is un­clear whether the next at­tor­ney gen­eral un­der Re­pub­li­can Don­ald Trump, who will be sworn in next week, will pri­or­i­tize the is­sue. Of­fi­cials at Fri­day’s press con­fer­ence said they re­main com­mit­ted to con­tin­ued progress on their ef­forts.

“The po­lice re­forms will not be rolled back in Philadel­phia,” said Mayor Jim Ken­ney, who also an­nounced the es­tab­lish­ment of a per­ma­nent po­lice ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee Fri­day.

MAT T ROURKE/As­so­ci­ated Press

Depart­ment of Jus­tice’s Ron­ald Davis, di­rec­tor of the Of­fice of Com­mu­nity Ori­ented Polic­ing Ser­vices, cen­ter, looks on as Philadel­phia Mayor Jim Ken­ney, left, and Philadel­phia Po­lice Com­mis­sioner Richard Ross Jr. shake hands dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in Philadel­phia on Fri­day.

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