Resolution Supporting A Philadelphia Home Rule Charter Amendment To Create An Independent Police Advisory Commission

WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission is the culmination of years of work by civic groups, religious leaders and civil rights organizations regarding police-community relations in Philadelphia;

WHEREAS, Philadelphia was a leader in the establishment of a mechanism to deal with police-community relations as early as 1958, when Mayor Richardson Dilworth established the Police Review Board ("Board") by Executive Order, appointed several prominent Philadelphians as Commissioners, and established the goal of improving police-community relations;

WHEREAS, Mayor James Tate continued Mayor Dilworth's leadership and appointed prominent Philadelphians to serve as Commissioners and to support the work of the Board; but, unfortunately, the Board had a very small budget, no investigators (relying on the Police Department to conduct investigations), no subpoena power, no regulations and no established procedural rules among, other deficiencies;

WHEREAS, the Board was unsuccessfully sued by the Fraternal Order of Police in 1959, 1965 and 1967 in an effort to thwart its investigation of complaints against police officers but which wasted its scarce resources, discouraged people from filing complaints, and froze its investigations;

WHEREAS, the legal problems surrounding the Board interrupted its functioning and ultimately Mayor Tate disbanded it on December 22, 1969 by Executive Order;

WHEREAS, the Kerner Commission, created by the federal government in the wake of serious disturbances in many cities in the United States in 1968, recommended civilian review boards as a means to control police abuse, determined to be a major cause of urban civil unrest in the late 1960's;

WHEREAS, Philadelphia had no civilian review of police activities for nearly 25 years and complaints against police officers were filed with the Police Department's Internal Affairs Division, which the public perceived as an ineffective system;

WHEREAS, following public hearings on the issue, Mayor Edward Rendell established, by Executive Order in October 1993, a Police Advisory Commission;

WHEREAS, the Police Advisory Commission performs a vital role in the community by providing a venue for citizens to bring their concerns about police conduct to a body that is independent of the Police Department;

WHEREAS, the Police Advisory Commission's status as a creature of an Executive Order has hampered its effectiveness because of its dependence on the Mayor to appoint Commissioners and provide a budget;

WHEREAS, the Police Advisory Commission, due to changing political winds, often had insufficient numbers of Commissioners to constitute a quorum and thus was unable to conduct any business for extended periods of time;

WHEREAS, the budget of the Police Advisory Commission has remained stagnant for over 12 years and is not commensurate with other cities with smaller police departments and population;

WHEREAS, the Police Advisory Commission would be more fully independent of the vagaries of politics and be able to obtain budgets more in line with the size of the Philadelphia Police Department and the population of Philadelphia if the city's Home Rule Charter were amended to create an independent Police Advisory Commission and provide for its funding and to empower City Council to provide by ordinance for the appointment of the Commission and its powers and duties.

NOW,THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Philadelphia Bar Association supports the establishment of an independent police advisory commission and supports amendment of the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter to create an independent police advisory commission.

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Chancellor shall communicate the substance of this Resolution to the Mayor, members of City Council, and any other persons deemed appropriate, to effectuate its purposes.