Committee of Seventy calls for more powerful Police Advisory Commission

Posted: August 02, 2014

Reacting to the arrest of six Philadelphia police narcotics officers on federal corruption charges, the Committee of Seventy on Thursday called for replacing the Police Advisory Commission with a more powerful and independent oversight body.

"Police misconduct has become an epidemic," said Ellen Mattleman Kaplan, interim president and chief executive officer of the nonpartisan watchdog group.

"Too many officers play by their own rules and are poisoning the integrity of the entire police force," she said. "It's not fair to the majority of officers who perform their jobs honorably. It has crushed the confidence of the citizens of Philadelphia."

Kaplan did not provide specifics about how a new agency would operate differently. She did, however, push for more money to fund the commission. Kaplan said the commission's resources, a $283,000 budget and a staff of five, seem small when compared with the District of Columbia's Police Board of Complaints, which has a budget of more than $2 million.

The current advisory board exists by executive order and was created in 1994 to offer civilian oversight of the Police Department. A proposed City Charter amendment to create a permanent Police Advisory Commission has languished in City Council since being introduced in 2012, Kaplan said.

The current commission has subpoena power and can interview police, render opinions, and make recommendations, but it has no power to discipline officers. The police commissioner decides matters of discipline and can be overruled by arbitrators.

Kaplan said the existing advisory commission "has failed to accomplish its mandated mission to 'prevent future incidents of police misconduct and abuses of civil rights, reduce the amount of money needed to satisfy judgments and settlements based upon allegations of police misconduct, [and] promote public confidence in law enforcement.' "

Kelvyn Anderson, executive director of the commission, disagreed with that assessment but welcomed a "vigorous debate" about the agency and the need for increased external oversight of the Police Department.

"To say we've been completely useless is wrong," Anderson said, adding that the commission has been chronically underfunded and frustrated with its limited powers.

215-854-5983 @RobertMoran215

comments powered by Disqus