May 6, 2022 - News

Philly's new Citizen Police Oversight Commission takes shape

Illustration of a police cap on dark background under spotlights.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

The era of the city's new Citizen Police Oversight Commission (CPOC) is inching closer.

What's happening: The nine-member board made up of volunteers from across Philly met for the first executive session last week following their official appointment by City Council.

Why it matters: CPOC is probably the most significant and long-lasting police reform that city officials put in place following the demonstrations over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020.

  • The new commission has more powers to investigate police conduct, shootings and use-of-force incidents than the Police Advisory Commission it's replacing.
  • Those powers include the ability to issue subpoenas to compel officers to participate in the commission's investigations.

Zoom in: The process of transitioning the Police Advisory Commission to CPOC is expected to take months.

  • The new commissioners, who are unpaid, are now tasked with weeks of training around police policies, codes and procedures, among other things.
  • Commissioners must appoint a chairperson and vice chairperson among themselves and select an executive director from outside the group.

What they're saying: CPOC commissioner Jahlee Hatchett told Axios members are now determining what the commission will focus on when it gets up and running.

  • "From my perspective, law enforcement was born out of a need from the community, and law enforcement should always be community based," Hatchett said.

Commissioner Rosaura Torres Thomas expects the commission will boost police transparency, particularly around investigations into officer misconduct.

  • "I think things are going to be more revealed to the public and our communities than it has been in the past," said Torres Thomas, who's also an activist.

What to watch: The new commission is slated to receive $2.4 million under Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, beginning July 1, according to an administration spokesperson.

  • That budget figure, which is far less than some activists have pushed for, is subject to change as the administration negotiates a spending plan with legislators.
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