Oct 19, 2022 - News

Police budget out of sync with Philly's needs, says watchdog

Illustration of many magnifying glasses examining a police badge

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The Philadelphia Police Department's massive budget is out of sync with the needs of the community and 911 response times are longer in the city's predominantly Black and brown neighborhoods.

  • That's according to a report released Tuesday by City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart.

Why it matters: The review from the independent watchdog stems from a City Council request two years ago following protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which led Philadelphia and cities across the country to rethink policing tactics and spending.

  • It offers insight into the spending and operations of the police department over the past five years.

Driving the news: The 73-page probe found that PPD does not develop its budget — the largest of any department at $788 million — with any input from the community it serves.

  • Instead, its budget is based on historical headcounts and spending levels along with the "perceived needs" of different units and programs.
  • The result: The budget is "neither strategically developed nor responsive to or aligned with the voiced concerns and needs of Philadelphians," per the report.

Zoom in: How quickly the PPD responds to 911 calls depends on where you live in the city, with longer times disproportionately affecting Black and brown Philadelphians, according to the report.

  • Police districts with the highest concentration of white residents had dispatch response times more than twice as fast as districts with majority Black and brown residents.

Plus: The report found that Operation Pinpoint, the department's primary crime fighting strategy launched in 2019, lacks any formal, independent evaluation.

  • The rapid expansion of the program in 2020 may have "impaired PPD's ability to effectively implement it," per the report.

Of note: Rhynhart also found the department's "injured on duty" (IOD) claims have doubled over the past six years, with an average of 572 officers unavailable for duty at the end of the previous fiscal year.

  • PPD spending on IOD claims has risen sharply in recent years, up from $23.1 million in fiscal year 2017 to a projected $50.6 million last fiscal year, according to the report.

What they're saying: Rhynhart, a Democrat who's weighing a run for mayor next year, said in a statement that her goal with the report was to improve public safety.

  • "This report provides a path forward to revamp policing and build trust with the communities it serves," she said.

The other side: Kevin Lessard, a spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney, told Axios the administration continues to review the report but has "concerns about inaccuracies or inadequate context that does not show a full account of PPD’s current operations."

More findings: Read the full report and list of recommendations


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