Feb 17, 2023 - News

Philadelphia is considering a new public safety post

Illustration of Philadelphia City Hall with lines radiating from it.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: BasSlabbers/Getty Images

Philadelphia is weighing whether to create a new chief public safety director post amid elevated levels of gun violence and homicides.

Driving the news: City Council put forward legislation Thursday that would allow voters to decide on establishing the role and adding it to the city’s Home Rule Charter.

  • The legislation must be approved by mid-March to make it on the May ballot.

Why it matters: Gun violence in the city has remained at record levels for the past three years, and impacts the city's economy, budget, and residents' mental health.

The proposal also comes in an election year when the entire 17-member City Council is up for election, along with the mayor, sheriff and others.

Details: If created, the public safety director would be part of the mayor’s cabinet and would coordinate efforts among agencies including the police, fire and prisons departments, as well as the recreation department and schools.

  • The mayor would appoint someone to the role, subject to approval by legislators.
  • The annual salary would be $265,000.

Zoom out: Several other large cities have similar public safety directors, including Chicago and Columbus, Ohio.

Between the lines: The relationship between the city’s top leaders and progressive District Attorney Larry Krasner has been strained for years over how to address crime.

What they’re saying: Councilman Curtis Jones, who introduced the proposal on behalf of Council President Darrell Clarke, tells Axios the city needs a different approach to public safety and the new role could “break down those silos” existing among departments.

  • “We’ve got to coordinate this thing better,” he said.
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