May 17, 2023 - Politics

Philly approves new public safety boss

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Voters appear likely to approve a change to Philadelphia's charter that would pave the way for a new chief public safety director to combat soaring gun violence and homicides.

Driving the news: The measure creating the position – one of four questions on yesterday's ballot – had secured 61% of the vote, according to the Philadelphia City Commissioners office.

Why it matters: With gun violence reaching historic levels in recent years, a majority of Philadelphians polled ahead of the primary viewed public safety as the top issue.

Zoom in: The next mayor will appoint the public safety director, with City Council's approval.

  • The official will make $265,000 a year to coordinate efforts among city agencies, including police, fire and prisons departments, along with the recreation department and schools.
  • They must have five years of "senior leadership experience" in law enforcement or a similar legal background, per the ballot measure.

Catch up quick: City legislators backed the creation of the position over the objections of Mayor Jim Kenney.

  • Kenney said he was concerned the role was duplicative and it could be difficult to find suitable appointees. He attempted to sink the proposal by vetoing it.
  • Legislators overrode the mayor’s veto to get it on Tuesday’s ballot. In February, Councilmember Curtis Jones told Axios that a different approach to public safety was needed.

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


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