May 30, 2023 - News

Scoop: Police watchdog commissioners resign amid infighting

Illustration of a cracked magnifying glass over a divided red and gold background with broken ballot elements.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Philly's police watchdog is losing three commissioners due to growing unrest over the group's search for top leaders.

Driving the news: Vice chair Afroza Hossain and commissioners Benjamin Lerner and Maryelis Santiago have resigned from the board of the Citizens Police Oversight Commission, chair Jahlee Hatchett said on Tuesday evening.

Why it matters: The watchdog has been plagued by inner strife since being created after protests erupted over the police killing of George Floyd in 2020.

Catch up quick: The group has faced internal criticism over the pace of hiring for key roles, including executive director.

  • Tempers flared at a recent meeting when one member called out board colleagues for not following procedures before extending an offer to a finalist for the general counsel job.
  • The possible appointment of Catherine Twigg, a deputy attorney general at the Pennsylvania's AG office, was postponed and still hasn't been reconsidered.

Details: Hossain called the commission "toxic" in her resignation letter, which was obtained by Axios, and said infighting has prevented the group from fulfilling its watchdog role. The commission was supposed to have an executive director in place by December.

  • Hossain suggested the only way to fix the organization might be to dissolve and restructure it, per the letter.

The other side: Hatchett told Axios he was surprised to learn of the resignations and said he wasn't aware of any deep-seated tension among board members.

  • "The only thing that I've really observed is growing pains of an organization that it was the first iteration of," he said.

What's next: The resignations could throw a wrinkle in the hiring process but the board is still expected to have enough members to meet Wednesday.

  • Replacements for resigning commissioners are chosen by a selection committee empaneled after the mayor and council are notified of the vacancies, per city rules.

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