Jun 2, 2023 - News

CPOC director search back to square one after infighting

Illustration of a cracked magnifying glass over a police badge.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Citizens Police Oversight Commission is rebooting its search for an executive director following infighting and the sudden resignation of three commissioners this week.

Why it matters: The agency has been criticized for taking too long to fill key roles that could ensure more police accountability for a city that has spent more than $116 million on officer misconduct settlements. Now it could take months for the new director search to wrap up.

What's happening: The search had narrowed to five finalists, at least two of whom are former cops, and an offer was extended to Richard Rivera, who's currently the police director in Penns Grove, New Jersey.

  • Meanwhile, CPOC's current interim executive director Anthony Erace — who has led the watchdog agency since it was created two years ago — was a finalist with the backing of a member of City Council, but he was ruled out.

That outcome aggravated the three commissioners who resigned because city law says that the watchdog may not consider candidates who were employed by Philly Police or were union members while working for a municipal or state police department.

Zoom in: The remaining commissioners were peppered with questions about the process at a meeting Wednesday night.

The other side: CPOC chair Jahlee Hatchett said at the meeting that there are "different interpretations" of the law forbidding a former union cop from being offered the top job, adding that he has reached out to the city Managing Director's Office for guidance.

Yes, but: Hatchett said it was "prudent" for the agency to conduct a whole new director search because a perception of unfairness had tainted the first one.

What they're saying: Former vice chair Afroza Hossain, who resigned this week, tells Axios she felt "dismissed and gaslit" when she previously confronted commission colleagues about the hiring process.

  • "It's been horrifying to watch all of this and worry about the bad publicity and embarrassment the commission will surely face if left unchecked," she wrote in her resignation letter, which was obtained by Axios.

What's next: The commission previously tapped a hiring committee to vet candidates for the top job, but they're likely to scrap that approach in this new search to avoid claims of the process not being transparent enough, Hatchett said at Wednesday's meeting.

  • "We've seen some of our flaws," he said. "We have not been perfect in this search."

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