PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Federal officials are nearly ready to put the wraps on an 18-month review of the Philadelphia Police Department’s use-of-force policies. It followed a surge in police-involved shootings, despite a drop in the crime rate, several years ago.
The Department of Justice says the Philadelphia Police Department has completed or made satisfactory progress on more than 90% of its prescribed recommendations.:
“It’s a perpetual goal that must be earned every day, every contact, every single stop, every interaction.”
Ronald Davis of DOJ’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) said Philadelphia could “serve as a model for departments across the country.”
Police Commissioner Richard Ross says a key component will be a new Officer Involved Shooting Incident Unit for criminal investigations into deadly force incidents, while administrative use of force investigations are handled by Internal Affairs.
“We’ll be able to interview the officer far more quickly, which will help our investigations. It’ll give us more information and glean far more information more quickly than we were before.”
Going forward, police will be able to interview officers within 72-hours, closing investigations within 30-days. Previously, the department had to wait weeks or months until the District Attorney’s office determined whether to bring criminal charges.
The officer involved shootings unit will be run by a captain, three sergeants and eight detectives. The initial push for an outside agency to investigate police-involved shootings was ultimately rejected, because of a lack of resources, plus there was police union opposition.
Back in 2013, former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who subsequently lead President Obama’s policing task force, asked for the federal review.
The initial look by the COPS office in 2015 looked at what happened between 2007 and 2014, during which there were nearly 400 officer-involved shootings in Philadelphia, with an average of about one per week.
The feds have been working with Philadelphia Police over the last year-and-a-half to put into place reforms, after originally finding “serious deficiencies” in the department’s use-of-force policies and training, including inconsistent supervision of officer-involved shooting investigations.