PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — All but three of Philadelphia’s 17 city councilmembers are demanding major changes to the Philadelphia Police Department and don’t want to give the department more millions. Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposed budget for the fiscal year 2021 includes cuts to some city programs but also includes an additional $14 million for the Philadelphia Police Department.
“Philadelphia can’t breathe.”
That is how a letter sent to Kenney and signed by 14 members of City Council begins.
Firstly, it insists that the $14 million proposed increase to the police department budget for fiscal year 2021 shouldn’t happen.
“We also want to make sure there is a balance when it comes to resources,” Councilperson Kenyatta Johnson said.
According to Johnson, the police department’s budget is currently around $750 million, consuming nearly 17% of the city’s total operating budget.
“That $14 [million] could go into those areas that actually take pressure away from the work that officers are already overburdened in doing,” Johnson said.
“We are asking police officers to address social problems that could be better addressed by social workers, health care providers, education,” Councilperson At-large Kendra Brooks said.
Policy changes that promote transparency within the department were also listed in the letter, such as reinstating a residency requirement for officers.
“We need to make sure that if this is the place you choose to serve and protect that it’s a place that you call home as well,” Brooks said.
Another policy recommendation includes “explicit prohibition of sitting or kneeling on a person’s neck, face, or head.”
But Johnson wants it to remain clear, City Council is not pushing to disband or defund the police department, but rather to remove the proposed increase in spending on the department.
“On top of a $750-plus million budget, that we still support our Philadelphia police officers,” Johnson said.
Three city councilmembers did not sign onto the letter. The next budget hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.