By Michael Wheeler
PHILADELPHIA, PA—The police reform movement, back in the spotlight after Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd earlier this month, has picked up steam in Philadelphia after District Attorney Larry Krasner threw his weight behind reforms that would provide greater oversight of the Philadelphia Police Department.
Krasner said he wants them to provide greater transparency and accountability over the force.
The reasoning for support of the reforms mirrored that used in the Chauvin trial: the reforms were not targeting the police department, but were instead about removing bad cops from the force in an effort to regain the trust of the community and support cops who behave lawfully.
Assistant District Attorney Tracy Tripp, who oversees the department in the district attorney’s office in charge of prosecuting law enforcement officers who break the law, expressed solidarity with lawful officers.
“The vast majority of law enforcement officers joined the force because they wanted to make a positive difference in the world. They don’t want to work with, or for, people who abuse their power or break the law. But they are also stuck in a system that has too often turned a blind eye to or offered excuses for misconduct within the ranks, and historically has been none too kind to officers who speak out or ask for change,” Tripp said.
However, Tripp also argued that change had to come from the outside, “with outside civilian oversight leading the way.”
Krasner elaborated on Tripp’s statement. “The overwhelming majority of officers serve with integrity. They deserve to not have to serve alongside the few officers who lie or cheat or abuse their power.”
In doing so, he also denounced the power which police unions, both nationwide and in Philadelphia, are able to exert over the disciplinary process.
He stated that the Philadelphia disciplinary process is “rigged in favor of a police union whose leadership and voting members hail from the Rizzo era [and is] the embodiment of a brutal and racist style of policing that Philadelphians reject at the ballot box at every opportunity.”
Since 2018, more than 50 cases have been opened against Philadelphia police officers who broke the law while on official duty, and 10 current or former Philadelphia officers have been arrested this year. However, disciplinary actions against officers had their consequences downgraded in 70 percent of cases between 2011 and 2019.
Two Pennsylvania state senators appeared with Krasner to signal their support for his proposed changes, as did Philadelphia city council member Curtis Jones, Jr., who last year introduced a ballot measure to provide increased civilian oversight of the Philly police department – voters passed it in November’s elections with 79 percent of the vote.
Michael Wheeler is a junior at UC Davis, where he studies History and Economics. He is from Walnut Creek, California.
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