The Ernest Opinion: Kenney is all talk, no walk on civilian protections from police misconduct
Our mayor’s campaign talking points aren’t matching up with his actions in office when it comes to police monitoring.
“If [elected] mayor, stop-and-frisk will end in Philadelphia, no question,” then mayoral candidate Jim Kenney told voters last April as he began to secure a huge victory over his black challenger, Pennsylvania state Sen. Anthony Williams.
Flash forward to last month when the newly elected mayor tells the press, “Pedestrian stops were going on long before Mayor Nutter placed an emphasis on ‘stop and frisk’ as a crime-fighting strategy. What we’re doing now is building upon and continuing to strengthen the Police Department’s efforts to ensure that all pedestrian stops are constitutional and applied as fairly as possible across demographic groups.”
So in other words, Kenney – who also told us how ineffective such police measurements were – is continuing the practice he said he would end. As a young black man in Philadelphia, I feel betrayed. I didn’t vote for him, but it still feels like a slap in the face to the many who switched their positions in order to do so. As one who was beginning to slowly drink the Kool-aid of a man who took very hard positions as a candidate on improving police/civilian relations – this is backward.
Across the board, stop-and-frisk has been proven to target men of color at a higher rate than other groups and has been found 87 percent ineffective in finding any possible criminal involvement from those who have been stopped. In other words, it’s an easier legal way to racially profile than to actually prevent tough crime. Our mayor knows this, and yet allows for more nuances in said practice.
But this wouldn’t be as detrimental to vulnerable members of the community if not shown so explicitly in the current proposed city budget. Last week, as many applauded Kenney’s annual budget address in City Council, nothing was said about giving aiding the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission that would help improve oversight in such matters pertaining to stop-and-frisk.
The mayor in the past has told the press that he would like to see the budget for the commission to increase by $1.5 million in the next three years – but how does that happen when only a new staffer was the only added gain this go-around? A lackluster backtracking of stop-and-frisk practices and an underfunded commission to hold such issues accountable is a backstabbing to those who put their faith in this mayor to ensure better police protocol.
Adding a proposed $550,000 to the budget for the police department to wear body cameras is admirable, but not when civilians lack a way of properly holding the police accountable. Kenney is arguably putting the cart before the horse when putting new equipment in place to monitor police misconduct – but not fixing policies and commissions that would ensure their proper use to begin with. Political talking points won’t save another life from being racially profiled in this city. Failed promises won’t ensure the safety of young black men, such as myself.
Do better Kenney, or forget many of the votes you won last election.