In the face of major budget cuts, what are the concrete demands of #DefundPolice?
The #DefundPolice movement might see another push from residents and activists alike as Philadelphia faces down a $450-million-and-growing budget hole for 2021, reported Jeremy L for the Lilac newsletter this month.
Money and Police
Mayor Jim Kenney, who has presided over a $120-million increase in the police budget during his two terms as mayor, has done nothing to reign in the plundering of ours and our neighbors’ tax dollars on policing that three out of four Philadelphians say is bad to very bad at preventing violence in neighborhood, according to the Safety We Can Feel report.
In just 22 days in 2020, the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) under the direction of Jim Kenney, then-Managing Director Brian Abernathy, and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw spent $17.7 million on overtime for officers who beat (CW: police violence) and tear gassed protestors demonstrating against police brutality and racism.
Despite the increased scrutiny of the police budget, the department has already spent more than $41 million — 81.9% of its allotted overtime for 2021. The PPD is on track to spend $28 million more than budgeted, let alone allotted or needed, on policing this year. (Read more analysis here)
Do you have any suggestions for alternatives to policing in Philly? We want to hear from you! Email your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org and get featured next time on our newsletter. This summer, City Council will debate the Mayor’s budget; having counternarratives and proposals to keep our communities safe and money out of the FOP’s hands will be integral to realizing a just future for all of us in Philadelphia.
- Lilac General Meeting: Online on Thursday, January 28th at 6:00 PM. Check the Facebook event for details on how to join.
- Philly Bail Fund Call-a-thons: Every other Wednesday from 6:00 - 7:30 PM. The next one is on Wednesday, March 10th!
- Socialist Trivia: This week’s theme is Slavery in the Ancient World! Thursday March 4th from 6:00 - 7:30.
- Working Group Meetings: We have a bunch coming up! Check the link to see when you can join.
Local News Summaries and Links
- The debate over returning to in-person instruction came to a head this month. When Superintendent Dr. William Hite announced that elementary teachers would return to school for a February 22nd shift to hybrid classes, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) President Jerry Jordan directed teachers not to report to their classrooms. Instead, teachers bundled up and taught their students outside. Later in the week, educators and supporters left ventilation Valentines outside of Mayor Kenney’s home demanding that he take action. As a result, the District delayed the return to schools until March 1 and City Commissioners announced that the District is partnering with CHOP to vaccinate the city’s teachers. This was a significant win for teachers who are demanding vaccines before in-person education.
- A survey conducted by a coalition of community-based groups found that more than 90% of Philadelphians polled support defunding the Police. Nevertheless, the FOP is demanding increased pay for even meager reforms like wearing body cameras. It is no surprise the PPD is seeking to avoid basic accountability. This month alone, a drunk officer drove into someone’s house, a detective was accused of allowing informants to raid the evidence locker, and DA Larry Krasner refiled charges against a former officer for his June assault of a protestor.
- Pennsylvania Congressman Scott Perry helped drive Trump’s attempted coup by introducing him to Philly lawyer Jeffrey Clark who was willing to start an election fraud investigation if appointed Attorney General. Perry is a hardline member of the Freedom Caucus, the furthest right caucus in the House of Representatives.
- Jefferson Health, Philadelphia’s fastest growing healthcare monopoly, has started a new initiative requiring doctors to get donations from patients at least once a month or risk damage to their bonus. Doctors are refusing the order because they are uncomfortable with this violation of the doctor-patient relationship. Temple and Penn both declined to respond to inquiries about whether or not they have similar programs, raising questions about how widespread the practice is.
- The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine continues to be plagued by problems, especially for poor and racialized communities. Black communities in particular have been severely underserved. However, the city opted to work with “a start-up run by a mostly white, self-described group of college kids” while ignoring groups emphasizing racial equity. Some people waited as long as 7 hours for a dose of the vaccine at a 24 hour clinic run by the Black Doctors Consortium. At the state level, vaccine outreach and information appears only in English, despite the fact that more than 11% of Pennsylvanians speak another language at home.
- COVID hotels could reopen as a result of more emergency funding coming from the federal government. The hotels, which were set up to protect the city’s most vulnerable population, were shut down in January with very little notice. The residents hurriedly were moved to different sites around the city with varying liveability and safety from COVID. Activists are pushing the city to open up hotels now and request reimbursement when the money materializes, while the city is choosing to wait.