The Brief: We’ll Soon Know the Names of All Cops Who Shoot Civilians
1. The police department is going to start releasing the names of officers who fire at civilians.
The gist: City Paper reports that Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey announced in a memo yesterday that “the department will immediately begin disclosing the names of officers who discharge their firearms in Officer-Involved Shootings ‘within seventy-two (72) hours of the incident.'” According to the memo, this was one of the recommendations made by the U.S. Department of Justice in its scathing report on police shootings in Philadelphia. Also, the department will examine each case to ensure that “no threats are made toward the officer or members of their family prior to the release of this information.”
Why it matters: This is a huge victory for the family of Brandon Tate-Brown and activists who called on the police department to release the names of the two officers involved in his shooting. Tate-Brown died last year after being shot by police during a traffic stop; the District Attorney has announced he will not be filing charges against the cops involved. Ramsey initially refused to release the names of those officers, saying he was concerned for their safety. After months of protests, though, Ramsey reversed his decision last month. Now such cops will be named as a matter of course.
2. Half of Philly’s schools surveyed by the City Controller in a recent audit didn’t have working toilets.
The gist: City Controller Alan Butkovitz released a report Wednesday on the crappy conditions of Philadelphia’s school buildings. The Daily News’ Regina Medina reports that the Controller’s office discovered “evidence of asbestos in Francis Scott Key Elementary School in South Philadelphia; water damage in Samuel S. Fels High School in Crescentville; cockroaches crawling around restrooms in Central High School in Olney.” Oh, and a lot of broken toilets. More than half of the schools that Butkovitz’s team looked at did not have working toilets. “In Philadelphia, you can’t go to the bathroom during a six-hour school day?” asked Butkovitz at a news conference.
Why it matters: Jerry Jordan, president of Philadelphia’s teachers union, said that Butkovitz should send his report to lawmakers in Harrisburg who are currently debating how much money they ought to send the city’s schools. Would that make a difference, though? Any legislator who is even a little bit interested in Philly has heard plenty of stories about the poor conditions of the city’s schools. Plus, even the most ardent school supporters, I think, suffer from fatigue from such horrible reports. As has been noted by Citified previously, we see it in our traffic (or lack thereof) on articles about schools and education funding. How can information about Philly’s schools be presented in such a way that gets people’s attention? It’s a question for journalists as much as it is for the City Controller, other local officials and education activists.
3. How can Philly end its epidemic of tax delinquency?
The gist: In a story for The Next Mayor project, Ryan Briggs proposes a few different solutions aimed at helping Philadelphia do a better job collecting taxes. About 100,000 properties in the city currently owe roughly $500 million in unpaid taxes and fees to the city and school district. His potential fixes include offering payment plans to all taxpayers (not just low-income homeowners), simply reminding taxpayers to pay their bills more often, and setting up automated online payments.
Why it matters: These are all ideas that are worth exploring. Here’s another: The city government held a tax lien sale last month, and though the sale itself wasn’t all that successful, the letters that it sent out warning delinquent property owners of the impending auction were very effective. They prompted 1,419 deadbeat owners to pay their taxes in full. The city should look into whether it can increase compliance by simply writing harsher letters to deadbeats (and perhaps doing so more frequently), which stress that their properties’ debts could be sold to a third party if they don’t pay up.
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