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Philadelphia Ordered to Report on Police Reform


May-June 1997

On March 27, U.S. District Judge Stewart Dalzell ordered the city of Philadelphia to give reports to three civil rights groups on efforts to reform the Philadelphia Police Department. Dalzell said he would personally monitor the project (Mark Fazlollah, "Phila. ordered to report on police," Philadelphia Inquirer, March 28, 1997, p. B1).

In the order, Dalzell said the city must provide a report by April 30, and regular updates of progress made under a September 4, 1996 agreement to curb police misconduct. Dalzell said he would hold monthly meetings with lawyers on both sides "to assure the citizens of the city of the continued commitment of their government to what it promised."

The ACLU, the NAACP and the Police-Barrio Relations Project had complained to Dalzell that the city failed to meet an October 19, 1996 deadline for reporting on the use of force by Philadelphia police. The civil rights organizations said the report, and broader access to information about police conduct, was essential to implement reforms. Deputy City Solicitor Carlton L. Johnson said the city welcomed Dalzell's increased monitoring of the agreement.

The September settlement was prompted by the city's two-year-old police scandal, in which eight officers have pleaded guilty to corruption charges, including framing, robbing and beating drug suspects and perjuring themselves in court. So far, the scandal has led to the dismissal of 293 criminal cases and payment of $4 million by the city to settle lawsuits.

After the scandal surfaced, the civil rights groups threatened to sue the city in federal court, contending that the administration had allowed a "pattern and practice" of police abuses. But a suit, which could have led to court mandated changes, was averted by the September 1996 agreement. The agreement called for a commission to study police misconduct, and the appointment of an anti-corruption czar who would report directly to Police Commissioner Richard Neal. The city also promised to grant the groups access to information to monitor reform efforts. Johnson acknowledged that the information had not yet been provided.

At the hearing on March 27, city lawyers promised Judge Dalzell that the Police Department's "integrity and accountability officer," James B. Jordan, would soon recommend reforms of the department's Internal Affairs Division, which has been accused of bias in favor of police officers accused of abusing their authority.