Tenants and housing activists will gather in Center City Monday to renew calls to abolish Philadelphia’s Landlord and Tenant Office.
Organizers expect hundreds to attend the afternoon protest outside Philadelphia Municipal Court on Chestnut Street, the building where the landlord-tenant court is located.
“We are demanding the permanent end of the landlord-terrorist officer eviction system. It’s dangerous and it serves no useful purpose for legal evictions or public safety,” Asantawaa Nkrumah-Ture, a member of the Justice 4 Angel Davis Now Campaign, said.
The protest comes days after Marisa Shuter, the city’s landlord-tenant officer, announced her office would resume evictions after a temporary suspension. In mid-July, Shuter agreed to halt evictions until all her armed deputies were “appropriately trained in de-escalation and use of force.” This after a string of high-profile shootings by these private contractors, including one that sent a woman to the hospital in critical condition.
The woman, Angel Davis, is now suing Shuter and the deputy who allegedly shot her. Latese Bethea, who was shot in the leg during an eviction in Kensington, has filed a similar lawsuit.
To Nkruma-Ture, the for-profit office is beyond repair.
“If they were committed to safety, they would have done things safer from the beginning,” she said. “They were only concerned about greed and making money.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Shuter said the office will resume evictions “on or after” Aug. 21 with the help of new deputies with “experience serving as Pennsylvania Constables.” Constables are elected officials outside of Philadelphia that serve six-year terms. They are sworn law enforcement officers.
For now, the office will deploy two teams, each consisting of a deputy landlord-tenant officer and a certified constable sworn into service by the president judge of Philadelphia Municipal Court.
“In the future, schedules showing dates and times of evictions for the following week will be shared via email with any tenant action group or other interested stakeholder wishing to receive it and with all tenants who make inquiry of the office,” Michael Neilon said.
All deputies will also be told to “cease and desist from evicting, as the personal safety of officers permits, if unexpected issues arise,” according to the statement.
While the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office performs some evictions, historically, many more were carried out by the Landlord and Tenant Office because it could generally do them faster and at less of a cost. The entities now charge the same amount — $350, according to a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office.
Until now, deputy landlord-tenant officers were not sworn law enforcement officers.
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