Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney says the city plans to make civilian complaints about police misconduct available to the public online.
Kenney announced Wednesday that he’s signed an executive order to post narratives, locations and official findings of complaints against officers.
The measure is intended to increase public awareness about how the city handles complaints against the police department, he said.
Civilian complaints were available before, but required an individual request and a trip to the Internal Affairs Headquarters in Northeast Philadelphia to get one.
Under the measure, certain information — such as names of complainants and police officers — will be redacted in the online postings to maintain the safety of those involved. The policy will go into effect in November.
Civil rights attorney Paul Hetznecker said in an interview the move is a good first step toward transparency. But he said officers’ names should be including in the postings.
“They’re public officials. They’re serving a public duty,” Hetznecker said. “As a consequence their interactions with the public are public acts. And, therefore, their participation in those public acts — when they’re enforcing the law or violating the constitutional rights of civilians — should be made public.”
City spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said the posts will include important information, including the area where the incident occurred, the police district number and the outcome of the investigation.
“So you’ll kind of be able to see clusters of incidents where they occur geographically,” Hitt said. “You’ll still have the initials of the officer. And the city does release names, almost always, when major disciplinary incidents occur and always when there’s an officer-involved shooting.”
Dustin Slaughter, co-founder of the website “The Philly Declaration” that focuses on police accountability, welcomed the announcement, but agreed more needs to be done to increase transparency.
Veteran civil lights lawyer David Rudovsky also called the order “a welcome step by the city.”
“It does not, of course, address a much larger problem and issue, and that is the integrity of internal affairs investigations,” Rudovsky said. He said police misconduct investigations are hampered by what he called a “super due process” the police officers union has negotiated, which makes it hard for the department to discipline the police force.
Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby wasn’t pleased to hear about the move.
“We don’t agree with it. We don’t like it,” McNesby said. “We’re already second-guessed and third-guessed on the street. It’s just going to make our jobs harder.”
But McNesby doesn’t question the mayor’s authority to make the records more accessible. He said his members will continue to do their jobs.
HItt said the city received 682 complaints last year and 398 so far in 2017. Complaints from the previous three years are to be posted by early next year.