Philly PD braces after Feds blast Miami deadly force
Preparing for a federal review of police use of deadly force, the Philadelphia police department’s command staff met this week with Department of Justice officials in Washington D.C.
The meeting came a day after a similar DOJ review in Miami found a “pattern or practice” of excessive force that led to a high number of shootings by police. As a result of the two year investigation, a federal judge was appointed this week to enforce sweeping institutional changes within the Miami police department.
In an interview Thursday, Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey provided some insight about the breadth of the upcoming federal review: A city police officer will be assigned full-time to handle the paperwork generated.
The Miami review was prompted by 33 police shootings that occurred from 2008 through 2011 - a span of three years.
In Philadelphia, 52 suspects were shot by police in 2012 alone, a 50 percent increase over the previous year when police shot 35 people.
Following a Philly.com report published in May, Ramsey said he invited the DOJ to review his department's policies and protocols.
Said Ramsey at the time: "When you have as many as we've had, it gets people wondering if they were all justified."
In Miami, the DOJ determined that several police-involved shootings that had been cleared by local authorities were, in fact, "unjustified" and may have resulted from “tactical and training deficiencies.”
The Department of Justice also said their review was delayed because of the Miami department’s “frequent inability to produce necessary documents in a timely fashion.”
Ramsey indicated that there would be no such delays in Philadelphia.
"They’re going to request a lot of documents," he said. "So (an officer) has been assigned full time to deal just with that."
Ramsey said the Philadelphia review likely would be modeled after a DOJ review of the Las Vegas department completed last year.
Las Vegas Sheriff Douglas Gillespie also attended the Wednesday meeting in Washington, Ramsey said, and had offered valuable advice on how to describe the review process to the public and staff.
"People have to know what you're trying to accomplish," Ramsey said. "And internal communications is an important part of that, making sure the men and women of the department understand what is taking place, because there's always some miscommunication."
Sheriff Gillespie described how Las Vegas police made changes to its investigation teams, discussed the role of police unions in investigations, the importance of reality-based training, and when and how police officers and witnesses should be interviewed.
"Other cities have the same types of issues," Ramsey said. "So we talked about those issues and how to work through that stuff."
The ultimate goal of all departments, he said, is to have officers make good decisions that will keep themselves and the public safe.
Despite a cluster of seven shootings by police in late May that killed 4, the number of police shootings are down for the year, Ramsey said, and the number of homicides has fallen 34 percent.
The city's police shootings have come with more than an emotional cost. According to a June 2 report in the Inquirer, taxpayer payments to settle lawsuits filed by shooting victims and their families has soared. The city has paid out $11.6 million since 2009 to resolve some of those suits, with annual payouts far higher than in previous years, the newspaper reported.
And several new wrongful death suits against the department have been filed in the last month.
Ramsey said the DOJ review will begin sometime during next few weeks.
"We don’t have an exact date yet," he said. "But whenever they come, we'll provide whatever they need."