Highlights challenges and opportunities for reimagining policing and improving police/community relations.
For immediate release: Tuesday, October 18, 2022
Contact: Jolene Nieves Byzon, 215-300-1071
Philadelphia, PA – Today, the Office of the City Controller released its Review and Analysis of the Philadelphia Police Department and Other Related Police Spending. The review, which was initiated in response to a request by Philadelphia City Council’s Police Reform Working Group, sought to provide transparency into how PPD spends its budgeted funds and deploys its available resources. The report identified many organizational and operational challenges, including officer staffing shortages; lack of evaluation of Operation Pinpoint, the department’s main crime fighting strategy; inequity in 911 response times depending on the neighborhood you live in; a convoluted city system for monitoring and investigating officers out with Heart and Lung cases; outdated systems and processes; and more.
“The Philadelphia Police Department is a vital public safety agency with an extremely difficult job. My goal with this report is to improve public safety by highlighting operational challenges and shortcomings and making recommendations for organizational change to ensure police have the framework needed to do their job well,” said City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart. “This report provides a path forward to revamp policing and build trust with the communities it serves. People should feel safe in their neighborhood, no matter where they live, and this report is an important step toward that.”
The Controller’s Office engaged Stout, an advisory firm with expertise in accounting and analysis of public finance, including experience with large government agencies, to conduct the review with support from Center for Policing Equity, a leader in the assessment and analysis of policing activities and equity, and Horsey, Buckner & Heffler, a minority-controlled financial firm.
PPD’s staffing levels have decreased in recent years, from 6,590 filled uniform positions at the end of FY19 to 5,983 at the end of FY22. Recruitment is not keeping pace with attrition. Total officer attrition increased from FY17 to FY22, from 270 officers to 408 officers, whereas PPD recruit classes have decreased, averaging just 175 graduates in FY19, FY20, and FY22. The report analyzed staffing trends and found that PPD’s uniform staff will continue to decrease without significant improvement in officer retention and recruitment.
The number of uniform staff available for duty is further reduced by officers who are unable to work as a result of injured on duty (IOD) claims. When accounting for IOD claims, PPD had 5,411 officers available for duty at the end of FY22, 572 officers fewer than the filled uniform positions and more than 1,000 fewer than budgeted uniform officers in FY22.
A major factor in IOD claims is Heart and Lung, which refers to the independent benefit created by the Pennsylvania State legislature that provides eligible individuals temporarily injured in the performance of their duties with their full salary, tax-free, while on leave. In trying to determine the impact of Heart and Lung cases, we found that Heart and Lung cases were not tracked independently of IOD cases. The process for Heart and Lung, including investigation of potential abuse was convoluted, with unclear roles and responsibilities for PPD, Finance Department’s Office of Risk Management, and Risk Management’s third-party program administrator. The report noted inadequate data collection and analysis, limited oversight from both the City and State, and a reactive investigatory process rather than a proactive process in which potential abuse is identified and investigated.
Officers unavailable to work due to IOD further reduced the number of officers available for deployment. Of the 6,000 officers, only 2,500 officers are assigned for patrol resulting in a total officer headcount by district ranging from 70 to 190. After accounting for officers out on IOD, as well as other types of leave like vacation and sick time, the number of officers available are scheduled across three shifts. This resulted in an average of approximately 11 officers assigned to low crime districts and 22 officers assigned to high crime districts at any particular time from FY 2017 to FY 2022.
Operation Pinpoint is PPD’s primary crime fighting strategy. It was launched in January 2019 as a pilot program with seven grids, but rapidly expanded to 45 grids throughout 2020. The review found that the rapid and dramatic expansion of Operation Pinpoint may have impaired PPD’s ability to effectively implement it. Additionally, a formal, independent evaluation of Operation Pinpoint has not been conducted, nor did PPD indicate that a complete, robust evaluation was underway.
The review analyzed 911 response times, finding that the percentage of 911 calls answered within 10 seconds dramatically decreased from 95% in 2017 to just 68% in 2021. While the decline was most significant between 2020 and 2021, PPD had not met its goal of answering 90% of 911 calls within 10 seconds since 2018. The review also analyzed dispatch times by police district, finding that districts with the highest population of white residents had response times more than twice as fast as the districts with a majority of nonwhite residents.
As part of the review, the Controller’s Office provided a series of recommendations to PPD to improve operational and organizational operations and efficiency. Key among them, the report recommends that PPD strategically allocate resources in a way that is responsive to the voiced concerns and needs of the communities it serves. This approach would differ significantly from PPD’s current budgeting and spending approach which relies on historical spending levels and lacks strategic analysis of resource deployment to address needs.
The full report, including PPD’s response to the review, is available here. A quick guide to the report is available here.
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About Center for Policing Equity
The Center for Policing Equity (CPE) is a 501c3 non-profit that uses data science to empower vulnerable communities-particularly Black communities-to partner with decision-makers on redesigning public safety systems that facilitate bold, innovative, and lasting change.
About Horsey, Buckner & Heffler, LLP
Horsey, Buckner & Heffler, LLP (HBH) is a minority-controlled firm providing assurance, tax and advisory services. As an affiliate of Heffler, Radetich, & Saitta LLP, HBH provides its diverse client base with a broad range of value-added services through a cost-effective delivery model. Headquarted in Philadelphia, PA, our team serves closely held businesses, not for profit organizations, governmental agencies, corporate entities, high-net-worth individuals, and professional athletes.