Philly police seek extra $18 million for protest coverage and raises

The request is part of a larger package to reconcile the city’s budget from the last fiscal year.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw apologized for the use of tear gas on peaceful protesters on I-676

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw apologized for the use of tear gas on peaceful protesters on I-676

Kimberly Paynter/WHYY
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The Philadelphia Police Department is asking the city to provide an additional $17.7 million to cover contract raises and protest-related costs that exceeded its approved budget, according to documents reviewed by Billy Penn.

The request was tucked into a routine bookkeeping package introduced by City Council on Thursday — one of many submitted by city departments looking to balance their books from the previous fiscal year, which ended on June 30. It comes at a time of intense scrutiny over the department’s budget, and is distinct from the $14 million that the department is separately seeking to outfit officers with Tasers.

According to budget documents, the additional funding is “attributed to higher than planned costs for civil unrest and new union contracts which includes raises and a bonus starting in FY2020.”

Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration and the police union agreed to a one-year contract extension in March that included a 2.5% pay increase for officers as of May 1. Protests erupted at the beginning of June in response to police violence nationwide, leading to soaring overtime and related expenses for local police.

Other Philly public safety agencies are also seeking million-dollar injections to straighten out their books, according to the budget documents.

The Fire Department requested $16.2 million on top of last year’s budget to cover staffing costs and COVID-19 leave, in addition to an extra $24 million overtime to support staffing levels for the current fiscal year.

The Sheriff’s Office — the law enforcement arm of the courthouses, which have been largely empty this year due to the pandemic — is seeking $2.6 million more to “resolve a Class 100 deficit related to civil unrest and new union contracts.”

The First Judicial District also requested $2.5 million. Documents indicate the funding is part of a “standard year end reconciliation” for the city’s court system.

The police request has already drawn ire from reform advocates seeking to slash funding from the department. The Amistad Law Project, a public interest law center and advocacy group in Philadelphia, is one of the groups calling on Kenney to turn off the spigot.

“The police are always going to ask for more money, and it’s actually making us safer and it’s not actually fixing the problems,” said Kris Henderson, Amistad’s executive director. “The reason there are protests is because the police killed someone, so it’s kind of a slap in the face.”

A petition circulated by Amistad and other groups also specifies “no extra money for Tasers”  and “no extra money for sensitivity training.”

Fiscal watchdogs have also raised alarm about the PPD’s swollen budget and exponentially rising overtime costs under the Kenney administration’s watch. The department’s budget last year was $725 million — up 30% from when Kenney took office in 2016. Under pressure from protesters this summer, the administration walked back a police funding boost proposed in the city’s emergency coronavirus budget for the current fiscal year.

Combined with any additional money for Tasers, the new, backdated funding request, if passed, would amount to millions more than what the city rescinded last summer.

The midstream appropriations package also includes other transfer requests for the current fiscal year, FY2021 — like $8.3 million for the Streets Department to increase waste disposal services during the pandemic.

Council’s appropriations committee, which oversees funding transfers, is scheduled to meet next on Dec. 2. The meeting will be open to virtual public comment.

Next week, City Council will also hold its first public hearing on the police union contract, a new undertaking that has already drawn a lawsuit from the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5.

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