Officer Quishanna Lee (left) knelt with protesters during the summer 2020 protests

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Councilmember Derek Green will today introduce legislation that would offer new Philadelphia Police Department trainees a series of bonuses that add up to $10,000, in an effort to boost recruitment.

Offering direct fiscal rewards for officers-in-training is in line with a growing call from City Council members for more police resources — a near-180 reversal from the prevailing attitude two years ago.

Green said he was inspired by similar hiring initiatives in Seattle and Baltimore that try to combat a lack of candidates interested in becoming a police officer.

Earlier this month, Philly Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw met with other police chiefs in the region to publicize their concerns about shrinking applicant pools. At that press conference, Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro suggested new statewide policy, like allocating funds to $6,000 signing bonuses for new officers and $1,200 “hero pay” to keep current officers on the job.

Councilmember Green’s proposal would split the potential $10,000 into three payments disbursed after meeting certain requirements. Recruits would be paid:

  • $3,000 for graduating from the Police Academy
  • $3,000 for completing PPD’s on the job training
  • $4,000 upon finishing their first year as a police officer

An additional $1,000 bonus would be included for recruits referred to the PPD by a city employee. This comes on top of the regular salary for people in the Police Academy, which is $56,227. Once graduated as a police officer, pay is raised to $58,662.

Green’s forthcoming proposal would trigger the bonus system whenever PPD has at least 5% fewer officers than however many are included in the city’s budget.

Current reported staffing figures place the number of sworn officers at 5,900, roughly 92% of their budgeted total of 6,380. If the policy took effect now, that would make nearly 200 new recruits eligible for bonuses (the number needed to raise the count up to 95% of PPD’s allotted amount).

Last July, the Philadelphia Police Academy admitted 48 people into Class 395, the first batch of recruits to begin training since COVID hit. Since then, two more classes have begun the 9-month academy program. Class 395 should be graduating in the coming weeks, as more than nine months have passed since their training began.

Green’s proposed ordinance would also widen eligibility for city employment by adjusting the current residency requirement.

Under the new rule, former city residents who’ve attained a secondary degree in the past 5 years, or people who’ve joined the military in the past decade, or former city employees would all be allowed to apply for and work in city departments. The shift could help address staff shortages that exist in many city departments outside of PPD, from the school district to sanitation workers.

Councilmember Cherelle Parker wrote a recent Inquirer op-ed which, before the headline was updated, was titled flatly “Philly needs more police.”

Parker wrote in favor of “300 additional on-the-ground beat officers and bike patrol officers,” to facilitate community policing, which would ideally see officers in certain neighborhoods tasked with becoming friendly and familiar enough with residents to be trusted with tips and informed on the granular goings on of their beat.

In almost two years since calls to defund the police entered the political mainstream, actively taking away funds from PPD’s budget never came close to happening in City Council.

Still, these new proposals indicate a sharp change in attitude from the summer of 2020. That year, Council boasted about making a $33 million reduction in police funding, achieved by canceling a proposed $19 million increase and redirecting $14 million to the Managing Director’s Office.

Jordan Levy is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn, always aiming to help Philadelphians share their stories. Formerly, he has worked at Document Journal, n+1 Magazine, and The New Republic. He...