Civilian complaints against police to be posted online

Civilian complaints against police to be posted online

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Information regarding closed-out civilian complaints of Philadelphia police misconduct will be posted online beginning in November, city officials announced last week. 

The information will be posted on the police department’s website. It will include a brief narrative of the complaint, the district in which the complaint occurred, complaint classification, investigative finding, Police Board of Inquiry determination, reference numbers and any additional information determined by the police commissioner or his/her designee to be appropriate.

The new policy is embodied in an Aug. 1 executive order issued by Mayor Jim Kenney.

Kenney hopes the move will improve police-community relations in Philadelphia, according to a city press release.

Currently, people who seek information about closed-out civilian complaints have to visit the Internal Affairs Unit in Northeast Philadelphia and review the case file.

“The release of this data [online] is a common-sense reform that I hope will serve to increase community-police trust,” Kenney said in the release. “Everyone who works for the City of Philadelphia is a public servant, and the public deserves to know we will take their complaints about any city service seriously. This data will show residents in an easily accessible, online format how the city handles complaints against police officers.”

But access to “independent” Internal Affairs probes of police misconduct — probes that Internal Affairs initiates regardless of whether a civilian also files a complaint about the incident — will remain more limited. 

The Nizah Morris incident was the subject of an “independent” Internal Affairs probe that ended in 2005. Morris’ mother, Roslyn Wilkins, filed a civilian complaint against police in 2003. But, 14 years later, the complete Internal Affairs investigative file for the Morris incident remains publicly inaccessible — though a summary of its findings is available. 

Ronda B. Goldfein, chair of the city’s Police Advisory Commission, called the new online policy “a step in the right direction.”

“Making this information easier for the public to access is a good thing,” Goldfein said. “We still need more work on how these complaints are investigated and whether discipline actually occurs if warranted. But increased access to appropriate information is certainly a step in the right direction.”

Police Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. issued this statement:

“In the city’s continuing movement toward greater transparency, today Mayor Kenney issued an executive order, which will, among other measures, allow public access to citizen complaint information through the Police Department website. I wholeheartedly support these provisions, as I too am fully committed to growth in the area of transparency and disclosure.” 

The online postings will begin Nov. 1, and information regarding closed-out civilian complaints dating back to 2014 will be posted in early 2018, according to the city’s press release.

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