Trans woman appointed to police oversight commission

Trans woman appointed to police oversight commission

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Longtime trans advocate Naiymah A. Sanchez will serve on the city’s revived Police Advisory Commission, a civilian watchdog agency that investigates complaints of police misconduct.

Sanchez’ appointment, effective Oct. 16, was announced last week by Mayor Kenney’s press office.

The 13-member commission was without a trans commissioner for more than a decade, after the departure of trans woman Kathleen R. Padilla.

“I am privileged to be selected by the mayor to be a PAC commissioner,” Sanchez told PGN. “It is an honor not just for myself and my family but for the community to have a Latina trans woman on the commission — to make sure all of our voices are heard.”

Sanchez, a North Philadelphia resident, expressed a desire for improved police-community relations.

“A lot of communities don’t feel safe with the police,” she noted. “That’s to be understood. I’m hoping to improve that relationship. Being a minority, I feel that I bring an important perspective to the table — not only the perspective of the LGBTQ community but the Latina community.”

Sanchez also said she’ll try to help with transparency in the Nizah Morris case. Morris was a trans woman found with a fatal head wound in 2002, shortly after a police “courtesy ride.”

“I will raise my voice and see what we can do,” Sanchez said. “That’s true with any police-involved incidents and shootings.”

Padilla praised Sanchez’s appointment.

“I congratulate Ms. Sanchez and thank her for stepping up to provide her leadership. This commission is particularly in need of this voice. I also would like to thank Mayor Kenney for recognizing this need and always standing with transgender people.”

Sanchez will serve on a volunteer basis. She’s employed full-time as a trans-education coordinator for the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

In addition to Sanchez, eight others were appointed by Kenney as new PAC commissioners: Shawn Aleong, a social-justice advocate; Erica D. Atwood, PAC’s interim director; Marvin R. Lazenbury, a human-services manager; Michael Rahming, an anti-violence advocate; George D. Mosee, former first-assistant district attorney; Bilal Abdul Qayyum, an anti-gun violence advocate; Sonia E. Velazquez, a retired police inspector; and Sarah Yeung, director of planning at Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation.

They’ll join four current PAC commissioners who’ve been reappointed: Mujeeb Chaudhary, a pharmacist and youth advocate; Benjamin D. Geffen, a civil-rights attorney; Ronda B. Goldfein, a legal advocate for people with HIV/AIDS; and Michael M. Wehrman, a community-police relations specialist.

In a related development, New York victim-rights advocate Hans Menos recently was hired to serve as PAC’s executive director, effective Oct. 2.

“We’re optimistic that the hiring of the new executive director and the appointment of a full complement of commissioners will enable the PAC to do its important work,” said Goldfein, who serves as PAC’s chair.

The PAC, established in 1994, has a six-member staff and an annual budget of about $200,000. In an Aug. 16 tweet, Kenney pledged to increase PAC’s budget and staff.

Menos, 34, currently works in New York City for Safe Horizon, which provides services to crime victims. His annual salary as PAC’s executive director will be $120,000.

On Feb. 3, then-PAC executive director Kelvyn Anderson resigned under a cloud, after allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with a woman who visited the PAC office for assistance.

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