Ever wonder how the Philadelphia Police Department spends $727 million in a year — a budget that rivals some entire midsize cities?
City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart is offering you a look under the hood.
Philly residents can now apply to join the controller’s new community advisory council to analyze the PPD’s annual spending. With applications open to the public, the city’s fiscal watchdog aims to assemble a group reflective of the city to help assist with a “deep dive” into departmental spending, from police overtime payments to resource allocation by neighborhood.
Rhynhart cited the city’s skyrocketing homicide rate and questions about the department’s financial and personnel management as reasons for the review.
“Whenever there’s an issue as important as changes in policing and public safety, we want input,” said Rhynhart, who is seen as a likely 2023 mayoral candidate. “We want to make sure that business owners and residents are heard — that all voices are heard.”
Applications are open to the public, and the office is encouraging business owners, religious leaders, activists, and community leaders to apply from all corners of the city.
Rhynhart convened a similar advisory council to assist with an investigation into the city’s response to the 2020 social unrest and said the group of residents helped to greatly improve the final review. “It wasn’t always easy to have all these different voices, but that was the beauty of it, to figure out a way forward for everyone here,” she said.
In the wake of high-profile police killings in recent years, debates have intensified about how much money should be allocated for police departments across the country.
Both Mayor Jim Kenney and City Council have weathered fierce opposition from activists over proposed additions to police funding, causing lawmakers to dance more delicately around police appropriations.
Still, there is little evidence that the “defund the police” movement has gained ground in City Hall. Even with recent proposals to flat fund the Police Department, the city still made new investments in policing, or simply shifted funding to other city departments. Overall, the police budget has grown precipitously since Kenney took office — from $640 million in 2015 to $727 million in the current fiscal year, according to city budget documents.
Rhynhart’s new probe comes at the request of City Council. In addition to examining major cost drivers within the department, the review will look at best practices in other police departments and conclude with a slew of action items to provide the mayor’s office, which controls the Police Department.
Rhynhart also said she has an interest in personnel costs for officers who claim to be injured in the line of duty. An Inquirer investigation published this week found 14% of police officers claimed to be too injured to work, but some continue to receive full pay while working strenuous side jobs and playing sports.
“If there are wasted dollars, then we need to know that,” Rhynhart said.
Residents can apply before Feb. 16, and Rhynhart’s office hopes to select a committee and publish a report by summer.
The controller has retained three outside firms to help perform the financial analysis of police spending. Once the final advisory committee is chosen, the group will meet to review findings and provide feedback throughout the process.