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Nutter forms panel to review police use of force

The mayor announced the creation of an independent committee following a Justice Department report.

Mayor Michael Nutter. (Meaghan Pogue / Staff Photographer)
Mayor Michael Nutter. (Meaghan Pogue / Staff Photographer)Read moreMeaghan Pogue / File Photograph

FOLLOWING a Justice Department report on the use of lethal force by Philadelphia police, Mayor Nutter yesterday signed an executive order creating an independent oversight committee to implement the report's recommendations.

"It is clear that changes need to be made with regard to the use of force in the Philadelphia Police Department and all across the city," Nutter said.

The mayor said the 15-member committee would assess and implement the 91 recommendations in the report. JoAnne A. Epps, dean of Temple University's Beasley School of Law, will chair the committee, he said.

"[The committee] will include community stakeholders, experts in the field and public-safety professionals," the mayor said.

He stressed that the committee would report directly to him - not to the Police Department.

The 174-page report released Monday was requested by Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey in 2013 following an increase in police-involved shootings.

"We need to end any idea or notion in our community of an us-vs.-them mentality," Nutter said. "The number of occurrences of police-involved shootings reinforces the opposite notion."

According to the report, 394 officer-involved shootings took place from 2007 to 2014, an average of 50 per year. Police records show that an average of 12 people a year have been killed by police in Philly since 2008.

The report revealed poor police-community relations as well as a lack of police training on the use of deadly force and inconsistencies during investigations.

Epps said she hoped that her experience "working with this city and the police in the stop-and- frisk litigation will enable me to contribute to everyone's goal of effective and respected policing."

It's not the first time a Philly mayor has tapped Epps to run a police-oversight committee. In 2001, Mayor John Street appointed her to chair a Mayor's Task Force on Police Discipline.

Ramsey said yesterday that he would work with the new panel "100 percent."

"I think it's a great idea - and we'll do whatever we have to do," Ramsey said, noting that a member of his staff would be assigned to the panel full time.

"I wouldn't have asked for the study to be done if I didn't realize we have issues that needed to be addressed," he said. "Having a third-party review sometimes gives you the push you need to bring about fundamental change."

Ramsey said that some recommendations in the report - such as merging the Force Review Board and the Police Board of Inquiry - would require input from the Fraternal Order of Police.

"They can't be kept in the dark any more than the public can," he told the Daily News yesterday. "If we want change to occur, all stakeholders need to know what's going on, and certainly the union is a stakeholder."

John McNesby, president of the FOP Lodge 5, said the union would take a wait-and-see approach to the panel.

"We will be putting someone on that board to have an officer's voice as a part of that because it seems like there's a lot of pointing fingers but nobody is actually talking to the police officers," he said.

"Our officers don't leave home every day looking to shoot their guns to harm anybody. We're out there protecting ourselves."

- Staff writer Vinny Vella

contributed to this report.