How Philly will spend nearly a billion dollars on policing and violence prevention
The city is set to approve a $30 million budget increase to the Police Department and a handful of other investments outside traditional law enforcement that are aimed at combatting gun violence.
The Philadelphia Police Department will see its most significant budget increase in several years, and the city will spend millions of dollars to fund antiviolence programs as leaders wrestle with some of the highest levels of gun violence seen in generations.
City Council on Thursday passed a $5.8 billion city budget that includes a $30 million budget increase for police. The agreement builds on Mayor Jim Kenney’s proposal, which was to grant police a $23.7 million increase mostly to cover contractually obligated pay raises for officers. Through negotiations, Council added line items for such expenses as recruitment and upgrades to the crime lab.
All told, the investments bring the Police Department’s allocation to nearly $800 million — the most of any city agency, and $150 million more than in 2016, when Kenney took office.
The public safety spending plan received final approval last week and ended up sailing through Council with little public disagreement among members — just two years after Council voted to effectively freeze police funding following the murder of George Floyd. The city’s legislative branch spent much of its negotiating capital this year debating the city’s tax structure, and several members won investments in other priorities, such as combatting quality-of-life issues.
Here’s a look at where the money is going:
Police see a $30M boost
The $788 million police budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is about $30 million more than the city is expected to spend on policing this fiscal year. Most of that increase — $21.3 million — is for salaries and personnel costs agreed to last fall under a contract with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5.
It also includes nearly $3 million to upgrade police cell phones and laptops with applications that aid investigations. And Council added $5 million for upgrades to the city’s forensics lab, which has long been described by the department as in disrepair and in need of modernization.
Managing Director Tumar Alexander said during a briefing last week that the city has not decided how exactly that $5 million would be spent. It could expand the current facility or go toward a brand-new one, he said, adding that the city is awaiting the approval of the state budget to see if it can harness an additional allocation.
Council also added $250,000 for recruitment as the Police Department has struggled to fill hundreds of vacancies amid a nationwide shortage of cadets. During the department’s budget hearing in April, Council President Darrell L. Clarke said he was surprised the mayor’s proposal had allocated just $10,700 for recruitment. Police brass responded that they had hoped for more.
The recruitment funding was also a top priority for Majority Leader Cherelle L. Parker, a likely 2023 mayoral candidate who touted her own public safety plan — which includes adding hundreds more cops to the force — through the budget negotiation process.
The city will spend more on antiviolence programs
After being pushed by Council last year to spend millions of dollars more to support antiviolence programs outside traditional law enforcement, the Kenney administration this year proposed a $184 million investment in strategies to stem gun violence.
Among the proposed funding that Council approved: grants to grassroots organizations, the expansion of social programs that engage potential shooters, and a pilot for a new jobs initiative.
A handful of Council members also secured funding for priorities they say fall under the antiviolence umbrella.
There’s more than $4 million for security camera installation, a priority of Parker’s that was backed by several members. West Philadelphia Councilmember Jamie Gauthier campaigned for investments in quality-of-life issues such as abandoned-vehicle removal and the cleaning of short dumping sites, and those line items saw funding bumps in the final deal. Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, who represents parts of South and Southwest Philadelphia, successfully advocated for $500,000 for the city’s new Office of the Victim Advocate.
And the package includes an additional $2.5 million for the Department of Parks and Recreation, which it says it will use to open dozens of recreation centers on weekends, a top priority of several members who have advocated for better funding for youth programming.
A spokesperson for Parks and Recreation said the funding could create about 50 jobs, and the agency hopes to be able to begin opening 52 centers for two additional days per week by the fall, or about three months after the start of the fiscal year.
All the new spending makes the final bill for antiviolence programs ambiguous. Council and the administration last year touted a $155 million plan that was agreed upon through negotiations. This year’s process didn’t yield a clear number.
Defender association gets its budget increase
Council leaders have said they see a variety of investments in the criminal justice system as ones that could potentially drive down rates of violent crime. One of the most notable this year is the budget for the Defender Association of Philadelphia, which was set to be flat-funded under Kenney’s proposal but undertook a public campaign for a budget increase.
The association will get its request. Under the version of the budget agreed to last week, the defender will see a 12% budget bump, or roughly $5.8 million more in funding, which chief defender Keisha Hudson has said would be used to help pay employees more equitably.
A majority of Council members signaled to Kenney in a May letter that they supported the increase.
“If we could find close to $24 million for the Police Department,” Johnson wrote in the letter, “then surely we can support those individuals who are fighting day in and day out for our most vulnerable individuals who come in contact with our criminal justice system.”
Staff writer Ellie Rushing contributed to this article.