In Philly, it still takes more than a year for citizen complaints about police officers to be resolved, a report says

According to new city data, it takes police 409 days to investigate and review a typical citizen complaint about officer misconduct.

This process has actually improved slightly since 2017, when it took an average of 463 days to process a citizen complaint. But in his latest reportThe Citizens Police Oversight Commission said the long timeline may deter more city residents from reporting misconduct to the Philadelphia Police Department.

In a survey of 2,360 city residents, CPOC found that respondents were significantly less likely to file a complaint if they knew the investigation and criminal proceedings would take more than a year. Learning more about the current disciplinary process also reduced their confidence in the government’s effectiveness, the assessors said, and most people who had experienced a complaint-worthy encounter with police did not plan to report it. Of the 4.5% of respondents who recalled such an incident, 73% said they had no intention of filing a report.

“This suggests that the official complaint records may represent only a small portion of the misconduct that actually occurs throughout Philadelphia,” the CPOC concluded.

The commission, made up of nine citizens from different parts of the city, noted greater progress in disciplinary measures. In the past, repeated misconduct was typically resolved through the non-disciplinary option of training and counseling. As the name suggests, the officer under investigation would have a formal discussion with their superiors about the misconduct and receive corrective instructions.

After determining that training and counseling were utilized in 76% of persistent allegations cases, the CPOC recommended reforms to limit the circumstances in which this option may be used. New data from 2022 shows that only 34.9% of cases now end with training and counseling, suggesting that more officers face formal disciplinary action. A breakdown of the results showed that 60.3% of cases of repeat misconduct now result in disciplinary sanctions – ranging from transfer to dismissal.

The report also notes improvements in other areas. In previous years, Philadelphia police sometimes dropped charges during plea negotiations if the officer admitted guilt. This practice has now ended. Since January, non-police lawyers have also been conducting disciplinary hearings.

The oversight commission was formed in 2021 after Philadelphia voters overwhelmingly approved its creation in a 2020 vote. It now functions as an independent watchdog with subpoena powers to compel witness testimony and the release of documents. The latest data represents the second major report since its creation.

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