Central Roxborough Civic Association Meeting Minutes
March 2, 2017
Welcome and Announcements
CRCA President Don Simon called the meeting to order, introduced himself, and welcomed newcomers.
Josh Cohen, assistant to Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. announced there would be a Block Captain Boot Camp from 10-4 on Saturday 3/18 at St. Joseph’s University. Mr. Cohen’s offices are located on Ridge Avenue across the street from the Custard Stand.
CRCA President Don Simon took a moment to describe his experience at the Stand Against Hate Rally held earlier that day and to read some words by Pastor Martin Niemöller in 1930s Germany, reproduced below:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Police Body Cameras
Scott Alton, the Public Relations Manager for the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission (PAC) introduced himself and explained that tonight’s presentation would be a discussion of Philadelphia Police’s expansion of the use of body cameras into all districts, with input from key players and thinkers. He introduced Philadelphia PD members Michael Cocharane and Captain Mark Fischer, and technologist Harlan Yu.
Edwin Pace, Operations Manager for PAC, then explained the role of his organization. When a civilian has a negative encounter with the police, filing a report with the PD’s Internal Affairs Department often requires information not accessible to the complainant, such as an officer’s badge number. An alternative is to file a complaint with PAC, a civilian agency that audits and investigates complaints against the police. After a complaint is made to PAC, a recorded interview with the complainant occurs, then an investigation is launched and after 30-60 days PAC issues a letter of finding or no finding. PAC’s recommendation following an investigation is reported to its board and then to the Philadelphia Police Commission. The program is funded through Public Safety funds.
Sgt. Jay Bowan, Captain Mark Fisher, and Michael Cocharane from the Philadelphia Police Department then addressed those present about the body cam program and rollout. The idea for all officers in the city to be equipped with body cameras originated with former Police Commissioner Ramsey. After three months of policy planning, 20 officers in the 22nd District (which includes Temple University) were equipped with Taser brand (they are not weapons/stun guns, it’s just the brand name) cameras. The police introduced Temple professor of Criminal Justice Elizabeth Groff, who was in attendance at the CRCA meeting, and thanked her for her help as the project got started. As of now, all officers in the 22nd District are equipped with body cams, as well as the entire Civil Affairs Unit. The next phase of the rollout is introducing body cams into the Kensington neighborhood in the 24th and 25th Districts.
Sgt. Bowan then showed the group an actual Axon Body Camera from the Taser company and explained how it works. Individual officers cannot delete their own videos; only administrators have the power to eliminate footage. Each officer is assigned his/her own camera that is kept in a docking station at their district when not in use. While in the docking station, footage from the camera is sent to the cloud, where after 30 days footage of routine encounters is deleted. Incidents in which a complaint has been filed against the police, or when an arrest occurred, or when there is an injured officer, are kept longer. The cameras are worn on the chest of the officer, attached through clothing via a magnet placed inside the officer’s uniform. The camera is not always on; the officer taps it on when en route to a call or when s/he anticipates an encounter with a civilian. The camera is then tapped off after the event. The cameras have about 12 hours of recording battery life but are only recording about 2 hours in a typical shift. They can be charged through the mobile data terminal in each police vehicle. The cameras cost about $400 a piece, but there are also significant data storage costs associated with their use. A headphone jack connects the camera to a USB port, and officers review their footage prior to writing their report whenever something meriting a written report occurs. Under the body camera rollout plan, all officers throughout the city with the rank of Lieutenant or below must where one (with the exception of undercover officers). The cameras do not possess GPS capabilities at this time.
Harlan Yu then addressed some of the policy or ethical concerns raised by the Philly PD’s (and other police departments) use of the body cam program. While the goal of the program is to elevate transparency and accountability, he identified 3 area of concern. 1) Public access to the footage; suspects don’t automatically have the right to view footage of encounters in which they were involved. 2) Officer access to the footage. Because officers in Philadelphia must review their own body cam footage prior to writing a report, other witnesses are put at a disadvantage. In court the officer’s report will likely be considered more trustworthy because it is based on the officer’s recollection after seeing footage of the event and thus likely to contain less errors/deviations from the testimony of other witnesses who may truthfully be describing what they saw but have not had the opportunity to view the footage. 3) Potential for excessive surveillance which becomes even more problematic with the increasing use of facial recognition software.
Local Schools Presentations
AMY Northwest (Academy for the Middle Years) was represented by members of the school’s science, math, language arts and special education faculty. AMY is a “Special Admission Middle School”, meaning it is a public but not charter school open to students all over Philadelphia. Students must apply and be accepted. Admission is based on good grades, test scores, and excellent behavior and attendance records. AMY operates somewhat autonomously from the rest of the School District of Philadelphia and is able to offer unique courses and opportunities, such as STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) courses, Spanish class, and other extra curricular clubs, sports, and programs.
Cook-Wissahickon School (PreK-8) was represented by its principal, Mike Lowe and parents of students. Some of the special programs at Cook-Wissahickon include music, art, and gym. The school also offers affordable before and aftercare. There is currently a wait list for out-of-district students with 362 families on the wait list. No admission preference is given for students with an older sibling already enrolled. Cook-Wissahickon is hosting an open house on March 12.
James Dobson School (K-8) was presented by Kathleen Turner, a 5th grade teacher and counselor. Dobson is striving to be a Lighthouse School and focuses on instruction based on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. They offer numerous leadership opportunities, including student council, student-run assemblies, student-published newspaper, and offering a “WIN” (Whatever I Need) daily period to meet individualized needs. All students take music, graphic arts and PE/health. Several parents shared their enthusiasm for the school
Philadelphia Water Department – Green Lane Sewer and Water Line Replacement
PWD Public Relations Officer John DiGiulio presented the plan for the replacement of all water and sewer lines on Green Lane from Manayunk Avenue to Ridge Avenue, on Pechin Street between Dupont and Green, and on Mitchell Street between Green and Conarroe. Affected streets will be closed for the duration of the project but will be done block-by-block, with each block taking an estimated 2 months to complete. The contract has a completion date of October 2017. The good news is that during the course of the project, PWD will inspect service lines going into individual homes for lead pipes and replace any lead pipe service lines free of charge, which they have been doing since July 2016. Homes along the project route should have received information about the project and the lead service line replacement offer. Even if they are unsure if their house has lead service lines, they should return the request consent form to PWD. If lead service lines are being replaced, someone will need to be home to allow access to the basement on installation day. After all the water/sewer lines are replaced, there will be curb-to-curb repaving. During the work, materials and equipment will be stored at the Manayunk Avenue PPA lot, and neighbors should be prepared for (even more) limited parking.
James Calamia, RDC – Leverington Avenue Parking Lot Updating
James Calamia from Roxborough’s RDC announced a plan for improvements to the large shopper’s parking lot off Leverington Avenue. The lot will be closed starting Monday 3/6, but there is not a firm estimated time of completion for the project. The work will be done in phases. Improvements include repainting the Mitchell Street entrance to make a one-way and improve traffic flow, re-asphalting, sealing, enhancing drainage fixtures, creating a dumpster enclosure, and improving lighting for safety. Funds for improvements are coming from the Department of Public Property, but Roxborough Development Corp. will then take over from the City.