The Philadelphia Police Department is slated to have its state accreditation revoked in less than a week, largely because it failed to push back on the city’s “Driving Equality Bill,” according to a manager with the accrediting agency. That bill enacts a department policy restricting officers from making traffic stops to enforce eight sections of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code.
The Pittsburgh Police, due to a similar ordinance, are also at risk of losing their accreditation.
The Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission, or PLEAC, sent a letter to Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw and Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert in April to notify them that enacting official department policies that attempt to supersede the Pennsylvania vehicle code means their departments “are no longer in full compliance with the state’s Accreditation Program and Standards,” — even if those policies are enacted with the intent of complying with municipal ordinances.
In gaining PLEAC Accreditation, police agencies have to comply with standard 1.1.1, which requires:
“A written directive requiring all law enforcement personnel, prior to performing their sworn duties, to take and subsequently abide with an Oath of Office to support, obey and defend the constitution of the United States and the Pennsylvania Constitution and the laws of Pennsylvania and the governmental subdivision and that he/she will discharge the duties of the office with fidelity.
Newly hired law enforcement officers, in a manner prescribed by the agency, shall also acknowledge that they will uphold, obey and enforce the law without consideration to a person’s race, color, sex, religious creed, sexual orientation, age national origin, ancestry, handicap or disability.”
According to James Adams, the PLEAC Accreditation Program Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, the Philadelphia Police Department Commissioner and Accreditation Manager were sent the April letter advising them that “it came to the attention of the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission (PLEAC) that with the enactment of City Code § 12-1700, Driving Equality Policy, Executive Order 6-21 Philadelphia Police Department is no longer in full compliance with the Accreditation Program and Standards.”
The commission’s standards require the city to have “a written directive requiring all law enforcement personnel to support, obey and defend the constitution of the United States and the Pennsylvania Constitution and the laws of Pennsylvania.”
By passing these ordinances, Adams argues, the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have attempted to supersede constitutionally legislated state law with municipal ordinances, which puts law enforcement agencies and their officers at odds with their oath of office, by barring them from enforcing eight sections of the state’s vehicle code.
Had Commissioner Outlaw and her staff pushed back or come up with a creative solution to comply with the ordinances, such as allowing officers to make stops but only issue written warnings as opposed to fines, her department’s accreditation would not be in jeopardy.
Instead, Commissioner Outlaw cited the driving equality bill in ordering officers to cease the initiation of traffic stops for over eight sections of the Pennsylvania vehicle code, encompassing multiple traffic and vehicle safety violations with no concern to the safety risk posed to motorists and pedestrians on public highways. Those include driving with lapsed registration and/or inspections, vehicle safety issues, or minor moving violations.
“The PLEAC solicitor has verified that, by law, a first-class city [Philadelphia] or second-class city [Pittsburgh] does not have the authority to supersede state law.” said Adams.
Mayor Jim Kenney’s office did not reply to requests for comment in time for publication.
Sgt. Eric Gripp, a Philadelphia Police spokesman, confirmed the impending revocation of his department’s accreditation, stating in an email to Broad + Liberty: “Accreditation is certification that the Department employs best practices regarding policies and procedures throughout the Department. While the potential loss of accreditation over matters beyond the scope of the Police Department is disheartening, we will maintain the practice of employing best practices. This is in the best interest of the Department and the people we serve.”
When asked if the conflict with state law and the potential violation of accreditation standards was considered when the Driving Equality bill was passed and subsequent PPD policies were issued, Gripp wrote, “The PPD was advised that the Driving Equality Bill did not violate state law. On the contrary, the ordinance does not ban the enforcement of low level traffic offenses, but rather only modifies how these violating offenses are to be enforced.”
Gripp did not specify who advised the PPD that the bill was not in conflict with the state vehicle code, nor how these violating offenses would be enforced without effecting a stop of the violating vehicle.
City Council passed the bill drafted by Councilmember Isaiah Thomas in October 2021 to address what Thomas characterized as racial disparities regarding traffic stops conducted for traffic offenses used for probable cause to conduct searches for more serious crimes. While Thomas characterized this traffic enforcement to single out people of color for increased enforcement, Adams notes that the introduction of his bill was not accompanied by a valid study, nor state legislation to make his proposed violations “secondary stops.” Therefore, if the bill’s goal was to reduce the potential for bias, and to improve relations between the police and the community, why wasn’t it codified by changes to state laws?
Adams, himself a former police chief, acknowledged that officers regularly use discretion when enforcing minor laws or conducting traffic stops, noting that the Philadelphia Police could have set those priorities internally, within the department. However, “to craft an ordinance that prohibits officers from enforcing the law or being able to make lawful stops that can save lives is what puts Philadelphia and Pittsburgh out of compliance,” Adams said.
Adams said the city has not formally responded to PLEAC’s April letter, nor voiced an intent to resolve the issue prior to their July 26 meeting in where the revocation is on the agenda.
Adams further noted Councilmember Thomas’ concerns, saying that PLEAC wanted to review data proving that the Philadelphia police traffic enforcement policies target people of color for enforcement — and more specifically, how the Driving Equality ordinance would address such a problem while preserving public safety.
“How does this bill actually correct the problem of bias as its proponents suggest?” Adams asked. “How does prohibiting officers from enforcing these 8 section of the vehicle code somehow solve the issue of racial disparity?”
What this means for Philadelphians
The Philadelphia Police Department can operate without PLEAC accreditation, but at significant cost and added risk to taxpayers. While PLEAC accreditation has existed since 2001, as a state specific version of the national accreditation standard which has existed since 1973, Philadelphia only gained accreditation during Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration, under the command of Commissioner Ramsey.
Independent law enforcement accreditation includes review of department policy, institution of best practices, annual reporting, and an independent external audit conducted every three years. One of the big drivers of this process is the reduction of operational risk and loss control, as comparative statistical reviews conducted over the last three decades show a positive correlation between accreditation and a reduction in liability and worker’s compensation claims.
By being accredited, agencies can improve their policies, training, and transparency to effectively defend themselves against lawsuits, reduce substantiated citizen complaints, equip command staff with a proven management system, and allow agencies an independent — externally vetted change management and self-audit system. In losing their accreditation, Philadelphia exposes itself to costly litigation risks for existing and future civil claims against the police department.
Moreover, in pushing the Philadelphia Police Department to comply with PLEAC standards, Ramsey negotiated a $1,500 bonus for each member of the department to meet accreditation standards. Therefore, Philadelphia’s loss of accreditation now will be tantamount to flushing a $10 million public investment down the toilet.
Furthermore, without an annual PLEAC accreditation audit due, what measures will the Philadelphia Police have to maintain compliance and show it is transparent in opening their policies, procedures, and operations to a valid third-party review?
Had Commissioner Outlaw or Chief Schubert delayed any orders that conflicted with their oaths of office until state lawmakers were consulted, their department’s accreditation would not be at risk. More importantly, had they voiced objections as law enforcement officers, given the record homicides recorded in both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh last year on why it may be irresponsible to consider greater restrictions on law enforcement when an all-hands approach is needed, these unlawful ordinances may not have passed in the first place.
To this, Adams said, “With the rise in crime throughout our nation, why would we prohibit our police from using the lawful tools at their disposal to address it?”
Listen to the author of this article, A. Benjamin Mannes, talk about the story with 1210 WPHT’s Dom Giordano:
Update: The original verion of this article incorrectly attributed statements to PPD Officer Eric McLaurin. The statements should have been attributed to Sgt. Eric Gripp, and have been changed to reflect that.
Additionally, the original version of this article said the bonus structure for meeting accreditation was $5,000 per officer for a total of $33 million. The bonus structure was $1,500 per officer for a total of $10 million, and the article has been changed to reflect that.
A. Benjamin Mannes, MA, CPP, CESP, is a Subject Matter Expert in Security & Criminal Justice Reform based on his own experiences on both sides of the criminal justice system. He has served as a federal and municipal law enforcement officer and was the former Director, Office of Investigations with the American Board of Internal Medicine. @PublicSafetySME
15 thoughts on “Exclusive: Philadelphia Police Department to lose its accreditation ”
Krasner the prosecutor of criminals and the highest representative of law enforcement in the city ignores state and federal law regarding police shootings and ignores crime victims the two groups that he is sworn to represent. Bike paths tolerated yet unappreciated by taxpayers continue to gain more space and rights than the small businesses needing parking for delivery or pick-up of goods to survive are ignored. City Council pass laws for specific voting blocs without research on its legality or asking the police if it would assist in crime prevention. The mayor admits he sucks and then goes back into his basement to avoid any difficult decisions assisting his constituents. And center city slowly deteriorates with crime, store closings and lost shoppers. Progressives watch as all their wishes and recommendations collapse under their get out of jail free card and trying to defund the police. Our most precious right is to vote and only two out of ten, saw fit to use it. Sad that a once proud city of neighborhoods bound by respect and cooperation now is in the throes of an us versus them conundrum of racial animosity and media blitz of misinformation. Maybe the future will bring back some of our pride and national recognition but until then we stagnate under a trinity of Bozo, dumb and dumber and a council of self-righteous servants of passing bills for specific individuals rather than all the taxpayers that pay their massive drop retirement fund.
Look the issues are massive and the solutions are simple there are a force that uses crisis to get people at odds with each other i am about solutions we. Can have a private chit chat and sign off an bipartisan contract or bill or resolution I represent the indigenous peoples in my nation family and clan we have our own court and working on our own paramilitary we have to go old school every one stay in their lane.and .mind their own business each community takes cares of its own old fashion that kills the beef and rithwarath
Philadelphia is governed by a lot of incredibly stupid human beings. Why anyone willingly lives in such an idiotic, dysfunctional community is truly baffling.
Mama miss Donna Frank Rizzo history itself is roque the city is not the issue its the unseen hands i used to blame the city not the city fault it was designed under cloaked shadows EVERY thing is about intent and results it’s on us all bit just a mayor watch dark knight bat man and see for yourself
You can thank Our so-called Mayor, Police Commissioner, and Philadelphia District Attorney. Three losers who have destroyed our beautiful city.
We need another Mayor, like Frank Rizzo. He had control of the city!
As a former law enforcement on two levels and seeing corruption and planting on every level. Yes, we have great police, but we also have scumbags wearing our uniforms. So lets not act like this stuff dont exist. When 98% of people you stop are black and hispanic……When the city is almost 50/50, where are the whites in the city as it relates to our criminal justice system? Every court traffic/municipal/common pleas/probation/parole/ are almost all minority…Are whites not arrested in Philadelphia?? Im not talking about 2 or 3 either, save me the bs!
Following you logic then 50% of the officers in the department should be re-deployed to areas of the city where white residents are in the majority.
Are you serious? When was the last time you drove through North Philly? If you’re not getting robbed on the street, witnessing a robbery, stepping over a steaming heaps of human shit, avoiding used syringes or drug paraphernalia, the people behind the wheel in these areas drive like their hair is on fire. They bob, weave, cut off other drivers, illegally park, drive their motorcycles in between idling cars, blow stop signs, have no bumpers, doors, dispose of their trash right out their windows, park in the middle of Broad Street, double park in one-way streets and remove their car after they finish their drug transactions.
Maybe we need to create some community programs in the Society Hill, Rittenhouse Square & Fishtown areas that will encourage White residents to commit more crimes. We need to get through to these communities that their lack of criminal indulgence is hurting other minorities and placing them in a negative light. I find it hard to believe that White residents are committing an equal amount of crimes as Minority residents and the PPD is turning a blind eye to it all. The real problem is in equality, we need to convince White residents of the city that they need to do their share and start committing crimes to ensure equality is achieved. We can no longer sit back and let Minorities take the hit when it comes to crime in the city of Philadelphia.
Maybe we should that way they stay out of drug selling areas without demand there is no market so if white stopped leaving your area to come down here to buy drugs prostitute steal rob and cheat the dealers down here wont have nothingto gang war over. See that 2 can play that ignorant game and finger point that doesn’t solve the problem my last comment was for those like minded as yourself but I don’t see it doubt this one will post, but anyway we can pretend and act mightier than thou or we can look for comprehensive solutions deep rooted issues without creating more conflicts. To be a problem is easy to be a solution isn’t the choices are ours to make.
Facts do not matter, the truth matters even less of course whites commit crimes and some of the more savage crimes those cases aren’t blasted on the news those criminals when on the rare occasions that they show white suspects it isn’t during the arrest or a mugshot blasted on every news cycle its of them in plain clothes with their lawer. Opposed to black and brown mainly black cameras are rolling while the suspect is handcuffed and being put into the patty wagon. If it’s at the court house is coming out of the sheriff transport. Let the hypocrites take the accreditation and shove it. They want to re-write the constitution. The pledge they show here clearly says following and enforce laws. But they only want it to be the laws they see fit for their power grab shove it use a ball gag while they shove it to muffle their power grab.
The issues are outweighed by the results bottom line the people need there own communities to police themselves
And hopefully by the grace of God, those communities and their champions will receive help with their grammar and syntax.
The Police needs to stop committing treason, and learn and enforce Law. The Constitution is the Law.
Seriously just reading the comments you can see who has that racist edge the aura of not having a clue just looking at a problem and offering biased solutions without examining the root causes just creates more disconnect for the 1’s that have a garden with all kinds of excrement and the roses look lovely but refuse to remove the feces that creates the stench. When someone says what’s that smell their response is not my problem look at my garden it’s beautiful look down the street they never clean up I am sick of the smell but it isn’t us we have a beautiful garden. To think that the problems in North Philly didn’t have nothing to do with the racist that occupied chestnuthill, Rittenhouse square, Fishtown, society hill, ect. Just shows that solving the problem to those that share in that view simply refuse acceptance & accountability, and that in and of itself is a problem. Obama getting elected shocked many whites and spurred a call to action where the Trump presidency was born from that racist spirit that revived white supremecy. A solution is clearly to create a healthy dose of fear to being racist & prejudice make racist run back to being under cover racist. Once we get racism under control then we can continue creating a justice system that truly is blind especially color blind. Albeit we don’t have the luxury of doing just that so meanwhile we keep chipping away at the root causes like the wealth disparity. Let’s trace the roots of that inherited wealth and see if all of it was rightfully gained through hard work, sweat Blood and Tears from their own brows.