PHILADELPHIA—Mayor Jim Kenney and other City officials today provided an update on the City’s Pathways to Reform, Transformation, and Reconciliation, marking six months since its formation. The initiative, supported by a diverse Steering Committee, formed in June 2020 as part of the City’s commitment to reform and reconciliation amidst widespread activism around police brutality and racial inequities in the city and country. With continued progress, the initiative has guided the City’s efforts to break down barriers to success and build a more equitable city for all Philadelphians. 

“In the last six months, the thoughtful dialogue and recommendations of the Steering Committee have been integral to informing and carrying out the changes our city must make to address racial inequities,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “As we continue to move forward, facing these issues honestly and head-on will be critical to making real change. The brave voices calling for an end to systemic racism in our city must continue to be heard and their concerns addressed. I am excited about the progress we’ve made, and for the enduring path towards reconciliation.”

Since its inception, the Pathways to Reform, Transformation, and Reconciliation, has focused on the needs of Philadelphia residents while recognizing necessary collaboration across policies, departments and systems to address race-based disparities and inequities. In taking into account these distinctive concerns, the Steering Committee launched three subcommittees to ensure the Administration effectively implements reforms in the areas of: police reform, inclusive economy, and community engagement. The Steering Committee has met 16 times since June 2020.

“With close attention to reforms in multiple areas, we are addressing the systemic causes of racial inequities, that continue to hurt our communities, with tangible action,” said Cynthia Figueroa, Deputy Mayor for the Office of Children and Families. “We have made great progress in these efforts over the past six months that has been instrumental to advancing equity and inclusion. Our collective vision of an equitable future has propelled forward meaningful reforms that will improve outcomes for our city’s residents and communities.”

In addition, in November 2020, Diana Cortes was appointed as Acting City Solicitor by Mayor Kenney to succeed Marcel Pratt. She became the first Latina City Solicitor in Philadelphia’s history. Cortes is also one of the co-chairs of the City’s internal work group that supports the Committee, alongside Deputy Mayor Cynthia Figueroa and Acting Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer Nefertiri Sickout. 

Through short-term, mid-term, and long-term objectives, the Steering Committee has focused their work on four main priorities: Police Reform and Public Safety, Economic Recovery, Community Engagement, and Public Health.

Progress as of January 31, 2021

Police Reform

 During these six months, the City has worked closely with the Steering Committee to implement its police reform agenda, and to build stronger community relations and an equitable culture of the Philadelphia Police Department. The current police reform agenda focuses on five main categories: policy reviews and updates; behavioral and mental health-related operational reforms to protocol and policies; oversight, transparency, and equity; budgeting and collective bargaining; and state-level reforms.

“We are diligently making strides towards the collective goal of increasing safety throughout Philadelphia, aligning policies, and transformation efforts throughout the City for meaningful progress,” said Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw. “The concrete steps we have taken prior and during these last six months have been fundamental in continuing to bridge our relationship within our communities going forward.”

Since the last Pathways update was provided on October 21, 2020, several developments and reforms have been made to the Philadelphia Police Department’s (PPD) policies:

  • The Administration supported City Council legislation included on the November 3, 2020 election ballot regarding the creation of a permanent, civilian Police Oversight Commission. This Commission will conduct simultaneous, independent reviews of civilian complaints and use of force incidents. The specifics of the Commission’s duties will be developed in coordination with City Council.
  • Implicit Bias Training. The Philadelphia Police Department has trained over 700 PPD personnel (sworn and civilian) since October 2020 in the NITRE Implicit Bias curriculum. This is part of the commitment made by the Philadelphia Police leadership to train the entire department by October 2021.  
  • 911 call takers screen calls with a new questionnaire for behavioral health-related concerns and incidents. As of November 30, 2020, 911 call takers now have a methodology to better identify when calls are related to behavioral health crises. 
  • The Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) class provides 911 call takers and dispatchers with training to identify crisis-related calls. This measure was successfully implemented on November 9, 2020 to more efficiently direct calls to CIT trained officers in the field.
  • PPD is in the process of pre-planning for the rollout of four co-responder teams, composed of CIT trained officers and mental health professionals contracted by DBHIDS. These personnel will jointly respond to calls identified by Police Radio on a single shift. Based on information gathered in the pilot stage, Philadelphia Police Department and DBHIDS will work to develop a proposal to add more teams to build 24/7 coverage across the city.
  • CIT officer training is expanding. Currently, there are 3,100 CIT trained officers. Fifty percent of Philadelphia Police Department officers are CIT trained and are assigned throughout the city on all tours of duty. The goal is to have all patrol officers CIT trained ending in December 2022. This initiative is currently being carried out on a rolling basis. 
  • The CIT and taser training is being decoupled to ensure faster taser availability Prior PPD policy required officers to receive 40 hours of CIT training in addition to eight hours of TASER training before issuing a taser device. Due to the time constraints of CIT training as well as the limited number of class spots available, the PPD continues to expedite the availability of taser devices into the field through a decoupling pilot program. Through this pilot, the last four Police Academy classes were issued tasers after receiving the eight hours of required training. Decoupling CIT and taser training will allow current Philadelphia Police Department officers an expedited use of tasers and allow CIT training to be scheduled without delay. 

Economic Recovery

The City’s efforts toward economic recovery, in collaboration with the Inclusive Economy subcommittee, prioritize reviewing the City’s budget, investing in historically-disadvantaged communities, and supporting small businesses. The City continues to foster inclusive and equitable economic recovery as laid out in the economic recovery plan, Respond Restart Recharge Reimagine: An Equitable and Inclusive Economic Recovery for Philadelphia, released in the fall. Since the last Pathways update, key initiatives have begun and expanded.  

In October, the City launched its Philadelphia Taking Care of Business (PHL TCB) Clean Corridors Program, a $7 million economic development initiative that expands the Department of Commerce’s existing commercial corridor cleaning efforts from 49 commercial corridors to 85 throughout the city. PHL TCB invests in people and small businesses by creating employment opportunities for residents and keeping Philadelphia’s neighborhood commercial corridors clean.

To further support the city’s small businesses and entrepreneurial community, the Department of Commerce also launched a new resource tool that helps connect local business owners and entrepreneurs with organizations that offer guidance on starting, running, and growing a business. On the Business Resource Finder, users can search for free or low-cost services available to Philadelphia businesses, including funding opportunities, legal assistance, workshops, and more. 

In addition, the Administration has continued to support grant programs aimed at equitable economic recovery. These include:

  • A new commitment of $7 million dollars in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding directed to the COVID-19 Relief Pennsylvania Statewide Small Business Assistance program to support additional Philadelphia businesses. This is in addition to the $30 million the City previously directed to the program, for a total of $37 million.
  • The Philadelphia COVID-19 Restaurant and Gym Relief Program, a $12 million grant program from the City and PIDC designed to provide financial relief to small businesses that were among the most adversely affected by the latest round of pandemic-related restrictions enacted in November 2020. Priority will be given to businesses that are located in high poverty areas or on neighborhood commercial corridors, are minority-, woman-, or disabled-owned, provide jobs to Philadelphians, or suffered damage in 2020 due to civil unrest.

“Philadelphia is facing an extraordinarily challenging economic climate, and our Black and brown residents and business owners are bearing the brunt of the negative impact of the pandemicboth from a health and economic perspective,” said Michael A. Rashid, Commerce Director for the City of Philadelphia. “To recover equitably, partnership and collaboration will be needed on a scale never seen before. The success of the city will only be possible by building on the inspiring collaborative efforts underway with the private sector to grow our economy—fairly and inclusively. The challenges we face today are also an opportunity to change course and work harder to deliver true equity for all Philadelphians.”

Community Engagement 

City offices have worked together with local entities to thoughtfully engage with the community in addressing necessary actions around reform, specifically in regard to public safety and police reform. The City has also worked to review holidays, landmarks, and public spaces.

In three sessions that began October 8, 2020, and will end February 11, 2021, the Office of Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs held its series “Law, Order, & God,” a multi-part engagement focusing on faith and public safety, with members of Vine Memorial Baptist Church. The series will continue with other congregations in early 2021.

On November 30, the Community Engagement subcommittee, in conjunction with the City’s Office of Public Engagement and the Philadelphia Police Department, held Circles of Truths, a two-hour event centered around truth-sharing, grief and building a space for healing, discussion, and listening as the City works towards building an equitable future for all. The series’ opening session centered on addressing and repairing harm while compiling collaborative feedback. Moving forward, it will focus on fostering relationships, community building and the continued development of public safety and policing reforms. This series will continue this year.

Additionally, on January 16, 2021; the Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement and the Innovation Lab hosted “Operation Innovation”, a space where Gen-Z Philadelphians aged 13-25 came together to design the Philadelphia they want to live in. In this space, Gen-Z residents worked to reimagine existing public safety frameworks in an effort to bring fresh perspectives and elevate the ingenuity of the city’s youngest residents. The first session in this series was focused on public safety and provided a valuable youth lens to the City’s Pathways to Reform, Transformation and Reconciliation work.

“The City’s steps over the last six months in collaborating across departments, institutions, and with local stakeholders and organizations to thoughtfully engage with our communities have been a substantive start to fostering equity for all Philadelphia residents,” said Ajeenah Amir, Director of the Office of Public Engagement. “By connecting dialogue with meaningful action, our continued work to regain trust, build relationships, and increase transparency and accountability has contributed to important growth and meaningful change. We understand and acknowledge that more efforts like these are vital to sustained and lasting change.”

In addition to efforts to increase community relations between the PPD and residents, the Steering Committee has prioritized reviewing Philadelphia’s public art and landmarks. Led by the Office of Arts Culture and the Creative Economy (OACCE), the Landmarks and Monuments Review will be a public-driven process to ensure that the City of Philadelphia’s values of inclusiveness, integrity, and respect for the diversity of its citizenry, visitors, and history is reflected in its monuments and public art, as well as in the names of its City-owned landmarks. The Landmarks and Monuments Review will set the criteria and a process to rename or change any landmark or monument that does not align with these values. The process will also ensure that the future naming of landmarks and the commissioning of new public art and monuments reflect these values.

“The Landmarks and Monuments Review efforts align with the Steering Committee’s goal of addressing systemic and institutional racism in our city,” said Kelly Lee, Chief Cultural Officer and the Director of OACCE. “The Review provides the public with a process to remove, rename, replace, or recontextualize any City-owned landmarks and monuments that represent racism, bigotry, or colonialism. By prioritizing community engagement, the City recognizes the need for a proactive and inclusive process to truly represent the diversity of Philadelphia’s past and present.”

Over the last six months OACCE:

  • Held meetings with the Steering Committee, the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, Streets Department, Managing Directors Office, Law Department, Department of Public Property, the Records Department, Mayor’s Office, Philadelphia Department of Planning and Development, Philadelphia Historical Commission, and the Philadelphia Art Commission to develop a draft of the criteria and process for the Landmarks and Monuments Review. 
  • Reviewed how cities and universities are addressing confederate monuments, the history of Philadelphia street names, and best practices in community engagement to inform the City of Philadelphia’s Landmarks and Monuments Review process.
  • Worked with the Office of Information Technology to develop a comprehensive database of the City’s monuments, public art and each park, recreation center, street, playground, etc. to be considered on the Landmarks and Monuments Review Process. This represents approximately 7,000 city-owned assets.
  • Launched a more robust community engagement process to commission new public artwork to reflect the diversity of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. 
  • Implemented a comprehensive community engagement process for the Bethel Burying Ground Historic Site Memorial, a public art memorial to recognize and celebrate the over 5,000 African Americans buried at the historic Bethel Burying Ground, located beneath Weccacoe Playground in Queen Village. 

In addition, the Administration has worked to examine and update City holidays in relation to racial justice.  On January 27, 2021, Mayor Jim Kenney signed Executive Order 2-21, which made two changes to the list of City Holidays. The City of Philadelphia will once again recognize Juneteenth (June 19) as a holiday; and, for the first time, the City holiday celebrated on the second Monday of October will be recognized as Indigenous Peoples’ Day rather than Columbus Day. These changes, instituted via Executive Order 2-21, will be in place at least through the end of the Kenney administration. The City will also continue to pursue including these changes permanently as part of the Collective Bargaining Agreements with the four municipal worker unions, which expire this year. 

“As the City continues its reconciliation work following the uprisings for racial justice last summer, we know that it is critical for government to reckon with our own role in maintaining racial inequities,” said Mayor Kenney. “While changes to City holidays may seem largely symbolic, we recognize that symbols carry power. We hope that for our employees and residents of color, this change is viewed as an acknowledgment of the centuries of institutional racism and marginalization that have been forced upon Black Americans, Indigenous people, and other communities of color. At the same time, we are clear-eyed about the fact that there is still an urgent need for further substantive systemic change in all areas of local government.”  

Public Health

With a focus on providing an equitable lens to public health, the Steering Committee has worked to advance the City’s health reform agenda. Disparities in outcomes from COVID-19 between racial and ethnic groups result from the accumulated impact of centuries of systemic racism. To mitigate the impact on Black and brown communities, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) is working with community organizations and stakeholders to ensure that the City’s response to this pandemic focuses resources on those at the highest risk.

“The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the racial inequities that Philadelphians have been suffering with for decades,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “Those most at risk of being exposed to the coronavirus, those most at risk of being hospitalized from it, those most likely to die from it, are African American and Hispanic. These communities consistently report the poorest health in the city, so this is not new. That is why it is not enough to just offer a vaccine to those who can get it most easily. We have to make vaccines available in the community to those who are most vulnerable. Ending the pandemic in every neighborhood is the first step toward having better health in all parts of the city.”

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health continues to implement its Coronavirus Interim Racial Equity Plan, which focuses on strategies for addressing race-based disparities during the pandemic. Since the last Pathways update, the department also released an interim plan documenting equitable strategies for distributing COVID-19 vaccines in Philadelphia

Given supply limitations, the City has implemented a phased approach to vaccine distribution. Early vaccination efforts are focusing on healthcare workers, frontline and essential personnel, and individuals at the highest risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19. 

Pathways Forward

In recognizing the enduring necessity in advancing an equitable future, the Pathways initiative is dedicated to sustained work to promote lasting reforms. To learn more about the progress of the initiative, follow the Path to Progress timeline that outlines major developments, events and reforms achieved to date.

For updates on the Pathways initiative, please sign up for the Pathways newsletter here.

For more information, events, and progress on the Pathways to Reform, Transformation, and Reconciliation efforts, visit its website.