The city of Philadelphia continues to fight for police reform in the wake of the senseless killings of unarmed African Americans- who have died under the arms of the law.
According to Mapping police violence, 259 African Americans have died as a result of police harm in 2019, with over 17 percent being unarmed during the time of their death.
While defunding the Philadelphia police department may seem like a straight forward solution, much of the city’s focus should also be on eliminating PPD’s court-overtime in efforts to reduce unlawful arrest caused by racial bias.
The Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority reported the city spent over $61.6 million on police overtime in 2019- nearly a $40 million jump in the past two years.
One-third of that funding gets allocated to employees working court overtime- a process in which officers get subpoenaed to testify as witnesses to crimes.
That’s over $20 million of the city’s budget spent on cops testifying in court, where they often earn more in overtime than salary for sitting around until their hearings begin.
PPD’s court-overtime is problematic because it doesn’t only waste taxpayers’ dollars; it also acts as an underlying incentive prompting cops to make more arrests in urban communities.
According to the Sentencing Project, African Americans are likely to be incarcerated at a rate that is 5.1 times more than their white counterparts, with minorities making up 59 percent of the state prison population in the U.S.
This chilling statistic poses two troubling questions:
Are minorities being racially targeted for officers to hit their salary quota, and how does this negatively impact urban communities?
African Americans are constantly stopped and frisked without reasonable suspicion causing an increase in arrests where they face the likelihood of pleading or being found guilty of crimes they didn’t commit due to a lack of representation.
In the event that an innocent person tries to overturn a verdict through an appeal, they often face a difficult path even when there is new evidence supporting their case.
Even in cases where charges are dropped or expunged, unlawful arrests continue to haunt many individuals since the lingering charges leave them susceptible to be rearrested and possibly unemployed in the future.
Earlier this month, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw announced that she would cut overtime to help offset Mayor Kenny’s to decrease PPD’s budget.
While this is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t nearly solve the problem.
By completely eliminating court-overtime, officers will be less likely to make unlawful arrests if they knew that it would cost them their own leisure time.
Instead, city officials should use part of the $20 million budget to invest in creating a division assigned to coordinate officers’ regular shifts with the time they spend at courthouses.
Such measures would free up a large percentage of the city’s budget while also allowing officers to be paid for their time without profiting off of the incarceration of African Americans.