Residents, community activists and even beat cops are hoping the recent tragic shooting of an unarmed pizza delivery driver in the Cedar Park neighborhood will fast-track the Philadelphia Police Department’s (PPD) efforts to become more transparent.
The shooting of Philippe Holland on April 22 near 51st and Willows by two plain-clothes police officers came during a Department of Justice review of “officer-involved shootings” in the city that will likely lead to recommendations for a public review of “officer involved shootings.”
Residents attending the monthly meeting with neighborhood police last night in the Calvary Center at 48th and Baltimore had questions about the shooting, in which Holland was critically injured after police shot 14 times at the car he was driving. Holland was shot in the head, neck and leg. Patty Bullack with the 48th Street Neighbors group read aloud a letter signed by about 130 community members asking the police to make public the findings of an ongoing investigation of the shooting.
Lt. Brian McBride, commanding officer of the PPD’s University City substation, said he was unable to disclose any details of the investigation, but hopes its findings will eventually become public.
“I can’t say anything about the case, but I can say that they’re looking at a lot of things about what happened that night,” McBride said.
Unlike departments in other big cities, Philadelphia’s famously secretive police department has never been compelled to publicly discuss officer-involved shootings in the past.
But McBride said that the department has made significant strides toward transparency under the leadership of Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who became the top cop in 2008. One of Ramsey’s initiatives has been the posting of some details of officer-involved shootings online, which began last year. The posts do not include any details about the outcomes of formal investigations of the shootings.
Philadelphia’s police department doesn’t reveal those details. Yet.
“We have nothing to hide but it seems like we do because we’re stuck in an archaic way of doing things in Philadelphia,” said McBride, who added that he expects Ramsey to make the investigation into the shooting of Philippe Holland public. McBride said that many cops want details made public because “99 percent, probably more, of [police-involved shootings] are justified.”
But there are serious doubts, at least among members of the public, that the shooting of Holland was justified. Holland had finished his last delivery of the night and was walking back to his car when the officers approached him during the investigation of a recent shooting in the area. Holland, who may have believed he was being robbed, ran to his car and drove toward the officers. They opened fire. Holland, who was in critical condition for several days, is currently recovering at a hospital in Newark, New Jersey.
Kelvyn Anderson, a Cedar Park resident and executive director of the city’s Police Advisory Commission, said at last night’s meeting that the commission is pushing for a “public reckoning” of officer-involved shootings, which would include a public discussion of investigations.
“We think that is what is needed here,” he said. “We hope this will lead to some significant changes in the way we deal with things like this in the city.”
The Justice Department released findings of a similar investigation in Las Vegas in 2012 that recommended the release of several key documents any time the police investigated an officer-involved shooting. The same Justice Department official who led that investigation is currently reviewing procedures in Philadelphia.
There will likely be further discussion about the shooting at the Police Advisory Commission monthly meeting on Monday, May 19th at the Sweet Union Baptist Church, 1536 N. 59th Street (near 59th and Lansdowne) beginning at 6:30 p.m.