Philly Councilor Brooks questions Kenney’s urgency on shifting crossing guards out of police department

    Vanessa Garrett Harley, Deputy Managing Director, Criminal Justice & Public Safety and Mayor Jim Kenney discuss preventive initiatives aimed at reducing gun violence and gun trauma (Philadelphia Tribune photo by Abdul Sulayman)

    A city legislator accused the Kenney administration of lacking urgency in fulfilling its commitment to shifting some responsibilities out of the Philadelphia Police Department, which was tied to a reduction in the department’s budget last year following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

    The management of city crossing guards has yet to fully move under the control of the Managing Director’s Office and out of the police department’s purview, City Managing Director Tumar Alexander informed members of City Council during a legislative budget hearing Monday.

    While the budget for the crossing guards — $12 million — was shifted from the police department to the Managing Director’s Office in the current fiscal year, Alexander said his office continues to work with police on administrative functions for the crossing guards.

    “Due to timing and due to the way we had to sort of respond to the pandemic last year, we couldn’t fully assume all those roles and responsibilities for the crossing guards,” Alexander said. “So it’s sort of cross-sharing right now.”

    At-large Councilmember Kendra Brooks said legislators “haven’t seen the urgency” to move the crossing guards fully out of the police department.

    Brooks raised concerns that that the Kenney administration’s slowness to fulfill its commitment could affect public support for other proposed funding for the Managing Director’s Office for safety programs.

    Council President Darrell Clarke said crossing guards were a “more significant” example of city workers who should not be housed in the police department.

    Alexander said he expected his office to oversee all crossing guard operations by the end of 2022.

    Last year, Mayor Jim Kenney reduced his proposed increase for the police department’s budget in the wake of the police killing of Floyd, which set off nationwide protests and civil unrest, including in Philadelphia.

    Kenney shifted $14 million in total out of the police budget for the current year’s spending plan, which included removing crossing guards and public safety enforcement officers out of the police department.

    Kenney’s proposed budget for the fiscal year 2022 budget calls for keeping the police budget flat at $727 million.

    Budget hearings were to continue Tuesday. City legislators must pass a budget before July 1.

    Michael D’Onofrio is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared