When the Philadelphia Police Department’s top brass gathered recently to discuss the Safe Streets program, the session included two officials of Mayor John Street’s re-election campaign, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. One of them said his participation was appropriate because the subject was how police commissioner Sylvester Johnson would respond to an Inquirer article reporting that violent crime was up in the city and arrests down.
The meeting was criticized both by the mayoral campaign of Republican Sam Katz and Frederick Voigt of the Committee of Seventy, a nonpartisan group that monitors elections. A Katz aide declared that “city officials should not be sharing police matters with the campaign.”
Inquirer said Johnson had no objection to the campaign aides’ presence at the meeting, but he didn’t sound too happy about it. “I’m not going to have myself pulled into politics, although I am being pulled into it,” the commissioner said.
The Inquirer story reported that homicides and gunpoint robberies had increased this year and that arrests for such crimes had fallen. Johnson later said that while the statistics were accurate, the story failed to address the improvement in the quality of life in many neighborhoods because of Safe Streets.
After the article, the Police Department revamped the program to make officers more visible and to increase overtime to keep more police out at drug corners for longer hours. Johnson said neither the article nor the meeting had prompted the changes.