Already in 2007, two people have been shot and killed by Philadelphia police, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. One was an unarmed man and another may have been mentally ill. Last year, Philadelphia saw more fatal shootings by police than any other of the nation’s 10 largest cities, including New York. Twenty civilians were killed by police last year, the most on record since 1980. In New York City, with almost six times as many people and police officers, the total was 13.
Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson and his commanders point to what they say is a more violent street culture, the same one that generated 406 homicides last year. It is not surprising, they contend, that officers are using deadly force more often as they aggressively try to police streets that are awash with guns. Others disagree. “There’s no justification for Philadelphia to be so far in excess of other cities,” said Samuel Walker, a criminal justice professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “There’s something clearly wrong in Philadelphia.” He cited Philadelphia’s decision not to hire a new director for the Integrity and Accountability Office, which provided independent oversight of the police. David Rudovsky, a civil rights attorney in Philadelphia, said, “I think the numbers themselves raise very serious questions and the lack of outside accountability, outside monitoring, is something we should be looking at.”