Departing Philadelphia Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson says likely mayor Michael Nutter’s proposed “stop-and-frisk” policy would be a “disaster,” reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Johnson said Nutter’s promise to invoke the more aggressive law enforcement strategy would undermine the community rapport that Johnson, 64, feels he has developed in six years on the job. He said the next commissioner “is going to have a problem” with discontent – or worse, civil unrest – if that goodwill is undermined.
“What he’s saying, too, is that he wants a police commissioner to be harder. Well, harder on what? Johnson told the Inquirer “Do you think locking people up is making a difference?” Johnson’s remarks were his most pointed rebuke of Nutter’s effort to make a campaign issue out of the Police Department’s response to the increase in the city homicide tally, which went from 288 in 2002 to 406 last year. Nutter, who is expected to win next Tuesday’s election against Republican Al Taubenberger, disputed Johnson’s argument that more aggressive policing would trigger a public backlash. Nutter has promised to declare an emergency on his first day in office and direct more police to “targeted enforcement zones” in crime-plagued neighborhoods. Nutter has embraced a controversial strategy in which officers can stop, question and frisk people they suspect of carrying illegal weapons. Criminologists say such strategies have reduced violent crime elsewhere but at the cost of increased hostility from civilians.