Phila. Police Union May Allow Commissioner More Authority


Philadelphia’s police commissioner can hire only six people who are exempt from civil service regulations, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. The remainder of the 6,600-member force are members of the same labor union. Departing commissioner Sylvester Johnson called his limited ability to appoint his own command team “a terrible flaw” that few chief executives of other half-billion-dollar organizations would tolerate. “I think until that changes, any police commissioner who comes here is going to have a hard time,” said Johnson, 64, who will retire in six weeks, at the end of Mayor John Street’s term.

With Michael Nutter’s election as mayor, the issue is likely to be revived soon after his Jan. 7 inaugural. When Nutter named former Washington, D.C., Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey to replace Johnson, the mayor-elect restated his support for amending Philadelphia’s Home Rule Charter to allow the police commissioner more hiring latitude. This time, the union that has been the biggest obstacle has signaled a willingness to relax its opposition. “It’s highly unusual for a chief executive of a major police force to not be able to put together their own management team,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum.


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