It's Still a Shame: Phila. Police HQ Investigation

June 1, 2010 9:04:32 PM PDT
Action News obtained a report, a long list of critical code violations that is set to come out Wednesday. All of them are found inside one building and are enough to potentially shut it down. That building? Philadelphia's Police Headquarters.

"If you take enough of a risk for a long enough time in enough cases," said Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz, "eventually there's a disaster."

Following our Action News investigation last November, the City's Department of Licensing and Inspections surveyed the building. Officials cited the city with a total of 29 separate violations; all of them directly related to fire safety.

Our Action News cameras found exposed wiring, which has been left unfixed, and boxes blocking fire exits. Police say it was all the result of simply having nowhere else to put the boxes. The city was given 30 days to correct each violation, but, nearly 6 months later, the issues haven't been addressed at all according to Butkovitz.

The code violations at police headquarters represent real dangers in the nerve center of the city's police force. But a new audit set to be released by the city comptroller, Alan Butkovitz, shows the problems still exist elsewhere, and in some cases they are even more severe.

"They're a wreck, they are not a reasonable place where police and employees and suspects can spend the day," Butkovitz said.

In 2006, Butkovitz undertook an audit of police facilities. Four years later, his new audit finds the same old problems; some of them are the same exact problems, untouched

"It's disgusting," John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police said. "It's really, downright inhumane."

As Action News cameras photographed the facilities featured in the newest audit, we saw several officers standing outside or sitting in their personal cars. Because, according to them, the air conditioning in some buildings failed long ago. Their cars, they say, are the only places to keep cool. At the headquarters of the Fraternal Order of Police, cases of water sit stacked in the hallway. The water was bought with the officers' own money to distribute in buildings with broken air conditioning.

Butkovitz's latest audit makes a recommendation: The use of millions of dollars that Action News found which was long ago set aside for much needed repairs.

Of the $13.5 million set aside, $4 million remains. That's far more than the $1.5 million the Philadelphia Comptroller says it would take to make these buildings safe for a police force that is already facing danger on the street.

"We're not looking for a Taj Mahal," McNesby said. "We're looking for a police where they can come to work and expect to be able to go home without having lice on them."

Late Tuesday night, Action News reporter Brian Taff spoke on the telephone with Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Edward Gillison. He said Philadelphia is tackling those 29 violations Licenses and Inspections had identified and, he says, the city is in the process of implementing a long-term strategy to address the conditions in police facilities.

Several Philadelphia police officers Action News spoke with say, given that so little has changed over the years, they'll believe it when they see it.