PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Landlord and Tenant Office has resumed evictions in Philadelphia, and says it has implemented a number of changes to reduce violence during the process.
But the attorney for a woman who was shot during an eviction is not convinced.
Among the new changes being implemented by the Landlord and Tenant Office of Philadelphia Municipal Court are:
-Additional Training in the use of force and de-escalation
-Evictions will be conducted in teams of two
-Tenant advocates will be emailed details of scheduled evictions if interested
-The office will swear in constables from suburban communities.
"I find it impossible to believe that whoever the Landlord Tenant Office is deciding to hire over the next month has received the requisite amount of training on the use of deadly force within 30 days," said attorney Kevin O'Brien, who represents a tenant who was shot during an eviction in July.
Latese Bethea was shot in the knee while being evicted from the Grace Townhomes in Port Richmond.
A spokesperson for the Landlord and Tenant Office says Bethea threatened officers with a knife before she was shot.
"She says she didn't attack anybody. This altercation between them was because she wanted the police to be called. She said 'I want the police to be called' and they wouldn't take that for an answer," said O'Brien
It was the third incident where a Landlord Tenant Officer had opened fire this summer. In another case, a woman was shot in the head in North Philadelphia.
The sheriff's office does some evictions, but landlords often hire the LTO because it's faster and cheaper.
The Action News Data Team has found that 5% of all Philadelphia renter households have received an eviction filing within the past year. O'Brien and his client are calling for trained law enforcement officers to conduct evictions.
"Discount officers with discount training at discount prices, and they got what they paid for in this case," added O'Brien
The Landlord and Tenant Office released this statement:
After training addressing use of force and de-escalation tactics, the Landlord and Tenant Office of Philadelphia Municipal Court will resume evictions in the city on or after August 21, 2023.
New protocols and procedures in the performance of future evictions have been designed after input from numerous stakeholders. They are intended to eliminate violence in the eviction process and to increase the safety of tenants, city residents and deputy LTO officers during execution of court orders.
Over the past half century, the LTO has performed hundreds of thousands of evictions in Philadelphia in a safe and professional manner. It has done so without cost to taxpayers, relying solely on service fees paid by landlords.
By updating its protocols and procedures, the LTO is seeking to build on its record of outstanding service to Philadelphia Municipal Court while simultaneously ensuring that evictions are conducted in a safe, effective, and respectful manner. The new protocols and procedures are as follows:
1. Evictions will be conducted in teams of two Landlord Tenant Officers, at least one of which will have received all training required for certified Pennsylvania Constables.
2. New Deputy Landlord Tenant Officers with experience serving as Pennsylvania Constables will be sworn to service in Philadelphia by the President Judge of Philadelphia Municipal Court in accordance with applicable Pennsylvania law.
3. In the future, schedules showing dates and times of evictions for the following week will be shared via email with any tenant action group or other interested stakeholder wishing to receive it and with all tenants who make inquiry of the office. At the request of tenant advocates, the date and times of evictions will also be placed on the Court's docket. Tenants may learn the date and time of their particular eviction, therefore, either from their counsel, by checking the court docket, or by calling the LTO, whose contact information is provided to tenants together with service of the writ of possession giving the tenant notice that an eviction is imminent.
4. Landlords will be required to submit information to the LTO office in the form of an affidavit before future evictions will be scheduled. The information will require disclosure of known issues that otherwise might not come to light until an LTO eviction is in process. All such issues will need to be addressed in a reasonable manner prior to eviction scheduling. Pending applications for alias writs must be updated to include the affidavit before being scheduled.
5. All deputies will be reminded to cease and desist from evicting, as the personal safety of officers permits, if unexpected issues arise. Postponed evictions will only be rescheduled after the issues presented are resolved.
6. Total LTO fees for an eviction will increase from $145 to $350 to cover added expenses related to hiring additional staff, training, and insurance costs, etc.