Ballot measure passes for new safety officers in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A new class of civilian safety officers will be established in Philadelphia as the result of a ballot question passed in Tuesday's primary election to amend the Home Rule Charter.

Voters in West Philadelphia weighed in after learning the measure passed.

John Medley of West Philadelphia wants to know more details and has, "Questions. Lots of questions."

Marie Watson of West Philadelphia told Action News, "I think we need more policing in neighborhoods."

Vernon Smith of West Philadelphia added, "It would be a welcome addition to the rest of the enforcement authorities."

The Public Safety Enforcement Officers will assist Philadelphia Police with enforcing quality of life issues, like illegal dumping, and helping police officers in regulating traffic flow.

While the concept has received widespread support, it was not without opposition including the police union.

Jim Reed of Wynnefield sees this as a positive step and said, "I know the president of the FOP doesn't like that because he thinks it's taking work from the policemen. I don't think so. I think that's a job maybe non-policemen can do and do well."

There are still a lot of questions. No word yet on how many officers will be hired or what this all will cost.

Enforcement agencies like this already exist in other cities. These officers would not be armed or make arrests.

Eric Wesley of West Philadelphia shared, "It's going to allow the police to do something else. It will keep the traffic citations and everything in order. It's just a little more order for the people, that's all."

Moses Griffin works in West Philadelphia and added, "As many laborers as we can-you know-it take a village to raise a people. So, I think the more people we can have invested into that effort, the better."

City Council president Darrell Clarke, who spearheaded the idea, explained creating this new class of officers will take collaboration from multiple agencies. He added it will allow police officers to focus on violent crime. Clarke's statement on voter approval reads, in part,

"New housing starts and cranes in the sky tell only part of Philadelphia's story: Too many people here are unsafe during their bike to work, their walk to school, or on their own block. Our brave and dedicated police officers deserve all necessary resources to focus on violent crime without being stretched because of worsening traffic congestion. Our hope that Public Safety Enforcement Officers will empower police to reduce serious crime while enhancing the quality of life in neighborhoods is shared by a broad coalition of supporters that includes the PPD, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, the Center City District, and the Pennsylvania AARP."
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