Philly voters approve civilian public safety officers; police union wants to fight it

Pat Loeb
May 23, 2019 - 4:00 am
Philadelphia City Hall.

Holli Stephens / KYW Newsradio


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia voters approved four ballot questions in Tuesday's primary: One making city charter language gender neutral, one creating a permanent Office of Immigrant Affairs, one calling on the state to raise the minimum wage and one to create public safety officers to do some police work.

But the last one, which approved the creation of a new category of public safety employees that would be somewhere between a crossing guard and a police officer, faces a challenge despite voter approval as the Fraternal Order of Police is still planning to fight the new force.

The ballot question explained the new "public safety officers" would regulate traffic and enforce quality of life ordinances. But FOP president John McNesby says only police officers can do those things and he'd be prepared to take it to the state Labor Relations Board if the city tries to move forward.

"Our state labor laws are pretty strong on this area, saying it's police work and they can't just arbitrarily come in and take it away," he said. 

But Darrell Clarke, who's worked on the concept for several years, calls the threat a red herring.

"We've done the research, we've looked at all of the legislation, both state and municipal, and we've determined that we have the authorization to create these officers," Clarke said.

It's the Kenney administration that will have to find common ground if the new force is to happen, and Kenney says he hasn't figured it out yet but hopes he can find a way to get McNesby on board.

"He'll be at the table or he'll be in arbitration," the mayor said.