Philadelphia legislators pledged to boost police department funding to ensure every officer is equipped with a Taser following the fatal police shooting of a Black man this week.
On Wednesday, Council President Darrell Clarke committed to immediately transferring as much as $9.5 million for the purchase of the non-lethal weapons, although the exact amount needed to outfit the entire force with Tasers remained unclear.
“If the police say we need some additional money to accelerate the purchase of Tasers, that’s a simple ask,” Clarke said while flanked by a handful of members of City Council outside City Hall.
Clarke said the Council would act if the Kenney administration proposed the funding request.
His comments came three days after the fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr. in the 6100 block of Locust Street in West Philadelphia. Two officers shot Wallace, who was wielding a knife, after a dispute. The shooting was captured on video and widely shared on social media.
Wallace’s family has reportedly said he had a bipolar disorder and they called 911 that day for an ambulance — not a police response.
The fatal police shooting ignited protests, as well as looting and rioting in the city. Philadelphia officials imposed a 9 p.m. curfew on Wednesday as the civil unrest was expected to continue.
Outlaw has said the officers involved in the shooting did not have Tasers, which deliver an electric shock that temporarily stuns the target.
Approximately a third of the police force of 2,301 officers have completed proper training to carry Tasers and are required to carry them on duty, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
The city allotted $4.5 million for the police department this year to purchase Tasers, among other things. Police officials aim to have a Taser on every officer’s belt within five years, which is part of a $14 million proposed spending plan during that time for the non-lethal weapons and other things.
Clarke said the 17-member City Council would accelerate that five-year funding plan.
The city faced a $750 million budget deficit going into this fiscal year, which began July 1. Deep budget cuts hit nearly all departments.
Protests in Philadelphia for police reforms following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis pushed city leaders to reduce the police department’s budget, too. But while the police department saw its budget dip $14 million to $727 million, the cuts amounted to diverting the funding to other city departments.
Council members also urged voters to pass ballot questions on the Nov. 3 ballot that would put in place a series of police reforms, but did not introduce any new proposals following the most recent police killing of a Black man.
The ballot questions ask voters whether to:
- Create an office of the victim advocate in the city.
- Ban the unconstitutional use of stop-and-frisk by police.
- Form a new citizen police oversight commission.
Councilman Curtis Jones (D-4) said the officers who fatally shot Wallace used “excessive force.” Although Jones said the officers shot Wallace 14 times, police officials have yet to officially confirm how many shots were fired or struck Wallace.
Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez (D-7) said training and accountability will ultimately reign in how officers make use of deadly force.
Quiñones-Sanchez added that domestic incident calls to police — similar to the call that brought officers to Wallace’s door — have spiked during the novel coronavirus pandemic that started in March. Police should not be responding to those calls, she said.
“Two people with a gun should not be leading a response to that kind of call,” Quiñones-Sanchez said. “That is the reform we’re working towards.”