Former Deputy Sheriff Detective Malika Rahman has announced her candidacy for Philadelphia sheriff.
Rahman’s announcement is historic as it puts two Black women in the running; Guardian Civic League President Rochelle Bilal already has announced her intent to run.
The race marks the first time a Black woman — let alone two — has run for sheriff. If either wins, she would be the first woman elected to the position in Philadelphia.
Timothy Welbeck, a civil rights attorney and professor of Africology at Temple University, said it’s significant that two Black women are running for the nomination.
“Black women are some of the most active and engaged [voters] and oftentimes elected officials overlook their needs,” he said. “I’m personally excited to see two Black women running for this office.”
He said he “hopes Philadelphia is prepared to elect a woman to this role” even though “there has been apprehension in the past about electing women to executive positions locally and nationally.”
Rahman has served 10 years in Philadelphia law enforcement, initially as a correctional officer and most recently as deputy sheriff’s detective. She said that, given the accusations of sexual harassment levied against Sheriff Jewell Williams, the moment is prime for women to have a voice in the office.
“Any person that decides to uproot their life and put themselves on the public forum for the sake of other people, especially those in the community in which they serve, I applaud them because this is not something that you just decide to get up and do,” she said. “Two women running shows it is essential that we make a change and advocate for ourselves. I think that any man who is accused of anything that is violating to a person, be it a male or female, should be held accountable.”
Welbeck noted that not only is Williams facing sexual harassment allegations, but his predecessor was accused of fraud and bribery.
“If Philadelphia is to live up to its potential, it needs to rid itself of this institutional corruption and this is a prime opportunity to do that,” Welbeck said. “The sheriff’s office needs a reformer, especially considering they have a history of scandal.”
Accountability and transparency in the sheriff’s office are two of the top items on Rahman’s platform.
“It is clear that there are things that need to be changed,” Rahman said. “Accountability needs to happen and it’s essential that we are accountable for our actions, that we are accountable for the job that we do; that we are accountable to the people that we serve.”
She continued: “Integrity is an issue. We need to be able to be open and honest with the people we serve about the job that we do, about the things and services we provide; and lastly, a focus on the community — we have to be able to serve with a human aspect first. We are law enforcement, we are essential personnel, but we also are about the people. Public service is our number one job.”
Helping residents at risk of losing their homes is another item on Rahman’s platform. She said “relationships” are key.
“There are many nonprofits within the city of Philadelphia that offer those services, to advocate for people and to serve as a liaison between our office and people who are in danger of losing their home, so we can assure that if that process has to happen, it is done in a dignified way and that people have the resources to finding alternative housing in the process.”
The functions of the Sheriff’s Office include providing security in city courthouses, transporting individuals in the Philadelphia prison system and collecting delinquent taxes for the city.
Attempts to reach the sheriff’s communications office were unsuccessful.
Local political consultant Maurice Floyd has told the Tribune that Williams “will absolutely run again.”