The community approach to policing ordered by Mayor Michael Nutter is not a sunset operation but will be the primary method of policing from now on, Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Everett Gillison said at a forum in Klein Hall on Tuesday.
Gillison, who took Nutter’s place at the forum after the mayor cancelled his appearance, was one of four panelists at the Student Public Interest Network 2008 Philadelphia Forum, “Combating Gun Violence: Solutions and Responses.”
The forum was moderated by Joanne Epps, dean for Academic Affairs at the Beasley School of Law.
To achieve the 25 percent reduction in homicides Nutter set as his target after his inauguration, Gillison said the overall goal is to “change the crime culture.”
“That’s in essence what it’s all about, so that it’s not necessary for young people to carry a gun,” he said.
Other panelists included law professor David Kairys; Brett Mandel, executive director of the organization Philadelphia Forward; and Mary Catherine Roper, staff attorney at the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union.
John J. McNesby, president of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police, was scheduled to participate on the panel but cancelled after learning that Gillison, a former lawyer who represented the murderer of Officer Gary Skerski last year, would take Nutter’s place.
Kairys, who drafted lawsuits for 40 cities against handgun manufacturers, reviewed the rifts in the state’s gun laws and said the majority of Philadelphia’s homicides are attributable to lax controlling mechanisms laid out in Harrisburg and lobbying by the National Rifle Association.
Guns bought outside the city are often sold in Philadelphia, a practice known as straw purchasing.
“We have laws on the [gun] market, but they are so lax that I think we can say we have an unregulated market,” Kairys said.
Currently, anyone without a criminal record can purchase as many handguns as they want.
Speaking with his broken arm in a sling from a hockey accident, Mandel, of Philadelphia Forward, praised Nutter’s plan to reduce homicides by 25 percent because it gives a quantifiable measure of success to the way money is being spent on policing.
“Saying, ‘We’re going to spend this much on police stuff’ doesn’t tell us much about what we’re going to do,” said Mandel. “For the first time, the budget has built in quantifiable goals: ‘We will reduce homicides by 25 percent.'”
Andrew Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.