Mayor Keffer Takes Swift Action by Initiating Review of Police Policies

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July 15, 2020


UPPER DARBY, PA - Following last month’s signing of the Obama Foundation Mayor’s Pledge, Upper Darby, led by Mayor Barbarann Keffer and with full cooperation and participation from Police Superintendent Timothy Bernhardt and other stakeholders, has taken proactive steps to review current policing policies, engage a broad cross-section of the community, and share findings and ideas for reform.
The Pledge, formally known as the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance Pledge, calls on mayors, councillors, and others to undertake a four-step process to engage the community in efforts to reform policing policies nationwide. Mayor Keffer has pursued this goal aggressively by attending multiple public events and private meetings with community groups, faith-based groups, youth activists, individual leaders, and anyone who has reached out with an earnest desire to be a part of the process. She has also tasked her top aide, Township Chief Administrative Officer/Deputy Mayor, Vincent Rongione to engage in the same type of community outreach while also organizing the internal review of policy and procedure with Township Council and the Police Department. “Just in the last few weeks, myself, Vince, and Tim have engaged so many community members who are passionate about these issues,” said Mayor Keffer. “One thing that seems to unite everyone is a desire to not continue the status quo. Everyone recognizes that it’s long past time to take a hard look at the systemic issues that have created a space for brutality to go unchecked. In a community as diverse as ours, we are fortunate to not have more problems and it is a further great sign for our Township that our Police are committed to this important work and want to be leaders in making things better and safer for everyone.”
“I am committed to working with the Mayor and the community to enact reforms that allow us to do our jobs better and more effectively, while keeping Upper Darby safe” said Superintendent Bernhardt. “There is always room for growth and improvement, and that includes our officers here in Upper Darby.”

    Some initial findings and results of the process are as follows:
  • Upper Darby does not employ “Stop and Frisk” as a policy
  • Upper Darby does not employ the use of choke holds in its use of force policy
  • Upper Darby will make public its use of force policy
  • Upper Darby will work to create a standing committee for community input
  • Upper Darby will take steps to protect officers and the public while demilitarizing the department
  • Upper Darby is currently undertaking a thorough budget review to ensure that spending priorities are in line with public safety needs and community policing values
  • Upper Darby is investigating and pursuing the implementation of a body/dash camera program to better protect the public and the officers
  • Upper Darby will create more transparency around complaints against officers and policies to help identify early warning signs for problematic officer behavior

“This is just the beginning of what the Mayor has asked us to do but these are still important findings and significant first steps,” said CAO Vincent Rongione. “The passion from the community has been inspiring and the determination from the Mayor to make Upper Darby a leader on these issues is something that we should all feel good about. Everyone wants to act right now and fix everything and we understand that - it's just not how these things work. These systemic problems grew over generations and they will take concerted effort over time by a lot of different people to unwind, change, and rebuild in a thoughtful way. The Mayor is moving quickly on what we can do now but many of the most significant changes must take place during the collective bargaining process with the Fraternal Order of Police and we look forward to positive engagement with them as one of many stakeholders with an important perspective on these issues.”

“These are trying and turbulent times,” Keffer continued, “but, I have so much confidence in our community and our Council to help us learn and grow and emerge from them stronger and more secure than ever. It is not an easy time to be a Police officer in America but we must also recognize that it has never been an easy time to be a black person in America and it is long past time that all marginalized and over-policed communities have a seat at the table. That is why I took the pledge, why I am committed to the work, and why I won’t stop engaging the community and keeping them informed until we have a system that truly works for everyone.”