The Center Square) — The House Select Committee on Law and Order met in south Philadelphia on Thursday in what amounted to a strong rebuke of the Philadelphia Police Department, City Council, and District Attorney Larry Krasner.
“Crime and lawlessness are holding the city back from reaching its full potential,” said Rep. John Lawrence, R-West Grove, chairman of the committee. “The committee is to review how victims of crime are being treated in this city, with a focus on the rights legally afforded to crime victims.”
“It is a paramount duty of government to protect its citizens. As you will hear this morning, we have failed,” Lawrence said. “No one can reasonably dispute that change must occur.”
While Democrats have been critical of the committee and state Republicans’ efforts to impeach Krasner, not all of them oppose the committee.
“It is well beyond time that we start to actually solve this crisis that we’re in,” said Rep. Amen Brown, D-Philadelphia, one of two Democrats who sit on the committee. Brown was shot as a 14-year-old. “When it comes to gun violence in our city, I take no backseat to no one trying to control my narrative.”
Brown told a story of a 100-year-old constituent in his district who hasn’t been able to sit on her porch for more than two years due to violent crime in her neighborhood.
“She is why I’m sitting here today to get to the bottom of the problems we face,” he said.
The committee heard video testimony from families of murder victims who criticized both the district attorney’s office and the Philadelphia Police Department for incompetence and a perceived lack of care.
The picture that emerged was one of police officers who failed to do the basic work expected of them and a district attorney’s office that did little to bring charges against suspects or reach out to the families of murder victims.
Karen McConnell told of her granddaughter, Jalene Holton, who was killed after a man shot into a bar. She criticized the district attorney for not getting a conviction of the man before the murder when he was accused of rape.
“I’m not getting any answers or justice for my daughter,” said Tiffany Flynn, whose 19-year-old was killed in 2021. “I live less than five blocks away from where my daughter was murdered. So I look at, is there something you’re doing to prevent another young woman from being in the same situation? And I don’t see that.”
The families of victims were disappointed in the police assigned to murder cases.
“The detective that was on the case never reached out to me,” said Malikah Womack, whose daughter Jada was killed in a stabbing. “Every time I would call her, she was off or she’s not in – her supervisor, they’re not there.”
Her frustration with the city was apparent.
“Why is nobody in the city of Philadelphia reaching out to us mothers?” Womack asked. “You think any of these politicians, or Krasner – do you think you could be able to walk in a mother’s shoes who lost a child, has to bury them? … I don’t understand why aren’t they trying to help us?”
Other mothers now consider leaving the city.
“I want out. I want out of the city of Philadelphia,” said Nakisha Billa, whose son Dominic was killed in a mall shooting in 2021. “I live in fear every day because I have other children that I worry about.”
“This is not a game. I’m tired of losses every day,” Billa said. “This is not a political stance. This is a stance from a mother whose whole world has been turned upside down since the death of my son.”