Philadelphia Police Headquarters "Roundhouse"

Philadelphia will pay its police officers a one-time cash bonus that could cost the city about $10 million — provided the department is accredited by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association by the end of September 2015. That’s when Pope Francis and the World Meeting of Families will require an increased number of police on the street.

Specifically, the clause inside the contract signed by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 with the city, Award No. 14 of the 2014-2017 Collective Bargaining Agreement guarantees $1,500 to each officer the union represents. The contract was signed and approved by an arbitrator on July 30, 2014 — two years after then-Pope Benedict XVI announced the World Meeting of Families’ plans for a 2015 event in Philadelphia — and applies to active and retired members of the union.

Lt. Steve Clark, who is managing the accreditation program for the PPD, tells Thetelegraphfield that only the roughly 6,500 active Philly police officers will get the $1,500 bonus should the department get accredited. Though managing the bonus is not part of his efforts to get the force ready for the Aug.31- Sept. 2 assessment by the PACP, Clark says the extra money is to compensate and motivate officers for “an elective process” that requires new and more rigorous duty for cops. “It ensures that they are able to meet new demands and allow us to be more accountable,” he said.

PACP Executive Director R. Dane Merryman told Thetelegraphfield via email that “[t]he Philadelphia PD is engaged in the Pennsylvania Accreditation program, and is scheduled for onsite assessment.”

Merryman says he has “no knowledge regarding cash incentives by Philadelphia or any other agency,” but insists “[accreditation] contributes to higher levels of police professionalism through the best practices promoted by the program. We applaud the efforts of the Philadelphia Police Department in their initiative to complete the process.”

Though $1,500 per officer may not seem like a lot, if you consider that the three-year contract gives across-the-board annual raises of 3 percent, 3.25 percent, and 3.25 percent, respectively, the pay-out for accreditation is almost as much as the 2015 cost-of-living wage increase for most officers.

Is the Sept. 30 deadline in the contract pre-ordained to meet Pope Francis later next month? The World Meeting of Families and papal visit will challenge the PPD’s numbers and tax its full resources, and require the department to work with federal and international law enforcement, as well as the the Pennsylvania State Police and multiple suburban departments — which will likely already be accredited.

Philly FOP President John Mcnesby complained in June about lack of available details surrounding the papal visit, like how officers would get to work during the event; and last week he wrote a letter to members saying that “the city has revealed no plans to the [union] regarding your working conditions during the papal visit,” as reported.

The union told its members in January they should expect “restricted” but not cancelled vacation time during Pope Francis’s visit, as had been previously ordered by Commissioner Ramsey, and McNesby told officers in a message posted last Wednesday that housing would not be provided for officers during Francis’s visit.

Merryman outlined the requirements to gain accredited status this way: “[Agencies must meet] more than 100 standards that we think represent best practices in law enforcement … from use of force, to maintaining property and evidence, to interview techniques, [and] a full spectrum of administrative operations and procedures for police departments.”

PACP-accredited departments must create and maintain policies that address those operational areas, “and the assessment process looks at the policies and it also looks to see if the agency is complying with the policies.” Only then, he said, is accreditation awarded, upon completion of an onsite assessment by the PACP.

Gaining accreditation can be an important part of successful reform, says Kelvyn Anderson of the Police Advisory Commission. The establishment of clear policies can also work in tandem with recommendations of a Department of Justice Community-Oriented Policing Services Office review released last March, whose implementation the commission has a key role overseeing. “It goes along with the other goals that we have, in terms of reducing lawsuits, standardizing police procedures, in a way, and making the profession predictable and accountable, to a degree.”

The point of accreditation is creating a clear set of standards — best practices — for how to operate a police force, and for how individual police officers should be trained and conduct official duties. It also provides an independent authority to make sure those standards are upheld. Thus an accreditation is only as good as the standards of that authority, and its will to enforce them.

Anderson says it would be ideal if the department would also gain national accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc., both peer-regarded and self-dubbed the “Gold Standard” for the profession.

As for paying every cop for a departmental achievement: “The bonus itself, I have not found any other departments that have done that,” Anderson said. He made clear that he had only made a preliminary search of other agencies, and though he was only speculating, suggested that the money could simply be a palliative measure in “the overall push to have our line officers buy into the [accreditation] process.”