Mayor Michael Nutter told a Presidential Task Force Tuesday that while the United States should continue its focus on outside terrorists, cities need more help fighting “neighborhood terrorists.”
The White House Task Force on 21st Century Policing, co-chaired by Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, held its first public hearing in Washington on Tuesday.
Ramsey was tapped by President Barack Obama on Dec. 1 to co-chair the task force with George Mason University professor Laurie Robinson. Their job: to return concrete proposals and recommendations by March 2 on how to build better trust between police and communities across the nation, how to reduce violence against police, and offer best policing practices.
Nutter testified before the 11-member panel along with mayors of Baltimore and Sacramento. The three mayors were asked how the federal government can help cities battle violence and adopt better policing strategies.
Nutter said that in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the federal government quickly responded with a new position of Director of Homeland Security, which transitioned into the Department of Homeland Security.
Nutter said the United States has been focused on catching and chasing terrorists outside our country for the last 14 years.
While the country shouldn’t take its eye off the terrorism ball, he said, “We have home-grown, neighborhood terrorists who terrorize our children when they go to school everyday, who terrorize our old folks, senior citizens, when they’re trying to go about their business and terrorize folks who are just going to work.”
“And so either we want to be safe at home and abroad,” he said, “or we don’t.”
Nutter said that soon after he took office in 2008 he and Ramsey instituted a community policing strategy in the hopes of changing the image of the city’s police force.
“Police could not be seen as an occupying force,” Nutter said. “They could not ostracize or treat our citizens with contempt, and the could not just drive-by in their vehicles allowing for little to no interaction with our citizens.”
He said that type of hands-off policing does not help foster interpersonal relationships or trust between citizens and police.
The new strategy included training officers, increased foot policing, and greater community engagement.
“There needed to be an end to an ‘Us versus Them’ mentality,” Nutter said.
There were 248 homicides in Philadelphia last year, Nutter said “We still have a long way to go.”
“However,” he added, “this represents a 36 percent decrease in homicides since 2007.”