Addresses Zoom meeting of Phila. Venture Café
A somber Councilwoman Jamie Gauthier addressed a Venture Café open Zoom gathering October 29 on the police shooting of William Wallace Jr. the prior Monday afternoon and the rioting and looting that ensued.
“This kind of situation is not what Philadelphia is all about,” Gauthier reflected, noting that the police confrontation and violence on the streets and in stores has now put her city on center stage nationally and around the world for the second time in six months.
The Councilwoman agreed emphatically when a questioner criticized why police failed to mobilize a mental health worker when the problem with Wallace Jr. began to develop. The family had apparently called 911 three times that day, but when the fateful officer response took place, the health person was off duty, according an Inquirer article. She also decried the assertion that less than half of the Philadelphia police force is equipped and trained to use tasers or other non-lethal means in violent confrontations.
Wallace Jr. was gunned down Monday, the 26th as he approached officers brandishing a large knife in front of his house in the 6100 block of Locust Street – in Gauthier’s 3rd Council district.
“We must begin an immediate discussion of how to fund the equipment and training in anticipation of this coming year’s budget negotiation,” Gauthier stressed. She also went into detail on the problem of negotiating changes in police behavior and accountability in the contract with the police union – citing limitations imposed by state authorities.
Above all, she stressed, “We have to do a lot of listening to what the community is saying and feeling.”
Wallace Jr. was reported to have been under care of West Philadelphia Consortium for his behavioral problems. “We knew him, and he knew us!” said John White, the group’s Executive Director. White expressed deep regret that there was no mechanism in place for Consortium to have been summoned immediately, noting that they have immediate response teams available for such crises. Wallace Jr. had received treatment only three days prior to the incident according to the Inquirer article.
Obviously, the 911 operator didn’t ask the right questions and the family didn’t adequately describe Wallace Jr.’s bi-polar mental health problem and the Consortium connection. treatment just days before his death.
Gauthier noted that there were two questions dealing with police use of force on the ballot for the November 3 Election. One deals with stop and frisk and the other with choke holds, and she urged voters mark “Yes” on both these issues.
The Councilwoman, who took office last January, was also noted Police union head John McNesby’s public comments on the matter which defended the use of force and focused on the anguish of the officers involved rather than the devastating impact of their action on the Wallace family and the community.
The episode becomes the latest in the series of tragic police – Black person violence which has become the number one political issue for Republicans at national and state levels around ahead of next Tuesday’s national election.
The Zoom meeting with Ms. Gauthier was part of the regular Thursday program of open online discussions on business strategy and public issues organized by Venture Café Philadelphia and the Ecosystem Development Team at the University City Science Center. It was capably hosted by Tracy Brala, Vice President of Ecosystem Development & Executive Director. For more information on future Venture Café offerings, visit www.venturecafephiladelphia.org
(The Inquirer article of today’s date was by Chris Palmer, Mike Newall, Mensah M. Dean and Ellie Rushing assisted by Mensah Dean and Ellie Silverman)