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The Philadelphia City Council just approved hundreds of millions of dollars in police funding – and here are some of the companies set to profit from this.


Photo: Philadelphia Police Highway Patrol (Vince (VisualSense), Flickr)

This is a repost from the Philly Power Research blog.

Yesterday, Philadelphia City Council approved a final budget for FY21 that included flat funding for the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) – $727 million. In a 14-3 vote, Kendra Brooks was the only Councilmember to vote against the budget over concerns about not cutting police funding. This budget fell far short of demands put forward by the Black Philly Radical Collective, whose recent statement included: “We demand an immediate decrease in the Philadelphia Police Department’s budget over five years until the PPD is fully defunded,” as well as demands from a coalition of groups including Philly We Rise, Amistad Law Project, Color of Change, and Reclaim Philadelphia for a $120 million decrease to the FY21 PPD budget, which would have returned the funding level to where it was at the beginning of Mayor Jim Kenney’s time in office.

Although the FY21 budget has now been approved by Council, the struggle to defund the PPD and reinvest in communities and restorative justice is far from over. When City Council reconvenes in the fall, its Appropriations committee will continue to debate the distribution of funds and can introduce bills to redistribute money between departments mid-fiscal year.

As Mayor Kenney and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw have frequently pointed out, a large share of the Police Department budget is tied up in personnel costs, which are governed in part by the City’s contract with the Fraternal Order of Police (this contract will be expiring again next summer after a 1-year extension). However, there are also millions of dollars each year which the Police Department pays to external contractors for various products and services. These companies profit off of the ongoing operations of the Police Department.

We went through the most recently released proposal for the FY21 Philadelphia Police Department budget and compiled a list of all of the contractors included in the budget. You can view that full list here, along with a summary of the total amount of money per vendor, and some additional notes about some of the vendors. New contracts continue to be bid out throughout the year, and may offer opportunities for the public to continue to apply pressure on how taxpayer money is spent in relation to policing.

Graph of the top 7 contractors included in FY21 Philadelphia Police Department proposed budget, by dollar value. See LittleSis power map   here  .

Graph of the top 7 contractors included in FY21 Philadelphia Police Department proposed budget, by dollar value. See LittleSis power map here.

The top three contractors all provide various types of weapons equipment – these companies have a direct interest in the continued militarization of police forces:

  1. Axon Enterprises – provides tasers and body camera equipment ($3.2 million)
  2. Witmer Public Safety Group Inc. – provides gun parts and tools, and ammunition ($1.5 million)
  3. Atlantic Tactical – provides Glock firearms, ballistic vests, batons, chemicals, explosives, shields, weapon accessories, and more ($1.4 million)

In addition to these companies above whose business is directly targeted toward law enforcement agencies, there are also contractors for which contracts with police departments represent a much smaller share of their overall revenue. Some of these contractors may therefore be more responsive to public demands that they stop doing business with police departments.

A few examples (check out the full list and let us know if you have other ideas!):

  • Office supplies companies like Innovative Printing Systems ($352,000), Xerox ($300,373), Paper Mart Inc. ($234,153), Staples ($220,000), and Vanguard Direct ($208,272)
  • Photographics/image processing companies like PPI Photographics Inc. ($277,443), FW Dutton Inc. ($37,442), and Jack’s Cameras ($30,138)
  • Transamerica – office furniture company in Manayunk ($210,000)
  • University of Pennsylvania – provides “stress management” and “vet for dogs/horses” services ($194,400)
  • Bustleton Bikes Inc. – bike maintenance and services, located in Northeast Philly ($186,636) (note: nationally, at least one bike company, BikeCo/Fuji, recently ended all sales to police departments)

Philly Power Research is a group of volunteer researchers investigating the powerful organizations and individuals shaping Philadelphia. You can follow them on Twitter at @ResearchPhilly and contact them here.