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Philadelphia asks black men to patrol

September 14, 2007|From the Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — The city's beleaguered police chief, acknowledging that police alone cannot quell a run of deadly violence, on Thursday called on 10,000 men to patrol the streets.

Sylvester Johnson, who is black, said that black men in particular had a duty to protect residents.

Philadelphia, the nation's sixth-largest city, has nearly 1.5 million residents, 44% of them black. It has recorded 294 homicides this year, most of them involving black men.

Johnson wants each volunteer to pledge to work three hours a day for at least 90 days.

"We are definitely encouraging black men to be involved in it," he said. "We have an obligation to give back. We have an obligation to protect our women, our children, our elderly."

Johnson said he wouldn't turn away men of other races: "We have to put the tourniquet where we're bleeding."

The program's backers include Dennis Muhammad, a former Nation of Islam official who has been hired by police departments in cities including Detroit and Syracuse, N.Y., to conduct community-sensitivity training.

Johnson plans to introduce the "Call to Action: 10,000 Men, It's a New Day" program on Oct. 21, three months before his planned retirement.

Mayor John F. Street, who is also black has voiced support for the program, but it was not clear whether he would be involved. His term is expires in January.

Volunteers will not carry weapons or make arrests but will emphasize conflict resolution.

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