Philadelphia sheriff accused of misspending funds and touting AI-generated news articles – Washington Examiner

The sheriff of Philadelphia was accused on Monday of losing firearms, spending thousands of dollars on a new mascot design and DJ services, and trumpeting positive but fake news stories produced by a chatbot.
Sheriff Rochelle Bilal’s office spent $9,250 on a new mascot costume designed around a “Wild Western” theme, according to a Monday report by the Philadelphia Inquirer, in addition to about $40,000 spent on companies to produce branded merchandise, including fidget spinners and backpacks, and at least $8,000 on a professional DJ.
The sheriff’s department defended the report in a statement on Monday, arguing the mascot, Deputy Sheriff Justice, “is a community outreach initiative designed to counteract bullying and reach school-age children in a more comprehensive and engaging way. It encourages them to love themselves, and each other, and build positive relationships with law enforcement.”
The department called out the Philadelphia Inquirer’s reporters by name and accused the outlet of being a “racist, sexist, anti-community, and libelous organization that fails to investigate or publish the truth of any matter regarding this Office.”
“The constant bashing of the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office and the character of Sheriff Rochelle Bilal since the day Sheriff Rochelle Bilal took Office must stop,” the department said.
The report comes after the department has also been accused of losing at least 200 weapons, including 185 firearms. Last year, the department responded that it was able to account for the missing firearms, stating that some of them had been traded or destroyed, but could not provide documentation on when some of the weapons were disposed of.
The acting city controller at the time, Charles Edacheril, determined there was insufficient evidence to determine what had happened to the weapons, according to the report.
The department has also been accused of touting more than 30 AI-generated news articles earlier this year. The department said the articles were generated by an outside consultant, telling the Associated Press: “Our campaign provided the outside consultant talking points which were then provided to the AI service. … It is now clear that the artificial intelligence service generated fake news articles to support the initiatives that were part of the AI prompt.”
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The department recently requested additional funds and defended the ask in its statement, saying, “The Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office stands by its requests made at the April 17, 2024, budget hearing regarding the Office being grossly underfunded. We are requesting additional funding for staffing, technology, and other costs required to perform our law enforcement and statutory responsibilities.”
Bilal was initially elected in 2019, was reelected in 2023, and her current term ends in 2028.

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