For decades the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) has functioned like an organized racist mob, running rampant over oppressed communities and anyone else who dared to stand up to them. While technically a “union” because the FOP negotiates police contracts with the city, police rain terror on Black, Latinx and Asian neighborhoods, using whatever means are at their disposal. Historically, FOP members have used their armed power to crush genuine workers’ struggles led by real unions.
Police dropped a bomb on — and destroyed — a Black community in 1985, in Philadelphia, which resulted in the murder of 11 members of the MOVE family and the destruction of 62 homes. Police have used stop-and-frisk tactics and random traffic stops to escalate the disproportionate arrests and murders of Black and Brown people, while doing little to address the increasing number of shootings that have caused the deaths of children in the city.
Earlier this year, when over 300 Philadelphia police officers faced suspension and potential firings for posting blatantly racist and sexist media posts, the FOP exerted pressure on then-Police Commissioner Richard Ross. The police organization forced his resignation, allegedly because of claims of sexual harassment. All accused officers were eventually brought back into the force.
The FOP organized demonstrations against Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner twice this year after he agreed with attorneys for political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal that evidence existed to justify returning the case for a hearing with the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The FOP is supporting a legal petition asking Pennsylvania’s higher courts to remove DA Krasner as prosecutor of the case, anticipating that higher state courts would agree with him and Abu-Jamal’s attorneys.
On Oct. 28, Philadelphia Eagles’ football safety Malcolm Jenkins, who is African-American, hosted a town hall along with rapper Meek Mill, a victim of the city’s racist cops and courts, which focused on policing. Rather than having the invited “experts” speak, Jenkins turned the podium over to community residents to voice their concerns to the experts.
Malcolm Jenkins challenges FOP
Since the FOP is arrogantly used to getting their way, the police organization was caught off guard when Jenkins wrote an op-ed in the Nov. 18 Philadelphia Inquirer calling on Mayor Jim Kenney to prioritize the needs of the city’s Black and Brown communities when selecting the next police commissioner. His commentary specifically called for a commissioner “who fights back against the police union.”
Jenkins challenged Mayor Kenney to be more transparent in the search process, calling his failure to commit to having potential candidates meet with the community a mistake. “Representatives of our community should be part of the hiring process,” he wrote.
In his op-ed, Jenkins commented on the racist Facebook posts written by police officers: “We need a commissioner who isn’t in lockstep with the union and who will instead push back when the union tries to hide and justify bad behavior. The commissioner must also support a union contract that allows for more officer accountability, even if that is an unpopular position with the rank and file.”
Jenkins called for a “radical transformation in how we police,” writing: “We do not need to answer every societal problem with arrests and imprisonment. Broken windows policing, stop-and-frisk practices, and the war on drugs have not made us safer. What those policies have done, however, is lead to alarming rates of arrests for black and brown boys and men. The next commissioner should pledge to focus on solving the serious violent crimes that are harming the community instead of harassing citizens for low-level offenses.”
While many Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality activists in Philadelphia — who are to the left of Jenkins — advocate abolishing the police, even Jenkins’ transformative proposals were too much for the FOP. On Nov. 19, one day after Jenkins’ op-ed was published, Philadelphia FOP President John McNesby launched an attack, calling him a “nonresident, washed-up football player.”
McNesby, who is white and lives in the greater Northeast section of the city – which once tried to secede from the city — absurdly called Jenkins’ op-ed a “racist attack.” These words opened up a floodgate of commentary in print and social media and on television, mostly supporting Jenkins.
Defend Jenkins, Kaepernick, James!
Jenkins is a two-time Super Bowl champion, All-Pro Safety, and team captain who has not missed a game in six seasons. He resides in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood.
McNesby’s attack on Jenkins mirrors that of politicians like Donald Trump, sports team owners and media commentators who have criticized Black athletes, including Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James and others, for taking a stand (or a knee) to protest police brutality and racism. And — while racially attacking Jenkins — McNesby fails to address the complaints that he and others are justifiably making about the lack of accountability by Philadelphia police.
Even Mayor Kenney, who initially ran on a platform to end stop-and-frisk — but never did — was forced to publicly back Jenkins following McNesby’s attack. DA Krasner chimed in, too, noting that Jenkins has “a right to hold public officials accountable.”
On Nov. 22, the Court of Common Pleas upheld its Aug. 21 ruling that had dismissed a lawsuit brought last year by the FOP challenging DA Krasner for issuing a list of tainted cops to keep them from testifying in court.
Jenkins’ courageous stand against the FOP is welcomed by many people in Philadelphia. But, in the long run, it will be the empowerment of Black, Brown and working-class community residents collectively pushing back against the FOP that will bring real change.
Photo credit: phillymag.com