City to hire independent consultant to examine how police handled unrest, protests

Police officers arresting protesters on the Vine Street Expressway
Philadelphia police officers arrest protesters on the Vine Street Expressway, June 1, 2020. Photo credit KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The city will hire an “independent consultant” to examine how the Philadelphia Police Department handled the civil unrest during the beginning days of the George Floyd protests.

The outside source will review body cameras, surveillance footage, social media, and cellphone video and audio recordings; interview eyewitnesses; look through police reports; and analyze any available evidence — all to determine when officers’ use-of-force was necessary, and to investigate potential misconduct and the department’s tactical response.

The consultant will hand in monthly reports to the city inspector general and city solicitor, and a final report will be made public, laying out policy recommendations and changes to use-of-force protocols.

Both Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw and Mayor Jim Kenney say the review is vital to police reform.

In a statement, Outlaw said she witnessed both courage and compassion during the unrest, but also an “inappropriate use of force and misconduct.” She said the review will be a lesson in how the department can do better.

“Our commitment to reform must also include an assessment of how police responded to the very protests that called for change,” she continued. 

Kenney added the city never approved the use of tear gas on I-676 on June 1.

“We did not, and would never, pre-authorize or give police officers free rein to use any type of force against peaceful protesters exercising their constitutional rights,” he said. “If we discover that any officers used force inappropriately or without proper authorization, we will deal with it swiftly and accordingly.”

The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 said Kenney has “taken the deplorable second-guessing of police to a new low.”

“We just hired an ‘independent’ outside police commissioner. There is absolutely no need for yet another ‘independent’ second guesser,” said FOP President John McNesby. “The total and complete lack of support, courage and leadership from this administration is quietly leading to a paralysis of law enforcement in Philadelphia, which will only endanger our citizens.”

City officials are still drafting details and will soon put out a call for contract proposals. The consultant may be more than one organization. 

The budget for the review has not been finalized.