FOP president says City Council police reform measures have no teeth

Philadelphia Police Department headquarters.
Photo credit Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia City Council is expected to pass two bills aimed at police reform. One would require public hearings before the city negotiates the next police contract, and the other would bar police from using any restraint that could cause suffocation.

In the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, in May, with city finances uncertain, Mayor Jim Kenney decided to extend city labor contracts by a year, rather than negotiate long-term agreements. Police, like other employees, got raises.

A few weeks later, the city exploded with anti-police protests and City Council had second thoughts about those raises.

Councilmember Kathy Gilmore Richardson introduced a bill that would require public hearings before the city negotiates the next contract with the Fraternal Order of Police.

"During the hearing, the administration will present on the contract terms, and then the public will be able to comment," she said.

"I hope the bill will give a level of transparency and accountability to a process that has been shrouded in secrecy for far too long."

It’s unclear what impact such hearings would have, because police contracts are usually decided by a mediator.

Police union president John McNesby says none.

"It doesn’t affect the way we do business and the way we’re going to be going forward with our contract," he said.

City officials have long blamed that mediation for their inability to reform disciplinary procedures. This bill would not change that.

McNesby says the bill is window dressing.

"This is just another piece of legislation that was thrown up in response to all the outcries for reform, and it’s not going to reform anything," he said.

He says the same is true of the other bill, which would bar police from using choke holds or any other restraint that could cause suffocation. 

Its sponsor, Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, says the bill is a response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which began the summer’s unrest.

He acknowledges police department policy already prohibits such holds, but he says it’s important to get the rule codified into law.

"This will go a long way to making sure that our community and our residents have the full trust and public confidence in our law enforcement community as a whole," he said.