Police Reform Working Group issues statement on Vice President Pence’s visit with the Fraternal Order of Police

PHILADELPHIA, July 9 – In response to Vice President Mike Pence visiting with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5, the Police Reform Working Group, made up of state and county elected officials and advocates, released the following statement:

“As members of the Police Reform Working Group, we believe that the path to achieving community safety and racial justice in Pennsylvania must be two-fold. First, we must improve our current system of policing through accountability, oversight, and tangible policy changes that will diminish instances of police brutality against all citizens, but especially against the Black community. Second, we must work with communities to transform and re-envision policing itself through bold systemic changes that center around those most impacted by police violence and structural racism. 

“In both instances, this work is made difficult, if not impossible, by roadblocks within the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge No. 5. The FOP holds an unchecked amount of power in the City of Philadelphia and has not done enough to address deep-seated racism and violence. Today, Vice President Mike Pence will visit FOP Lodge No. 5. We see this visit as yet another demonstration of bad faith between the union tasked with representing the Philadelphia Police Department and the people of Philadelphia. 

“During the past month, Philadelphia has erupted in protests over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many before them lost to racist police violence. People are crying out in rage, anger, and frustration, and calling for real change. Meanwhile, the President of the FOP, John McNesby, and over one hundred police officers have been rallying in support of Joseph Bologna, an officer who faced assault charges for violently beating a protestor. 

“The FOP has a history of defending its officers against accusations of violence, abuse, and harassment, while doing little to address its root causes. Through the arbitration process outlined in the City of Philadelphia’s contract with the FOP, they have advocated for officers that have been fired due to domestic abuse, stalking, assaulting a juvenile, and sexual assault. They stood by, and in some cases encouraged, armed white vigilante groups who were patrolling the neighborhood of Fishtown past curfew. They have historically ignored or downplayed racial discrimination. 

“Vice President Mike Pence has been quoted as saying, "Donald Trump and I believe that there's been far too much talk of institutional bias or racism within law enforcement." He, along with President Trump, have led our people astray as we suffer from a second spike in COVID-19 cases across the country, which disproportionately impacts people of color. And when recently prompted during an interview, Pence repeatedly refused to say the words, “Black lives matter.”

“Vice President Mike Pence’s words and actions have demonstrated that he does not think that Black lives matter. The FOP, in their decision to host him today, is signaling the same. 

“We can’t tackle structural racism and violence when it is actively upheld by the FOP. Rather than stoking the flames of tension between protestors and police officers, the FOP should be listening to their demands and working to improve their relationships with the communities they are sworn to protect. As elected officials committed to reforming and transforming policing, we stand together in demanding better from the FOP.”

Members of the Police Reform Working Group include:

  • House Democratic Whip Jordan Harris
  • House Democratic Chairwoman Joanna McClinton
  • House Philadelphia Delegation Chairman Jason Dawkins
  • Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Stephen Kinsey
  • State Rep. Donna Bullock
  • State Rep. Danilo Burgos
  • State Rep. Morgan Cephas
  • State Rep. Austin Davis
  • State Rep. Ed Gainey
  • State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta
  • State Rep. Summer Lee
  • State Rep. Chris Rabb
  • State Rep. Jake Wheatley
  • Philadelphia Councilmember Kendra Brooks
  • Philadelphia Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson
  • Philadelphia Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson
  • Philadelphia Councilmember Isaiah Thomas
  • Keir Bradford-Grey, Chief Defender of the Defender Association of Philadelphia
  • Attorney Kevin Harden Jr.