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September 22, 2016

Black police groups voice opposition to Philly FOP's Trump endorsement

Local, national groups say choice of GOP candidate doesn't represent their views

Less than a week after the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Republican candidate Donald Trump for president in the November election, local police officers from the city's African-American community are questioning the union's involvement in politics.

On Sunday night, FOP Lodge #5 President John McNesby echoed the earlier endorsement of Trump by the national FOP, explaining to PhillyVoice that the local union is bound to stand in unity with the national organization. Later, during an appearance on Talk Radio 1210 WPHT, he criticized the Democratic Party and acknowledged his direct role in a committee vote to recommend Trump to the national FOP. 

“We’re falling in line with the national FOP and, basically, she just disregarded and blew the police off," McNesby told WPHT. "You can’t go in and expect to get respect when you didn’t give it to us. We gave a very fair process, we thought."

By Thursday, voices of opposition emerged in reports that appeared in local and national media outlets. 

The leader of Philadelphia's Guardian Civic League, a group representing upwards of 2,500 officers, strongly objected to the union's endorsement in an interview with The Philadelphia Tribune, republished by NBC News.

"Our local FOP is saying that our people have to follow the national lead," said Rochelle Bilal. "We are saying you don't have to vote for Donald Trump and the national FOP should have stayed out of this election."

Bilal argued that the umbrella of the FOP doesn't accurately reflect the politics of most African-American officers in Philadelphia and beyond. Nationally, according to 2013 U.S. Justice Department figures, black police officers make up 12 percent of the 470,000 members of the law enforcement community. In Philadelphia,  33.4 percent of the local police force is African-American. 

"There is no way anybody of color with any common sense would support the candidacy of Donald Trump," Bilal said.

The national FOP, which represents about 330,000 officers nationwide, has said its decision to endorse Trump was not a "top-down" process. FOP spokesman Jim Pasco told NBC News that state FOP lodges were required to survey their memberships to determine their presidential preferences. Trustees with each state lodge were then responsible for voting on an endorsement consistent with those views.

Pasco did not elaborate on the process for determining the endorsements of police unions in municipalities.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, unlike Trump, missed an initial deadline to submit a 12-page FOP questionnaire designed for candidates to brief lodges on policy positions, Pasco said. Clinton had already been sharply criticized by both McNesby and the national FOP over the Democratic National Convention's roster of speakers slated to address matters of police-community relations.

An email to McNesby for clarification on his direct role in the local endorsement, as well as a response to the criticism expressed this week, was not immediately returned Thursday night.

Blacks in Law Enforcement of America, a national group, also issued a statement condemning the FOP's endorsement of Trump.

"Is this endorsement a result of the surveying of the membership of individual unions that represent police officers or is this endorsement the result of a few individuals who may stand to benefit from a so-called law and order candidate who knows nothing about the criminal justice system and is opposed to basic reforms of the system?"

A temporary uptick in Trump's poll numbers among African-Americans nationally, reflected in the USC Dornsife/L.A. Times Daybreak tracking poll, dropped back to low single-digits within a matter of a few days.