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October 15, 2020

Philly police union sues city over reform bill that requires public hearings on contracts

Police Lawsuits
philly police union lawsuit Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

Philadelphia Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson introduced the police reform bill that would require City Council to hold public hearings on proposed police contracts before they are ratified. The Philadelphia FOP is suing the city to stop the ordinance.

Philly's police union is pushing back against legislation passed by City Council that would allow the public to comment on proposed police contracts.

The Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 filed a lawsuit over the measure in the Common Pleas Court earlier this week, according to the Inquirer, claiming the new rule violates officers' collective bargaining rights and state law, specifically one from 1968 that governs collective bargaining between police unions and municipalities. The FOP also argues holding this public hearing overstep city's authority under the Home Rule Act.

"We had to do something in order to put an end to what they're doing, demonizing police officers in the city of Philadelphia," McNesby said.

When the public comment bill passed in City Council in September, McNesby slammed it as "meaningless legislation."

The bill, introduced by Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson, requires that a public hearing be held where residents can comment on a proposed police contract before it is voted on by the members of the Fraternal Order of Police. 

Gilmore Richardson, who is a member of the Police Reform Working Group, argues that the bill adds transparency to the negotiation process. 

"The public comment bill (#200364-A) was crafted through thoughtful engagement with legal and policy experts," she said in a statement. "I reached out regularly to the FOP and its lawyers to discuss any questions or concerns. I am confident that this bill is lawful."

"This bill creates transparency and accountability for the people of Philadelphia. It is a shame the FOP wants to block a process that will help build trust and confidence, and therefore, improve police/community relations in the City of Philadelphia."

City Council also passed the "Let Philly Breathe" bill, which would prohibit police from using certain kinds of physical restraints when detaining a person. 

The use of chokeholds, hogtying, and an officer using his or her body weight on a person's face, head, neck, chest or back would be banned under the bill introduced by Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson. The intent is to lessen the risk of someone dying or being injured from asphyxiation.

Both pieces of legislation came about in response to protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd. Mayor Jim Kenney still has to sign these bills in order for them to become ordinances, but he has indicated he supports them.

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