Since 2007, the Philadelphia Police Department reported more than 400 officer-involved shootings.
For Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey, increasing transparency within the nation’s oldest and fourth largest police municipality and holding its officers accountable to residents may be easier said than done.
Hours after Ramsey announced the rollout of a new policy that mandates the public disclosure of officers in police-involved shootings, Lodge 5 Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the union organization representing the employees of the Philadelphia Police Department, filed an unfair labor complaint against him, saying that he implemented the new policy “without negotiating with or securing the approval of the FOP.”
“This unilateral change is contrary to decades of past practice between the parties whereby the privacy rights of officers were valued and protected,” says the complaint, filed by Stephen J. Holroyd, a lawyer for the Fraternal Order of Police, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The city unilaterally implemented these changes in working conditions without first bargaining with the FOP or, indeed, even requesting bargaining with the FOP,” the complaint read.
Ramsey didn’t shirk from such legal action, releasing the names of two officers involved in a May shooting incident on Friday – his first time doing so since announcing the rollout of the policy changes. Those officers — Michael Minor and Robert Hoppe – shot and wounded a man after he allegedly hit an officer’s car and fled the scene. Ramsey took similar action in December when he announced the name of an officer who shot a 25-year-old man during a traffic stop, after ensuring that no threats existed to his family.
The new 72-hour disclosure policy counted among more than 90 recommendations outlined by the Justice Department in a March report on police-community relations. Other suggestions included the change of use-of-force policies and training for officers that touts de-escalation techniques. The Justice Department also recommended the creation of a special investigative unit for officer-involved shootings. In its report, Justice Department officials said the city’s investigations into officer-related shootings “lacked consistency, focus, and timeliness.”
While Ramsey said the union has the right to file the complaint, he told reporters that “we’re within our rights to take the steps we took, have taken, and are going to take.”
Since 2007, the Philadelphia Police Department reported more than 400 officer-involved shootings, a trend that compelled Ramsey to address issues of police-community relations and seek the help of the U.S. Justice Department long before civil unrest broke out in Ferguson, MO in the aftermath of Mike Brown’s death.
That police-involved shooting and others around the country have increased attention around police misconduct and poor officer- community relations, but not without reason. A recent study conducted by the Guardian found that police officers in the United States have shot or killed more than 500 people since the beginning of the year.