Earlier this month, Lt. Jonathan Josey was fired from the Philadelphia police force after a YouTube video of him punching a woman went viral. This morning, Philly.com is reporting that the city's police union is hosting a benefit for Josey on October 28. As you might imagine, the party for Josey is raising some questions as to whether the union's actions are appropriate in this context.
The police union will fete the 19-year veteran with a $30-per-person benefit Oct. 28. "Come On Out and Support ONE OF OUR OWN" reads a flier inviting officers to the five-hour, Sunday-afternoon event at the FOP Hall on Spring Garden near Broad. Proceeds will help Josey with living expenses, because he no longer gets a paycheck, FOP President John McNesby said.
"You're kidding me, right?" City Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez said of the benefit. "While I understand that the FOP has to defend one of its own, I am extremely disappointed because this will appear that they are condoning the very visible actions of Josey, which hurts the image of their good officers," added Sanchez, who represents the district where the incident occurred.
Retired Philadelphia police Capt. Ray Lewis, who has been caught up in a dispute with the FOP sparked by his involvement with the Occupy Wall Street movement, called the benefit "unbelievable, but it's no surprise."
Lewis, a 24-year veteran with no blemishes on his record, enraged the FOP last year by wearing his uniform to Occupy protests in Philly and New York. McNesby called for his arrest and filed a grievance that could have resulted in his ouster from the union.
"It's a shame. Here you have this guy caught on video sucker- punching this woman and the FOP is going to stand by him," Lewis said.
But McNesby blasted any suggestion that the benefit is inappropriate.
"It was inappropriate for the city to apologize to this woman and drop the charges until the investigation was complete," McNesby said. "And we still don't believe it's a fireable offense."
He emphasized the event isn't an official FOP benefit, even though it's being advertised on FOP letterhead and the union's website. Rather, "it's a benefit that is going to be held at the FOP hall, by officers and co-workers. They're using our building."
Talk about bad spin. If the police union wants to do the right thing, they should also be a bit more respectful towards Aida Guzmán, the woman that Josey struck on tape. McNesby's comments criticizing the city for apologizing to Guzmán suggest to us that in the end police officers would rather protect Josey than speak out against what he did. Josey's act was the act of a coward hiding behind a badge. Maybe the union should have the courage to say that instead of sticking to its insular ways.