How to get cops better PR

A tipster tells me when the city begins negotiations with the police department, one wish list item is removing commanders from the FOP bargaining unit.

Good cops deserve better support. (Photo: Forbes)

By “commanders,” they mean ranks starting with captain, FOP President John McNesby tells me. About 120 people are in that group. 

That’s a “divide and conquer” tactic and it’s a nonstarter as far as he is concerned.

A more urgent issue is arbitration, which in the past seems to have returned some awful fired cops back to duty. I remember Police Commissioner John Timoney telling me that was one of the biggest problems he had, and commissioners who followed him agreed.

About a decade ago, I got my hands on arbitration records, hoping to build a case, and write a story about how the process was fatally tilted in favor of the bad cops.

But it wasn’t true. The records I reviewed showed the outcomes for police were about the same as for other cases.

Ten years later the Inquirer reviewed arbitration records and saw the FOP prevailed in more than two-thirds of the cases.

That’s because the police department over charges, one veteran arbitrator told the newspaper. Or maybe something else. As I recall, I found that about 70% of cops were reinstated. Some calls were questionable, but you can say the same about jury trials.

McNesby has high hopes two recently fired cops — Staff Inspector Joseph Bologna and SWAT Officer Richard Nicoletti — will be returned to duty. Bologna was fired for reportedly hitting a young man in the head; video shows Bologna struck the man on the shoulder, which follows training, says McNesby.  Nicoletti was fired for using pepper spray on three protestors blocking traffic on I-676. He was ordered to use the pepper spray by a superior officer and it is a legitimate technique, says McNesby, as does Nicoletti’s attorney Fortunato Perri, Jr. 

I have written about the Nicoletti case.

The FOP will stick with arbitration, says McNesby. 

In a discussion about police procedure, is there anything McNesby won’t tolerate?

“We’re not for chokeholds,” he says, and the FOP worked with state Attorney General Josh Shapiro to draft legislation for a database to track troubled officers, he says, adding there are smaller tweaks the FOP would be willing to look at. 

It’s not a good time to be a cop.

There are calls to defund departments, and a belief by some of the population that ACAB — “All Cops Are Bastards,” and “Ain’t no good cops in a racist system,” and “the only good cop is a dead cop.” Think I am exaggerating? Read this piece of crap.

No wonder the dimwit doesn’t use a last name.

Branded as racists, convicted without a trial, what can cops do?

It happens that last Thursday night the “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt” closed with a brief story about a central California cop who saw an elderly man in a wheelchair who was stuck on railroad tracks — and a freight train was bearing down on him.

The female officer leaped from her patrol car and ran to the man, trying to pull his wheelchair off the tracks.

She couldn’t, so she wrapped her arms around the man, pulled him out of the wheelchair and off the tracks, risking her life to save his.

Every so often the network news will carry a “brave cop” story, but they are outweighed by “bad cop” stories, especially when the “bad cop” is white, and the victim is a minority. 

The “bad cop” narratives dominate the media, yet I know there are “good cop” stories that happen every day that we don’t hear about.

Of course no number of “good cops” erase the damage done by the “bad cops.” 

Does the FOP, local or national, do anything to get the positive stories out?

Local Lodge 5 does have a PR firm, Bellevue Communications Group. “We give it to them. We pump it out,” says McNesby. “We also have social media with Facebook. We haved Twitter, we have Instagram,” but telling positive stories about police isn’t popular nowadays, he says. “It doesn’t sell newspapers.”

Part of the problem is the police department itself has not been actively promoting its own. A few years back, the Daily News had a weekly feature that spotlighted good cops. Getting nominees from the department was like pulling teeth. My guess is it got a little political, in how a nominee was chosen.

Cooperation from the public affairs department seems to reflect what the commissioner thinks is important. In all honesty, the cooperation I get is better under Commissioner Danielle Outlaw than  in the recent past. So that’s good news.

But the other good news, about hard-working, brave, honest cops, doesn’t get told. That’s something the national FOP ought to focus on distributing.

I understand networks don’t want to take “good cop” video from the cops, but they sometimes will.

If they don’‘t? There are teenagers who do hairstyles with 75 million online followers. If the networks won’t chase “good cop” stories themselves, the FOP should go around them and do it themselves. Create a “good cop” series, perhaps with a popular celebrity host. There are enough cops — some 800,000 — and friends of cops to make such posts go viral. No propaganda, just actually footage of “good cops” to interrupt the narrative that All Cops Are Bastards. 

I think America would be surprised by the number of Americans whose lives were saved, or improved, every day, by police.

24 thoughts on “How to get cops better PR”

    Not bad for a guy that loves his work and has a passion for telling the truth.
    “The good old boy network”. We all know it. We saw it some where. To break the cycle of bad cops, it takes a city ( government ). Hire the best candidates. Put them under a microscope. Spend the money up front to weed out the bad apples and drill down on the questionables. Monitor all cops all the time. That should be part of the training and the daily routine. Better cops are not born, they are made.

  2. You make it sound like cops are the only profession with bad apples. Every profession has tons of bad apples,

    Why would the best candidates want to work for Kenney Krasner Outlaw.

    Just look how Kenney passed over Joe Sullivan for PC.

    In todays climate you will have a difficult time getting cops that are better than what we have, Whenever I pass a cop I tell him or her to stay healthy. They have the most difficult job in modern urban America.

    1. Charles,
      I think Stu put good cops, bad cops in quotes to say he doesn’t necessarily agree with that premise.

        1. HAPPY MONDAY !!!
          This blog is about cops. Not apples, peaches nor pumpkin pies . sorry, couldn’t resist.
          Until the 1980s, most cops where born into the profession. My mothers’ side goes back to the early 1900s when they first got off the boat. Cops then, cops still.
          Being good at what you do, gives you ( the cop ) the right to look in the mirror and say to yourself,”I did the best I could today. I hope I can do better tomorrow”.
          This should be true no matter what your profession, chosen or otherwise. My family lives by this creed, as do many people that we know.
          As for the politics. That too shall pass.

    2. No, I did not make it sound like policing is the only occupation with bad apples. That’s how it got through your filter. I have exposed bad journalists several times in my career.

      1. I didn’t say you said that. I WAS RESPONDING TO ANTHONY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        I actually thought your column was quite good. But then again you think I am irrational Ha Ha

        Not giving the PC job to Joe Sullivan because he is a white man was a disgrace.I know a lot of retired cops who said if they were young they would never work for an incompetent like Outlaw. They said Joe Sullivan would attract a higher caliber recruit.

    3. What do you mean by most difficult? As far as deaths or injuries? You might want to look at labor statistics. Police are not even in the top 10 of either category. As far as hatred from the community? Cops are mostly loved. Half of the television programming on any given night is basically propaganda to convince us that even when cops cross lines or break rules or out-and-out assault people, they’re actually doing it for good and honorable reasons.

      In fact, even after reading this article WHICH DEFENDS COPS, you left a reply accusing the author of “making it sound like cops are the only profession with bad apples”.


      Meanwhile, the author specifically mentions Joseph Bologna as being a victim of the “anti-cop” climate when Bologna is a thug who was *only* suspended FOR ROBBING BODEGAS DURING RAIDS ORCHESTRATED UNDER FALSE WARRANTS.

      Seems to me that if you can be filmed snipping security camera wires on a police raid before you then rob the place and STILL keep your job as a cop, then maybe it’s NOT the most difficult job.

  3. For the 4th time my response was to Anthony. not Stu.I guess that’s too much for you to comprehend.

    You owe me an apology you cop hating .left wing democrat.

    I don’t want a statistical history.Tell me the stats the last 4 monts in NYC Seattle Portland and Chicago.

    1. Charles, I don’t know you, naturally, but I agree 100% with your fine assessment of police, especially the Philadelphia Police Department that enables my wife, children, and kitty cats to sleep soundly at night. Personally, I am of the opinion that anyone applying for a cop job be subject to a serious mental evaluation, due to the absolute disrespect that comes with this job, especially from Kenney, Krasner and Outlaw, our worst nightmare.

  4. Actually, you are right. I replied without seeing the responses that were already there.

    But maybe you owe me an apology if you think i’m a democrat.

    And maybe you shouldn’t bother forming an opinion if you’re not interested in statistics.

    As for cop-hating, i don’t hate cops. I do hate how tiresome it gets to hear everyone constantly crying about hhowlife is just SO unfair to them. The two cops that were friends of my old man’s growing up were depraved cokeheads, but were happy to take a paycheck to put other human beings in cages for doin the same shit they were. Like i said above, joey bologna is a straight up gang member; a stick-up kid. How much deference for these people is enough? Apparently it can never be enough

  5. Scott

    You cracked me up with the following line.

    And maybe you shouldn’t bother forming an opinion if you’re not interested in statistics.

    Now I found that really funny. I was a statistician for 25 nyears. Now I’ll tell you why the labor statistics you are quoting in regards to dangerous jobs aren’t that good. I believe they found logging the most dangerous.I’ll assume all loggong jobs are pretty homogenious.They probably don’t differ very much from state to state.

    That’s not true for police jobs. The amount of danger varies from locale to locale.
    The statistic you are looking at is lumping together every cop in the country. That is incorrect. You have to break down the danger by the various communities the cops are working in. A cop on the south side of Chicago faces a lot more danger than a Radnor cop.

    With DeBLOWSIO a NYC cop now faces a lot more danger than when Rudi was mayor.
    Andy of Mayberry had a very safe job.

    The labor statistics gives you a stat for all cops in the country lumped into one group.You really need to stratify the police population according to the district they work .Im white. If I had a daughter I wouldn’t want her working the south side of Chicago.Does that make me a racist or a concerned parent?

    By the way Outlaw really left Portland in good shape.

    1. You make a good point, which is why you shouldn’t type stupid things like “i don’t care about stat history”.

      I would point out, though, that when these lists are compiled, they don’t go by total deaths. They tend to list deaths per 100k. And there aren’t that many loggers or crab fishermen. So even if being a cop in, say, Camden is as dangerous or almost as dangerous as being a logger, there ARE no andy mayberrys of logging. And perhaps most importantly to my ultimate point YOU DON’T SEE A MILLION TELEVISION SHOWS EXCUSING THE CRIMES OF LOGGERS. Bootlickers don’t flock to social media to defend the sacred honor of loggers by attacking conservationists.

      1. Let me give you a tip.Whenever you see a statistical argument don’t believe it.Most of them are awful.

        We use to laugh

        Lies Dam Lies Statistics

        Take care

  6. gentlemen,
    You start going down broad street and you forget to stop and right in the Delaware you go !
    I think Stu made it perfectly clear. He is pro cop, but he is not blind. He is well aware of the sins of this city and the better side as well.
    I don’t believe in most statistics, and Charles just explained why. The point of this blog is to try and enlighten everyone as to what is going on within the corrupt system, known as the government of Philadelphia. There is no doubt that there is dirt in the districts. There is also a helluva lot of good in those same precincts. With the right leadership, it would be cleaned up. Obviously, it’s going to take awhile. Through some of my suggestions, as well as Stu and others, the city would be on it’s way to having the “Philadelphia’s Finest” back up where they belong.
    Portland: about the same size as Philly with half the population. It’s country compared to big city. It’s the land of the liberal as you light up a joint. No comparison.

  7. A fair and honest portrayal of the police profession in general. In any setting where two sides make a presentation in Arbitration the outcome is based on the evidence presented and the ability of counsel to make their case. It is difficult to have the media or a majority of our citizens focus and comprehend that the police in this country respond to over 60 million calls each year and most end in a positive resolution. To point to individual cases as a basis for a conclusion is to ignore the right to be innocent until proven guilty and the rule of law. Would it be fair to proffer that 250,000 patients die every year from medical mistakes thus the medical profession is both brutal and is a killing machine. There are tests available that would weed out some applicants in advance as well as health examinations to show who might be physically unfit in a short number of years on the street but were rejected as being bias in their testing. Sometimes when you lower standards to meet quotas or try to reach the politically correct number you may place unqualified human beings wearing a badge without the mental or physical aptitude for the job. We are a city of neighborhoods and many police reflect the outlook and political beliefs of that area. In the end the one separator from all other professions is the instantaneous reflex to run to the gunfire, the screams and any tragedy where all the above is secondary.

  8. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu and readers,

    I think we have to take the problems faced by the police very seriously. Its not as though we have a city landscape comparable to London out there. We have a lot of people in dire need of police protection. If our police are sometimes tough guys, that is in part because they face a lot of criminal tough guys. Our police deserve much credit for dealing with deep problems which they didn’t create.

    Fundamentally, what’s needed in these deeply troubled neighborhoods is economic opportunity for ordinary people; and no amount of even the best police work will otherwise solve the problems we see every day in the headlines.

    WHYY reports on last weekend:

    35 people shot over the weekend
    According to the Philadelphia Police Department, the violence started on Friday night on the 2200 block of West Harold Street in Strawberry Mansion. At around 9:21 p.m., a 17-year-old Black youth was shot in the left side of his chest. He was pronounced dead.

    Just three minutes later, a 24-year-old Black man was shot in the abdomen while he was on the front porch of a house on the 5900 block of Master Street in Carroll Park section of West Philadelphia.

    At 10:42 p.m., an 18-year-old Black man was shot nine times on the 3100 block of G Street in Kensington.

    The violence only intensified from there, according to police accounts.

    Between midnight and the next morning, seven more people were shot over the course of a roughly four-hour span.

    Just after 6 a.m. on Saturday morning, two Latinas were shot on the 800 block of Sedgley Avenue in Fairhill. One was struck in the arm, the other in the leg and shoulder.

    At 3:20 p.m. on Saturday, a 19-year-old Black man was shot once in the leg at 60th and Callowhill in West Philadelphia.

    Similar to Friday, the shootings picked up after dark.

    At approximately 8:47 p.m., a 24-year-old Black man was shot in the buttocks and hip on the 3100 block of Tasker Street in South Philadelphia.

    Less than an hour later, a Black man believed to be around 20 years old was shot in the head near the 2100 block of Webster Street in Graduate Hospital. He was pronounced dead by medics who sped to his side.

    Near Brown and 10th Street, police responded to a call of a person with a gun around 11:30 p.m. In what would stand out as the worst incident of a bad weekend, five people had been shot near the large gathering attended by Smiley’s daughter. Among the wounded was a 16-year-old boy who was struck in the shoulder.

    From midnight until just after the sun rose on Sunday, at least six more shootings occurred. All of the victims were Black men between the ages of 24 and 40, according to initial police reports.

    —End quotation

    H.G. Callaway

  9. I like the idea of highlighting the many positive things the police do because there are many. While I believe bad cops must be removed, the idea of de-funding police depts. is absurd!

    1. Philadelphia, PA

      Dear Pollard & readers

      Agreed. Also, we need to de-militarize the police, and get beyond the trauma of 9/11.

      H.G. Callaway

      1. H.G.,
        couldn’t agree with you less concerning de-militarization. There would be no law and order if all our cops carried was a night stick. You don’t go to a gun fight with a night stick. You go with the biggest canon that you own !
        On the street is every conceivable weapon know to man. The bigger and more powerful the gang, the bigger and better the weapons.
        By the way. That vest that our cops wear. it wont stop a heavy shell.

  10. Tom Garvey was correct about arbitration. I was an arbitrator, not on the police panel, and arbitrators are bound by the parties contract period. They are not influenced by politics, twitter idiots or Police bosses who despise arbitration, because it weakens there absolute authority. Arbitration is the last line of defense for the police officer and any other worker who is blessed with a Union. You have officers fired on the spot without due process because of the current anti-police atmosphere.

  11. It was quite refreshing to see an article which brings the subject of the good cops vs bad for once, as it’s very much needed especially at this trying time. Let us not forget however, there are serious complaints that had conveniently gone off the radar or in some cases, conveniently buried so to speak for years (ie Carl Holmes being one of them), domestic abuse, sexual misconduct on and off duty, etc just to name a few. Silent victims exist because they’re afraid to come forward.
    Of course there’s good cops out there and we need more than the FOP and (families and friends of) shouting out their praises. Perhaps highlighting Internal Affairs and review boards could be the next article as to why serious matters are getting hidden. Why do we have a disgruntled ex cop by the name of “Serpico” releasing inside information he gets from Internal Affairs? People DO take notice and unfortunately the ugly side overshadows the immense amount of good work our department continues and strives for each day. Philadelphia has some of the best of the best but how can we change the narrative soon? We need more positivity but our city also wants to see accountability.

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