Malcolm Jenkins, a Philadelphia Eagles player and activist, hosted a forum to discuss the city’s search for a new police commissioner on 10/28/19 (Philadelphia Tribune photo by Kayla E. Brown).
Malcolm Jenkins is a racist.
That’s the conclusion Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5 President John McNesby reached after he read the two-time Super Bowl champion’s op-ed in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Monday.
In the piece, the Eagles safety lays out well-thought-out recommendations for Mayor Jim Kenney to consider in his search for a new police commissioner.
Former Police Commissioner Richard Ross resigned in August after his name appeared as a defendant — along with acting Police Commissioner Christine Coulter — in a federal lawsuit alleging sexual and racial discrimination in the department.
Mind you, the recommendations Jenkins put forth are not his own. Last month, Jenkins took the time to listen closely to the community, something I have no recollection of McNesby ever doing. At a forum on policing, Jenkins hired people to record dozens of video messages from Philadelphians about what the city wants and needs in its next police commissioner. This was months after Kenney said he wanted input from city residents to help him with the selection.
The residents who attended the community forum said they wanted to see the rising homicide rate abate. Who doesn’t?
They also wanted to have more transparency and accountability from the police.
Their suspicions are justifiable given the city’s inability to produce a police force that looks demographically anything like the population that it polices.
Approximately 43.7% of Philadelphia’s 1.58 million residents are African American, according to 2018 Census estimates. As recently as 2015, just 18 percent of the city’s police officers were Black.
Many officers don’t live in the city, either. Quite a few of them likely live in mostly white suburbs just beyond the Northeast, many of them a stone’s throw from the FOP’s ultra-lavish headquarters, a place many of the city’s Black cops avoid altogether.
Some of those who attended the community forum want more Black cops, and why not? It is, after all, mostly their Black and Brown husbands and wives and sons and daughters who live among the city’s 400,000 trapped in Philadelphia’s intractable poverty.
It is they who no doubt wonder why so many collecting the transformative salary and pension of a cop that can erase indigence and replace it with life-changing upward mobility don’t look like them.
This, to McNesby, is what racism looks like.
McNesby characterized Jenkins’ op-ed as a “racist attack by a non-resident washed-up football player” in a six-paragraph letter that reads like one of President Donald Trump’s infantile Tweets.
McNesby uses football references throughout the letter, which only serves to make it a more juvenile read. He accuses Jenkins of “hurling slurs and false allegations against police officers.”
Jenkins actually lives in the city. He has earned three Pro Bowl nods, while also leading the Eagles’ Super Bowl LII-winning defense. Last year, his fellow NFL players named him one of the Top 100 Players of 2018.
And there is no evidence that Jenkins has hurled slurs and lies about police officers.
This illogic coming from McNesby is not unexpected.
Remember, it was McNesby who in 2014 had a temper tantrum over a suburban newspaper’s publication of a political cartoon that showed a line of Black kids telling Santa that what they wanted for Christmas was for him to “Keep us safe from the police.”
The cartoon was published just weeks after a police officer shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland and months after the deaths of Eric Garner and Mike Brown at the hands of police officers in New York and Missouri, respectively.
And then there was that time two years ago when McNesby called Black Lives Matter protesters “a pack of wild animals” because they picketed in front of white officer Ryan Pownall’s home after he shot and killed African-American David Jones under suspicious circumstances.
(Who doesn’t know that whites referring to Blacks as animals is among the favorite analogies of the bigoted?)
Not long after that, McNesby’s union held a beef-and-beer fundraiser at FOP headquarters urging the rank-and-file to “come out to support one of our brothers in blue.”
I don’t know how much was raised for Pownall. However, I’m certain most of it will go toward fighting the third-degree murder charge against him.
Jenkins has taken the high road, calling the letter what it is — “a distraction from the actual issues and topics at hand.”
Anyone with a clear vision of where the city needs to go at this juncture — with homicides spiraling and with racism and sexism clearly problems inside the police force — agrees with Jenkins here.
Everyone, that is, with the possible exception of the always obfuscating FOP president.
John N. Mitchell is a reporter and columnist for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this column first appeared.
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