Mayor Michael A. Nutter’s message to members of the Philadelphia Police Department

Hello.  Today, I want to talk with you about the demonstrations, comments, public commentary and resulting violence in the aftermath of the grand jury decisions in Ferguson, MO, and Staten Island, NY.

I have the deepest respect, admiration and concern for the very tough, challenging and dangerous jobs that you do every day to protect and serve our citizens in Philadelphia.

You are the ones on foot patrol, you are the ones making car stops, and you are the ones arresting murderers, drug dealers, burglars, domestic violence perpetrators and child abusers. You are the ones who some people fight with and shoot at. And unfortunately, you are the ones who are tragically killed in the line of duty.

But, you are also the ones out there in our communities getting to know the good people who want you in their neighborhoods.  You provide a vital service, and they want to help you do a great job as well.  And when your day of public service is done, you are the ones who volunteer for Little League and neighborhood events and programs.

In the last nearly seven years, we’ve been through a great deal together, and you have made me and many of our citizens very proud – homicides are down nearly 37% over the last six plus years, the lowest since 1967, shootings and all Part 1 crimes are down and continue a downward trend.  Citizen complaints against police have generally been decreasing over the last five years. All of this work and these good outcomes are the result of your hard work, your dedication and your commitment to “protect and serve.” I commend you and our innovative leader, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and his great leadership team.

I believe that the overwhelming majority of Philadelphians respect you and the work you do, and they want you to keep providing high-quality service and showing them respect. And based on this mutual respect, they will keep helping you with information to prevent or solve crimes.

But in the wake of these grand jury decisions, many people in Philadelphia and across America feel confused, dismayed, angry and hopeless. There is, unfortunately, a growing level of distrust and anger arising from the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, but also the deaths or injuries caused by law enforcement officials in general and sometimes, right here in Philadelphia.

I understand why many feel that the justice system is failing to uphold a standard of fairness – that their individual or collective voices are not being heard or their legitimate issues or fears are just not being addressed.

Certainly here in Philadelphia, the birthplace of freedom and democracy, we believe in free speech and the right of our citizens to protest peacefully.

I ask that you continue to show the same professionalism that you’ve already shown in dealing with our local demonstrations as you protect and uphold the rights of activists to protest – even when their target appears to be law enforcement officers like you.

My strong sense is that people are not against policing, they’re against bad policing. And as law enforcement professionals, I certainly hope you feel the same way.

Abusive, oppressive, prejudicial or unprofessional policing cannot and will not ever be tolerated in Philadelphia and really has no place in American law enforcement.  Citizens and visitors have a right to be respected and treated with dignity.  And yet, we know that there are violent, dangerous people that you encounter every day who are often uncooperative as you attempt to do your job.

When I speak about our Police Department, it is with pride in the good work that you do. And yes, I also acknowledge that we’ve had some challenging, embarrassing and tragic moments in policing right here.

We must acknowledge the continuing need for change in how we “protect and serve” our fellow Philadelphians. Community policing, which is at the heart of Police Commissioner Ramsey’s crime fighting strategy, involves well-trained police officers truly getting to know the residents in our neighborhoods – to work with them, talk with them, listen to them, walk with them and not fear them. But to get respect, you have to give respect first.

We all need to be honest with each other about issues of race, violence, bias, fear, justice and preconceived ideas. We must constantly ask ourselves how do these issues affect policing, justice and community relations.  We must continue to heal the divide between police and our citizens that may exist in some of our communities, especially in the African-American and Latino communities.  Our citizens need you, and you need them – we’re all in this together.

And so, if you have a moment today, take an opportunity to remind a citizen how much you value the community-police relationship.  Take an extra moment to help a citizen better understand what policing is all about so that they know that you’re on their side.  Let us all reaffirm our daily commitment to “protect and serve” our citizens in as safe and respectful a manner as we can.

I care about you, your safety, your engagement with our citizens and their engagement with you.  If we are to succeed as a City, the door of respect must swing both ways.

Please be safe, please protect yourself, and respect our citizens at all times.  Know that when you do your job well and right to the best of your ability that I stand with you.  I want you to be able to “go home” safely after your shift, and I want our citizens to be safe and respected when they encounter you while you’re doing your duty.

I understand that many of you feel that police officers are being unfairly criticized by people because of the actions of others. Many African Americans and Latinos and other minorities feel that they are unfairly targeted, abused and mistreated by come in law enforcement.

We have what appears to be a great “Trust Gap” that stands between some of our citizens and our police officers. This trust gap is a huge collective challenge that all of us must address together.  Police officers doing their jobs properly should be respected by our citizens, and law abiding citizens deserve respect and professional protection from police officers.

You have one of the toughest and most dangerous jobs in America. I urge you to depend upon your great training, best judgment and your equipment to make us all safe and proud.  Use all of your skills and experience to do your job well, only use force if absolutely necessary; don’t abuse your authority; smartly try to deescalate or calm down dangerous situations, and protect yourself and our citizens at all times.

I admire you and I want to thank you for being a Philadelphia police officer – be safe, thank you for listening and God bless you.

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