Police union plans party for cop fired after punching woman
WHEN PHILADELPHIA police Lt. Jonathan D. Josey II punched a woman last month and a video of the incident went viral, Commissioner Charles Ramsey called it "troubling" and fired him.
Mayor Nutter was "horrified" and apologized to victim Aida Guzman, and protesters rallied with "We are all Aida" signs.
But Fraternal Order of Police members, apparently, are "all Josey."
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."
Still, he added, "we are in support of it."
The union often rallies behind cops whom police commissioners fire through direct action, because union officials say such dismissals deny cops due process. Such firings also often get overturned in arbitration hearings.
In March 2010 the FOP hosted a free happy-hour celebration when four officers - fired for beating three suspects in an incident caught by a news helicopter - won their jobs back in arbitration.
In the more recent videotaped incident, Josey, 40, a supervisor in the Highway Patrol unit, was among a group of officers doing crowd-control Sept. 30 after the Puerto Rican Day Parade when someone sprayed something that appeared to be liquid or Silly String on them at 5th Street and Lehigh Avenue in North Philly.
A 36-second YouTube video caught what came next: Josey spotted Guzman walking away and punched her in the head twice from behind. From the video, it's unclear if Guzman threw anything. The punch sent Guzman, 39, to the ground with a bloody lip. She was handcuffed and charged with disorderly conduct. The District Attorney's Office later dropped the charge, and Josey was suspended with intent to dismiss.
Guzman's attorney, Enrique Latoison, said he had no strong objection to the benefit.
"It would have been nice for him to reach out and apologize for his actions. And we don't think he should be reinstated, that's for sure," Latoison said. "But as a defense attorney, I understand that his people are going to defend him and look out for him."
- Staff writer William Bender
contributed to this report.
Contact Dana DiFilippo at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-854-5934. Follow her on Twitter @DanaDiFilippo. Read her blog at phillyconfidential.com.