Philadelphia, PA – The City Controller’s Office released a report on Wednesday that blamed “a failure of leadership” for the way violent protesters were treated by Philadelphia police during the riots and some are calling for the resignation of the police commissioner.
Philadelphia Controller Rebecca Rhynhart’s office hired two entities to compile the report that concluded the handling of the riots across the city in response to the death of George Floyd was a complete failure, WHYY reported.
“The investigation shows that the root cause of the lack of planning was a lack of leadership at the highest levels,” Rhynhart concluded.
The report determined that the inadequate initial response to the protests and a slew of personnel vacancies contributed to the riots spinning out of control, according to WHYY.
It blamed the Philadelphia Police Department’s failure to cancel officers’ summer vacation, chronic understaffing, and lack of a protest response plan as major contributing factors to the chaotic civil unrest that unfolded.
The controller’s report also found inconsistent use of force against protesters and complained the armed white protesters in Marconi Plaza and Fishtown were treated more fairly than Black Lives Matter protesters in West Philadelphia and in the middle of Interstate 676, WHYY reported.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, who was largely faulted in the report along with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, pushed back on the assertions they were to blame, WHYY reported.
“The key difference between the two is that while our consultants focused on solutions, the Controller, in her duplicative effort, appears fixated on platitudes and attempts to cast blame for mistakes that have been acknowledged on multiple occasions,” Kenney’s spokesman, Mike Dunn, said. “We reject her unsubstantiated claims that the Mayor and members of his Administration did not exercise ‘leadership.’”
The mayor wasn’t even interviewed for the controller’s report, WHYY reported.
But despite that, the report concluded that Kenney and Commissioner Outlaw had permitted police to use too much force against protesters and had been hesitant to use less-lethal options.
“Officers interviewed recalled that the Police Commissioner was not only familiar … but was also unopposed to the use of CS gas in response to civil unrest, noting that she had previously used it in Portland,” the report read. “At the end of the meeting, SWAT fitted Commissioner Outlaw and other members of the command staff with gas masks.”
The controller’s report contradicted the mayor’s assertions that tear gas had only been used by police as a “last resort” on May 31 and June 1, 2020, WHYY reported.
The report claimed Commissioner Outlaw had wanted to use tear gas earlier but city officials had denied that request.
Those incidents resulted in demotions and resignations from both the city and the police department, WHYY reported.
The report was also critical of Commissioner Outlaw’s handling of the riots that occurred after the officer-involved shooting of Walter Wallace.
Wallace was fatally shot by Philadelphia police after he lunged at officers with a knife on Oct. 26, 2020.
His family initially claimed they had told 911 they needed help for a mental health problem, not police, and that false narrative led to violent riots and mass looting that spread to other cities.
It was later revealed that family members had described Wallace as violent and nobody told 911 that he was having a mental health crisis.
The mayor’s spokesman accused the city controller of having political motives behind her scathing report, WHYY reported.
“The Mayor and Police Commissioner have previously owned up to mistakes made, and committed to reforms that are ongoing,” Dunn said. “Admitting mistakes, committing to fixes, following through: that is far greater leadership than Monday morning quarterbacking by an official more focused on her own resume than in actually making Philadelphia a better place.”
The editorial board of the Philadelphia Inquirer on Jan. 27 called for the resignation of Commissioner Outlaw and seemingly assigned all blame for the rioting and looting to the police department.
“Over the course of three days and many bad decisions, the police created chaos and danger instead of delivering order and safety. There is no more profound law enforcement failure than that. There is no simpler rationale for the mayor to ask the police commissioner to resign,” the editorial board wrote.
But Commissioner Outlaw said at a press conference on Wednesday that she has the support of the mayor and she had no intention of quitting, WHYY reported.
“Am I enough? Absolutely and some,” the police commissioner told reporters. “Do I deserve to be here? Absolutely and some. Did I lead this department in the last year? Absolutely and some.”
“No police commissioner, chief, superintendent has ever had to deal with what we’ve dealt with in the past year,” she added.