Philly officers on alert after threats against police
After two ambushes that left eight Dallas and Baton Rouge police officers dead, Philadelphia police officials say officers here have faced increased threats of violence too.
Officials declined to divulge details of the threats, but said that investigators in the department’s counter terrorism bureau so far have deemed them not credible.
“That doesn’t remove us from being on alert,” said Lt. John Stanford, a police spokesman.
Sunday’s attack in Baton Rouge prompted Philly Police Commissioner Richard Ross to order officers to ride in pairs on patrol for added safety. That double-up order was last in place here less than two weeks ago after a gunman killed five cops in Dallas.
“Everything you’ve been seeing over the past several weeks is just a clear indication of how dangerous of a profession policing can be,” Stanford added. “At any given time, you can go from having an uneventful day to pretty much fighting for your life.”
And many officers remain on edge, especially as the Democratic National Convention approaches, said John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5.
Will an armed, anti-police extremist decide the DNC, with thousands of reporters in town, would be the perfect time and place to strike?
“Anything can happen at any time. It only takes a split second for one person to be able to do something, and that’s the most scary thing that happens out there. You never know what’s gonna happen. The unknown,” McNesby said. “There’s a lot of mixed emotions out there now with the officers. There’s sadness, there’s anger, there’s caution. We just have to work through that.”
Still, he said, determination — not desperation -—drives most of the city’s 6,100 officers, as they consider the simmering unrest across the nation, as well as the traffic congestion, protests, visiting dignitaries, and other security challenges the DNC will bring.
“Our officers are not backing down from anything,” McNesby said. “They’re not gonna run from trouble. They’ll run to it. That’s just the way we were trained.”
The mayor’s office has estimated 35,000 to 50,000 activists could be on the streets and a “demonstration zone” in FDR Park daily during the DNC.
Protests during the Republican National Convention here in 2000 resulted in more than 400 arrests. Most of those arrested weren’t ultimately convicted, and the city’s insurer paid out $1.8 million to resolve resulting civil-rights lawsuits.
McNesby said he couldn’t guess how things will unfold during the DNC.
“It’s like going to a casino, and you hope you win,” he said. “You hope you don’t have problems, but we’re ready if we do.”
After the Baton Rouge attack, McNesby issued a statement to union members, calling it “a cowardly attack on our brothers and sisters, as were the assassinations in Dallas.”
The statement continued: “This is also an attack on America, and American values. We pray for the recovery of those that are wounded and mourn the loss of those that were killed; your lives of service were not in vain. Police officers, all of whom are volunteers, will do their duty and continue to protect, serve, and come when called, to deal with all the threats in society today. As one of you, I will say this; we must do these things with increased vigilance; watching each other’s backs, as we protect the citizens of our jurisdictions.”
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