Tony Williams: Fire police officers who use disparaging terms about race, sexual orientation

 City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. said those endorsing Tony Williams' mayoral candidacy represent a wide swath of the city. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

City Councilman Curtis Jones Jr. said those endorsing Tony Williams' mayoral candidacy represent a wide swath of the city. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A collection of city and state elected officials gathered on Thursday afternoon to formally endorse Tony Williams’ mayoral candidacy at an event which may well have sparked some controversy.

The event, held just after the Health and Human Services mayoral forum at WHYY, featured City Councilmembers Jannie Blackwell, Curtis Jones Jr., Kenyatta Johnson and Maria D. Quiñones-Sánchez, along with state Sens. Larry Farnese and Shirley Kitchen, and state Reps. Jason Dawkins and Jordan Harris.

Those supporters lauded Williams for understanding how to navigate Harrisburg’s partisan waters,  mentoring younger peers, railing against youth violence “before it was a popular issue” and making tough politically-unpopular decisions.

A reactionary press conference?

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Vouching for Williams’ “One Philadelphia” mantra, the underlying premise was that those endorsing the mayoral candidate collectively represent a wide swath just three days after much ado was made about Northwest Philadelphia leaders endorsing Jim Kenney’s candidacy.

Refuting the intimation that Kenney’s endorsement sparked Thursday’s event along Independence Mall, Williams said that “several endorsements from demographics across this entire city” haven’t been covered by the media.

“So, there’s no reason for us to react. There is a reason for other campaigns to react,” said Williams.

“If you’re talking about reactive, it’s reactive about the narrative that’s been written for a long time: One guy is the ‘labor guy.’ One woman is the prosecutor. And the other guy is only going to win because he’s an African American,” he continued. “We’re pushing back against that narrative today. … It’s certainly not reactive. It’s additive.”

Strong statements about police

Williams spoke for fewer than 10 minutes at the end of the event, but in that short time, he drew attention to a public-safety policy paper that his campaign will release in the coming days.

Renewing his call for all candidates to support of implementing the “Obama Police Task Force Recommendations,” he said he will issue a challenging addendum regarding respect between police officers and the communities they serve.

“If a police officer, I don’t care if it’s a man or a woman, African American or not African American, if certain words part their lips to disparage an ethnic group, a gender, a person of a certain sexual orientation or faith, they should be fired,” Williams said. “If they use those words, the ‘f word’ when describing people of a certain sexual orientation, or the ‘n word,’ they should be fired.”

Chiding a Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 “which has in its infinite wisdom has described the [report] as not worth the piece of paper it’s written on,” he called on that union to buy in.

“They should also agree to the fact that any police officer who is in violation of that should be fired without going to arbitration to get backpay and go back to work,” Williams said. “We have to put this community back together, and the first thing we have to do is give them confidence that they’re respected by the people who represent them.

“There’s not a moment that I do not believe that some of these unfortunate sets of circumstances come from the heart, not the charging responsibility. And unfortunately, that heart has a bit of power to protect our community and it doesn’t do it fairly and effectively.”

Told by NinetyNine of Williams’ comments, FOP President John McNesby questioned “why he would make a statement like that” and cited a “progressive disciplinary system.”

“That’s an absurd statement to make,” McNesby said Thursday afternoon. “We understand that people make mistakes. We would lose a decent amount of police officers if that was the case. I’m glad we didn’t endorse him.”

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