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Philadelphia Police Department Begins Implementing Change Based on After-Action Report

December 23, 2020


A comprehensive examination of the City’s response to the protests is released.

(Philadelphia, PA) – Nearly 80 recommendations are highlighted in a report released today which examined the Philadelphia Police Department’s (PPD) response to demonstrations and civil unrest earlier this year. CNA and Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads LLP (Montgomery McCracken) shared the independent after-action review titled Philadelphia’s Police Department Response to Demonstrations and Civil Unrest May 30 to June 15, 2020.

CNA and Montgomery McCracken were asked to conduct a comprehensive examination of the City’s response to the protests and other activities that occurred in Philadelphia from May 30 to June 15, 2020, including the Department’s use of force.

“We were asked to develop a ‘big picture’ perspective of what happened during these events, how the situation escalated, and most importantly, to provide guidance on improving future PPD response to protests,” said report author Chief Robert C. White (retired). “This report is a forward-thinking document that provides real-world recommendations that will strengthen PPD and the City’s response to future demonstrations.”

The project team relied on incident reconstruction methodology to produce a detailed, fact-based timeline, forming the basis for understanding the major movements and events occurring in the City during that time, and the response to these incidents. The team also:

  • reviewed all relevant departmental policies, manuals, training lesson plans, and operational plans to gain a baseline understanding of practices related to First Amendment activity;
  • conducted interviews with key stakeholders, community leaders, and city residents; and
  • examined relevant national standards for insights into best practices to develop 77 recommendations to improve the Department’s response to future incidents.

“Montgomery McCracken was pleased to work with CNA on this very important review,” said Nicole Phillips, Partner at Montgomery McCracken. “We are committed to contributing to the best of Philadelphia and police reforms, and we recognize the importance of community engagement in that process. We thank the members of the community who shared their experiences, and who provided their input and feedback, including City government leaders, faith leaders, business owners, advocacy organizations, neighborhood residents, and participants in the protests.”

Recommendations were provided related to planning and preparedness; command and control; resource management and allocation; tactical response and use of force; public information and warnings; and, perception and impacts on the community.

Prior to the release of the report, the PPD had already begun implementing reforms that will address several of the recommendations in the report, such as filling critical executive positions; focusing on the importance of advanced planning which includes better valuing intelligence; enhancing training on civil unrest incidences; re-emphasizing the importance of de-escalation; having more executives at the table during the planning process for major events; pursuing the purchase of needed equipment such as body worn cameras for every member in patrol; and increasing its efforts to engage and build trust with the community. Some community engagement reforms include:

  • Establish annual training for all officers that includes legal updates on protected First Amendment activities and how to determine when protected activity becomes unlawful activity.
  • Increase training on de-escalation tactics to be attempted prior to resorting to use of force.
  • In assessing enforcement needs in an area of protests and civil unrest, train officers to identify and distinguish peaceful, non-violent groups from violent groups.
  • PPD’s efforts in community engagement and community-oriented policing to establish a positive relationship with the residents in all communities to establish the trust of the community.
  • Increase the activity of Police District Advisory Councils in all Police Districts around the City.
  • Employ all possible methods of communication to warn residents of threats in their area; instituting of curfews (with appropriate time for residents to adhere to the curfew); and with warnings of possible police use of force (i.e., deployment of tear gas) that may affect residential areas.
  • Ensure that messaging to the public that is transparent, reassures the public that the PPD is competent and working to keep all residents and their neighborhoods safe.
  • Establish a standard method of communication with small businesses in which they can be warned of the potential for civil unrest of other major incidents that may affect their businesses (i.e., looting and vandalism or major catastrophes).
  • When intelligence is received threatening looting and vandalism, plan the deployment of officers in sufficient numbers to respond to these locations with the ability to protect businesses.
  • Prioritize the follow-up with business owners to gather information for arrest and prosecution of looters (i.e., follow up with business owners to collect surveillance video from their businesses).

For more information or media inquiries, please contact Liza Cordeiro, CNA Office of Communications, at cordeirol@cna.org or Emilie Klenk, Montgomery McCracken Director of Marketing and Business Development, at eklenk@mmwr.com.

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About CNA

CNA is a non-profit research and analysis organization with over 75 years of experience helping government agencies solve their most important and complex challenges through objective, data-driven insights and real-world, actionable solutions. CNA developed the foundational techniques for operational analysis, which ensure our work is grounded in direct experience with the operational environments where these solutions are applied. We have used these techniques successfully in areas ranging from public health preparedness and emergency management to national defense, aviation, education, and criminal justice.

As a leader in the field of justice system research, CNA has played an important role in building innovative and effective policing principles and practices through their research, analysis, and support to national training, and technical assistance programs. The diverse CNA project team has experience managing similar reviews for many other jurisdictions. The experienced analysts bring decades of experience in law enforcement and expertise in conducting objective reviews of sensitive incidents involving crowd control and the use of force.

Montgomery McCracken

Montgomery McCracken is a full-service law firm with offices in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware. The firm represents leading businesses, multinational corporations, nonprofit organizations and individuals across a wide range of industries in complex litigation matters, significant corporate transactions, and internal investigations for corporate and governmental entities. A. Nicole Phillips is a partner in the firm’s White Collar and Government Investigations practice group. Ms. Phillips is a former federal and local prosecutor with a wide range of investigatory experience with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.