Philadelphia Police Staff Inspector Joseph Bologna Jr. surrendered Monday to face aggravated assault and other charges stemming from viral videos that depicted him beating a Temple University student and antagonizing other protesters during demonstrations last week.
More than 100 officers — some wearing their uniforms — gathered outside of Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police in a show of support. They applauded Bologna as he left the lodge escorted by his lawyer and police union head John McNesby just after 8:30 a.m. to an SUV waiting to drive him to the 15th Police District. A smaller crowd awaited him outside the district headquarters as he arrived to turn himself in.
Before entering the building, Bologna, 54, waved and shouted, “Thank you." He was booked, arraigned, and released on $10,000 unsecured bail, slipping out through a back door about eight hours later. He is scheduled to return to court for a preliminary hearing June 25.
Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw pulled the high-ranking officer from street duty last week and promised a thorough Internal Affairs investigation after a video went viral of Bologna striking Temple student Evan Gorski with a baton during a June 1 protest. Hours after Outlaw’s statements, District Attorney Larry Krasner announced his office would charge Bologna with a crime.
The move has drawn sharp criticism from McNesby, who has defended Bologna as one of the department’s most dedicated officers. And as public backlash to the show of support grew Monday from the same corners of social media that originally disseminated the videos at the heart of Bologna’s case, McNesby stood firm.
He asked the public to reserve judgment and disputed Krasner’s claim that the video showed Bologna striking Gorski in the head. Instead, McNesby asserted that the officer used his baton to hit the Temple student in the shoulder — in line with police policy.
“Policing isn’t pretty,” he told reporters. “We’re out there trying to quell situations. We had a riot situation going on.”
Some strongly disagree with the union’s vocal support for embattled inspector. “This is a slap in the face of every officer who pays dues and does not agree with what Joe did,” said one cop, who asked not to be publicly identified, fearing FOP retaliation.
According to video and witnesses, including a city official, interviewed by The Inquirer, Bologna’s aggression toward Gorski didn’t occur after rioting or looting.
“There was absolutely nothing I saw that required any kind of violent police response,” said the city official, who attended the protest in a non-professional capacity and was not authorized to discuss the incident publicly.
“They just started beating people," said Matthew VanDyke, a former documentary filmmaker who captured footage of the clash near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. "It was a bizarre escalation of force that came out of nowhere. The police just went nuts.”
Fellow police describe Bologna, a 31-year veteran of the force, as a gregarious and widely respected officer — even as other videos have emerged of Bologna using aggressive tactics in response to demonstrators, including one from Tuesday in which he threw his bicycle and lunged at a protester after she appeared to lightly tap a tire on his bike.
To support Bologna, several officers on Saturday attempted to organize a “blue flu,” or mass move for officers to call out sick, in advance of demonstrations that drew thousands to Center City. Police commanders sent memos to staff warning such a move would only endanger the safety of fellow officers.
A GoFundMe page for Bologna, set up over the weekend by an officer who has worked under him, had raised $22,488 from 336 donors by Monday morning.
On Twitter Sunday, the FOP announced that it would also begin raising money for Bologna by selling T-shirts for $20 each at its headquarters. The shirts feature the union’s logo and a slogan in large blue and white letters on a black background: “Bologna Strong.”
Meanwhile, a Change.org petition calling for Bologna to be terminated had received 1,706 signatures as of Monday afternoon.
Gorski has declined to comment. He was held in custody for more than 40 hours last week before prosecutors decided to drop the case against him, and was treated for injuries that required 10 staples to his head, his attorney Jonathan Feinberg said.
Temple president Richard M. Englert, provost JoAnne A. Epps, and executive vice president Kevin G. Clark said in a statement Sunday night that they were “extremely disturbed by the violent treatment of a Temple student by a Philadelphia police officer during a recent off-campus protest. We have reached out to the student and will continue to support him throughout this process."
It was clear Monday that Bologna had plenty of support from his colleagues, too.
“In the midst of this deadly pandemic, Inspector Bologna and his fellow officers were spit on, sprayed with urine and other chemicals, as well as verbally and physically assaulted,” his attorney, Fortunato Perri Jr., said in a statement. “His use of force to apprehend an individual who was trying to thwart a lawful arrest during a melee was lawful and justified.”