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Malcolm Jenkins calls Philly police union president’s criticism of his calls for reform a ‘distraction’

Jenkins specifically called for the appointment of a new police commissioner who would "fight back against the police union."

FOP President John McNesby is attacking Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins for a commentary with recommendation on the selection of a new Philadelphia police commissioner.
FOP President John McNesby is attacking Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins for a commentary with recommendation on the selection of a new Philadelphia police commissioner.Read moreInquirer Staff Photographers

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 president John McNesby, angered by an Inquirer op-ed column by Malcolm Jenkins on the selection of a new Philadelphia police commissioner, is calling the Eagles safety a “nonresident, washed-up football player” who has no business tackling crime “when he can’t even manage to tackle his own opponents.”

In a letter posted on the FOP lodge Twitter account in response to Jenkins’ commentary, published Monday, McNesby called the op-ed a “racist attack” and said its proposals “would leave Philadelphia’s many crime victims as defenseless as his poor play has left his football team.”

The union president also blasted The Inquirer for publishing the commentary, saying that by “sponsoring the racist attack” the newspaper had sunk to a new low that “shows why the only people who still subscribe to the paper are those who use it to train their puppies.”

In the op-ed, Jenkins, who has an address in the city’s Northern Liberties section, called on Mayor Jim Kenney to listen to Philadelphians before choosing a new police commissioner.

He specifically called for a commissioner who will “fight back against the police union.”

“Nearly every time we hear a story of an officer abusing power, whether through violence or racist Facebook postings, the police union is there to defend the bad behavior,” he wrote. “We need a commissioner who isn’t in lockstep with the union and who will instead push back when the union tries to hide and justify bad behavior. The commissioner must also support a union contract that allows for more officer accountability, even if that is an unpopular position with the rank and file.”

In the Eagles locker room Wednesday afternoon, Jenkins spoke to a group of about 20 reporters, wearing a black T-shirt that read “No Human Being Is Illegal on Stolen Land” on the back. Asked if he was disappointed by McNesby’s letter, Jenkins said that he was not, but that it proved his point about changing the nature of policing.

“Everything that I try to do is around facts, and I work very, very closely with police. I don’t like to talk without experience,“ he said. Jenkins said he had reached out to former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross and went on a ride-along “to really understand what officers are going through.”

“When we did that ride-along, we had to respond to a shooting.… I could see firsthand how everybody in the neighborhood is in their homes or on their porches, all of the police are sitting in the middle of the street, nobody is talking to each other, that trust is not there," he said.

“When we talk about trying to solve violent crimes and [trying to] get rid of these shootings and things like that, there needs to be cooperation. That cooperation comes with trust. You can’t have trust with a community with the reputation our police department has, without transparency, without anything changing.”

Asked whether he was frustrated by the response, Jenkins said, “The frustrating part is not what’s actually being said, it’s just how much coverage it gets. Because I think it’s just a distraction from the actual issues and topics at hand.”

The Eagles star said he wanted "people to start discussing what they want to see out of the next police commissioner, what they want to see out of their police department, how we want to clean up these streets and stop these senseless murders, together.”

McNesby did not respond Wednesday to calls or a text message for comment on his letter.