The Inquirer asked Philadelphia's Democratic mayoral candidates Tuesday how they would respond to a situation like Baltimore's. Here are some of their comments.
Lynne Abraham said Baltimore's mayor erred by calling some rioters thugs - "I think that just incited them even more." She said failures of leadership and communication had left many in that city feeling "like they were invisible."
The former district attorney said no city was "immune" but that Philadelphia was "extremely fortunate so far" in not seeing similar unrest.
Abraham said city leaders need to get behind reforms such as equipping police with body cameras and doing a better job of teaching officers to de-escalate conflicts, and "most importantly," ending the practice by which arbitrators often return dangerous officers to the job after they were fired.
She also said people had to realize that "nothing comes from destroying a whole neighborhood. . . All is does is impoverish people more."
Abraham said she was loath to criticize how Baltimore had deployed its police in response to the unrest. While police are being faulted for not responding quickly enough, she pointed out that police in Ferguson, Mo., were criticized for having responded too aggressively, with an "intimidating" look.
Nelson Diaz said Baltimore proves the need for the strategy known as community policing.
"We are just one incident away from having that happen here," he said. "It's a continuation of what's happening in Ferguson and everywhere else."
The former judge said the recent Justice Department report on Philadelphia police use of force pointed to "major distrust" between police and community. He said community policing was also crucial for identifying a neighborhood's "troublemakers" as well as its activists.
Diaz said that if he were mayor, he would let people march as long as they wanted if they were orderly - "I would be in with the marchers, working for their protection. . . I would protect the businesses, close them if you can."
Jim Kenney said through a spokeswoman that if unrest broke out here, the former city councilman "would be in constant communication with Gov. Wolf, community leaders and police. Militarizing our streets would be an absolute last resort, and he would look to community leaders for their advice and to be a critical part of quelling the violence.
"If his presence on the street was helpful in bringing calm to the community he would go, but [not] if it served as a distraction for police resources... Most importantly, moving forward, he would address the root causes of those riots that left our youth feeling they had no other way to make themselves heard."
Doug Oliver said that if rioting erupted here, "I would rely heavily on expert advice, specifically my police commissioner.... As a mayor you're a general contractor of sorts, and in this situation you have to let your experts lead."
That said, Oliver added, the final failure or success lay with the mayor.
"We're talking about how to handle things when they've gone wrong. As much time and attention sould be paid to how to prevent these things from going wrong in the first place." He said that means regular communication not only among city agencies but with community leaders, faith leaders, and the media.
"Prevention is the best cure," the former PGW executive said.
T. Milton Street Sr. said he would have promptly arrested officers involved in the death of a Baltimore man in custody and swiftly investigated the circumstances.
"I don't anticipate having any riots under my administration," said the former state senator, whose main campaign message is stopping violence. He, too, said a part of that is better policy-community relationships.
Street said his community patrol plan aims to engage youths and teach them to respect and care for their communities.
"Once you destroy your community, it never goes back to what it was," he said.
Anthony H. Williams said, "I'm not going to be an armchair quarterback. But unfortunately we have a set of circumstances that parallel what they have in Baltimore.. . .We are sitting on a powder keg."
Williams identified those circumstances as a disconnect between police and portions of the community, a "generation that does not respect authority or the authority of police," and "crushing poverty."
The state senator said he would work to increase diversity on the police force and make sure officers respect communities in which they serve. To that end, he repeated his call for firing officers caught using hate speech, including racial and ethnic epithets.