An organization of black Philadelphia police officers is criticizing the national Fraternal Order of Police for endorsing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying it wrongly embraced a "divisive" campaign of "bigotry" at a fragile time for the country.
"We're calling for all our members of the national FOP to come out and denounce the national support of Donald Trump," Rochelle Bilal, president of the Philadelphia Guardian Civic League, said Friday. "His campaign has been too divisive. It's sexist, it's racist, it's [about] bigotry. They even mock disabled people."
Bilal's critique comes amid turmoil and outrage in several states this week after police shootings of black men.
Violent street protests have destabilized Charlotte, N.C., and authorities imposed a curfew following the fatal police shooting of a black man. In Oklahoma, authorities filed manslaughter charges against a Tulsa officer who killed an unarmed black man during a traffic stop.
"In a climate [where] we are constantly trying to build a bridge between us and our communities," said Bilal, a former Philadelphia officer, "do we need our fraternal order to endorse somebody to divide us more? We're saying no."
The national FOP, which has 330,000 members, announced its endorsement of Trump a week ago, saying he had "seriously looked at the issues facing law enforcement today."
"He understands and supports our priorities, and our members believe he will make America safe again," Chuck Canterbury, the FOP's national president, said in a statement Friday. "He's made a real commitment to America's law enforcement, and we're proud to make a commitment to him and his campaign by endorsing his candidacy."
John McNesby, president of FOP Lodge 5 in Philadelphia, said Friday that he had been part of the process that led to the national endorsement - a process he said Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton opted to ignore.
McNesby was on a three-person national committee that sought to interview both Trump and Clinton.
Clinton, he said, refused to complete a multipage questionnaire intended for review by the group's national board. It sought candidates' views on such issues as federal benefits for police, manpower, and equipment needs, he said.
During the campaign four years ago, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney completed similar forms, McNesby said.
A spokesman for the Clinton campaign did not respond Friday to a request for comment about the FOP's portrayal of her campaign's posture.
McNesby said that Trump, on the other hand, completed the form and agreed to meet face-to-face with the three-person FOP committee in August - a meeting that McNesby attended.
The Philadelphia FOP supports the national endorsement, McNesby said. Any criticism, he added, is misdirected.
"The person who endorsed Donald Trump is Hillary Clinton," he said, "by refusing to fill out the paperwork."
Groups such as the Guardian Civic League are free to disagree and show that on Election Day, he added.
"Our officers are free to vote for whoever they wish to vote for," McNesby said.
The Guardian Civic League, a dues-paying organization, was formed more than a half-century ago. Bilal declined to say how many members it now has.