Organizers should call off Sunday’s planned fund-raiser for Ryan Pownall, the white Philly police officer suspended after fatally shooting a black man in his back over the summer.
The benefit, dubbed “I Stand With Ryan,” is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 headquarters, and will include a raffle and a 50-50 drawing, according to an event listing on Facebook. The invitation also reads: “Benefit for Ryan Pownall. Come out to support one of our brothers in blue. Tickets are $40 per person. This includes food, draft beer, music, and plenty of TVs to watch the Eagles!”
No matter how many touchdowns the Eagles may score on Sunday, I’m throwing a flag on this play. Such an event would be in extremely poor taste and an insult to the citizens whom the officers are paid to serve — not to mention to the family of the deceased.
Some cops, no doubt, feel bad about Pownall’s suspension and pending firing for exercising what Commissioner Richard Ross called “poor judgment” in firing his gun at David Jones, who had been riding a dirt bike and illegally carrying a gun when pulled over in North Philadelphia in June.
I’m sure his co-workers are sorry to see a 12-year veteran of the department lose his livelihood. But that’s what envelopes are for. I suggest they get a few and use them, if they must, to send money to Pownall’s home in Bustleton.
Better yet, send them to Jones’ grieving widow.
That would be better than showing up at a “Back the Blue: I Stand With Ryan” event.
FOP head John McNesby told me in a text message Tuesday that Sunday’s gathering is envisioned as “a benefit given by his co-workers here. [It will] help him get thru the next few months without any money coming in.”
But my question is: Who’s helping Jones’ family?
This closing of the ranks behind Pownall is the kind of behavior that Colin Kaepernick was protesting last football season when he either sat or took a knee during the national anthem.
It’s what has prompted so many other professional athletes and team owners this season to ignore President Trump’s numerous ill-advised tweets and begin kneeling or linking arms in solidarity. It’s why so many Americans upset about Kaepernick’s continued free-agent status are waging their own personal protests by boycotting the NFL this season.
It’s why entertainers Stevie Wonder, Dave Matthews, and Pharrell Williams have gotten down on their knees as a show of support during recent performances.
Pownall doesn’t deserve a party. Surveillance video shows that Pownall unloaded shots when Jones had his back turned to the officer, was between 10 and 35 feet away, and already had dropped his gun. Pownall violated all kinds of police protocol, including the fact that he was transporting people to the Special Victims Unit for an unrelated case when he turned his attention to Jones in the first place.
“There were serious policy violations that were committed — ones that were on video,” Ross said during a news conference at Police Headquarters this month announcing Pownall’s suspension leading to dismissal. “It’s not even a question of what someone’s perception was vs. another’s. I saw it. The shooting investigators saw it. And that’s where it starts and stops.”
It should stop there with every other member of the force as well.
“I Stand With Ryan”?
Instead, why not take a knee for the department whose reputation he has sullied?