The Philadelphia police officers' union is suing Mayor Kenney, District Attorney Larry Krasner, and Police Commissioner Richard Ross, claiming that a "Do Not Call List" maintained by Krasner to keep tainted cops from testifying in court damages the reputations of those on it.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday by Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 also claims that Kenney, Krasner, and Ross failed to create an adequate due-process system that provides officers with the chance to defend themselves in front of a fair and impartial tribunal before being placed in a District Attorney's Office database.
The lawsuit focuses on two groups of officers. One was identified by prosecutors working for then-District Attorney Seth Williams in March 2017. That list identified 66 current and former officers whose testimony might be problematic in criminal cases. Their names were released by Krasner under court order.
The second group is in a database that Krasner is developing. It includes some officers previously identified and adds others whose credibility has more recently been questioned by Krasner and the police administration. Names in that database have not been released. The FOP's suit characterizes Krasner's database as a "testimony limitation program."
The FOP's suit states that the creation of any list and disclosure of the names of suspect officers constitutes a "deprivation of the fundamental right to reputation protected by the Pennsylvania Constitution."
"Once placed on District Attorney Krasner's 'Do Not Call List,' a police officer loses opportunities to testify in criminal cases in which he or she served as an investigator, and sometimes is delegated to restrictive duty status," the suit says. "For such police officers, critical parts of the work performed by police officers are restricted, resulting in the lost wages, damage to reputation and professional harm to those police officers."
(In the first seven months of fiscal year 2018, the Inquirer has reported, city police officers earned $12 million in overtime related to testifying — or waiting to testify — in court.)
The suit, filed in Common Pleas Court by FOP attorney Ralph J. Teti, alleges that Kenney and Ross helped Krasner create his list by turning over personnel files to his office.
The FOP, which represents nearly 6,500 city police, is asking the court to issue permanent injunctions to stop Krasner from placing any more officers' names on any list, and to stop Kenney and Ross from assisting Krasner unless adequate due-process protections are established by the District Attorney's Office.
"There's a lot of questions to be answered, and we tried every way to get answers, and we got the door slammed in our faces," FOP president John McNesby said.
Among the questions the union wants answered, McNesby said, are how an officer's name gets placed on the list and removed from it, and what guidelines and protocols are used to create the list.
"In every profession, you're going to have some bad apples, but what is the time frame for getting off the list?" he asked. "There's going to be times when they're not going to call an officer in certain cases, but the bottom line is: Are they going to be vilified forever, are they going to be blackballed forever?"
McNesby said he is seeking a "fair playing field" for his members while trying to work with Krasner, a former civil rights and criminal attorney noted for having sued the city's Police Department 75 times before he was elected the city's top prosecutor.
"There's no sense in me not working with Larry Krasner," he said. "We're trying to work with him, but I'm getting a shovel beat over my head."
Ben Waxman, Krasner's spokesperson, declined to comment on the lawsuit because his office had not yet reviewed it. Spokespeople for Kenney and Ross referred questions to the city Law Department, where a spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
A similar legal battle is underway in Chester County between the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, the union representing the state police, and District Attorney Thomas Hogan.
A lawsuit filed in September takes Hogan to task for maintaining a list of law enforcement officers deemed unreliable by his prosecutors. Hogan has countered that he had discretion to maintain such a roster to protect the integrity of the criminal justice process.
Hogan's list was publicly revealed in that civil suit when the attorney for the state police union attached an internal memo authored by Hogan to the public complaint.