A behind the scenes look at the FOP

By William Kenney (Northeast Times)

Even by labor uni­on stand­ards, Phil­adelphia’s Fraternal Or­der of Po­lice seems to get an aw­ful lot of pub­li­city. And in most cases, it seems war­ran­ted.

Whenev­er one of Lodge 5’s 6,400 act­ive-duty mem­bers is killed in the line of duty, the uni­on stands front and cen­ter in the broad­cast, print and Web-based news me­dia cov­er­age of the tragedy. And whenev­er one of Lodge 5’s mem­bers lands in hot wa­ter, the uni­on also makes head­lines, in­vari­ably as the af­fected of­ficer’s lead ad­voc­ate.

But be­hind the scenes, there’s a lot more go­ing on at the FOP than me­mori­al ser­vices and dam­age con­trol. The North­east Times re­cently sat down with Lodge 5 Pres­id­ent John McNesby and two of his pre­de­cessors, Bob Hurst and Rich Cos­tello — who each con­tin­ue to serve in ad­min­is­trat­ive lead­er­ship roles for the uni­on — to dis­cuss the loc­al’s fruit­ful col­lect­ive bar­gain­ing strategy, its in­creas­ing activ­ity in the polit­ic­al sphere and the im­pact of its re­cent de­vel­op­ment of an elab­or­ate busi­ness of­fice, so­cial club and ca­ter­ing hall in the North­east, where 68 per­cent of the uni­on’s 14,300 act­ive and re­tired mem­bers reside.

“I think every­body’s go­ing to have their own opin­ions. Some people are go­ing to call us bul­lies, but they don’t really know the face of the FOP,” McNesby said. “What we wake up and do every day is rep­res­ent the cop on the street. We por­tray a great per­sona to the com­munity, and [of­ficers] ap­pre­ci­ate that.”

McNesby, 48, and his team have been chosen by their peers to lead those ef­forts, hav­ing emerged vic­tori­ous in the last three uni­on elec­tions span­ning sev­en years. McNesby suc­ceeded Bob Ed­dis as pres­id­ent in Oc­to­ber 2007 after de­feat­ing Frank Zam­pogna with 76 per­cent of more than 5,400 votes cast. He re­tained his seat in 2010 and ’13, when he ran un­chal­lenged and was elec­ted by ac­cli­ma­tion.

McNesby, a North­east Philly res­id­ent, fol­lowed in the foot­steps of his fath­er George as a mem­ber of the uni­on’s ex­ec­ut­ive board. The eld­er McNesby was a lodge of­ficer dur­ing Cos­tello’s ten­ures as pres­id­ent from 1988 to ’90 and from 1994 to 2002. George McNesby also served as vice pres­id­ent of the state FOP.

The young­er McNesby joined the po­lice de­part­ment in 1989 and served as a patrol and tac­tic­al of­ficer in the East Di­vi­sion through 2002, spe­cial­iz­ing in nar­cot­ics in­vest­ig­a­tion. He ran for a seat on the lodge board with Cos­tello in 1990, but lost. A dec­ade later, John McNesby was named a lodge trust­ee. He left street duty in 2002 after win­ning one of the uni­on’s four vice pres­id­ent seats. His spe­cial­ties as a VP were griev­ance and dis­cip­lin­ary ne­go­ti­ations. Dur­ing Ed­dis’ ten­ure, Lodge 5 seemed rarely hes­it­ant to cri­ti­cize then-May­or John Street or the de­part­ment’s ap­poin­ted lead­er­ship pub­licly, par­tic­u­larly on is­sues of man­power and de­ploy­ment of re­sources.

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