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.