Success Story

Investigating Philadelphia's Response to Civil Unrest

February 14, 2021

Ballard Spahr’s White Collar/Internal Investigations Group was engaged by the Philadelphia City Controller to conduct an independent investigation into the City’s response to civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd.

The review focused on the City’s operational and resource deployment and tactics during the protests and looting that occurred in May and June 2020. More than 1,700 documents—including intelligence reports, after-action reviews, training records, and police procedures—were reviewed and scores of residents, City leaders, and police officials were interviewed.

The report found that the City failed to plan sufficiently for widespread unrest, which resulted in an inadequate response to the demonstrations as well as the looting and vandalism throughout the City. The City did not heed warning signs and prepare accordingly, did not engage resources at its disposal to mitigate chaos, and did not use the blueprint it developed from past experience with responding to large-scale events.

During the protests, CS gas was deployed against those engaged in illegal activity, but also bystanders and peaceful protesters. The report also analyzed inconsistencies between the police response to protesters gathered in opposition to police brutality and those gathered in support of police.

To address the findings in the report, our attorneys made specific recommendations to the City, including to the structure of its Office of Emergency Management. We also provided recommendations for improving future responses and enhancing policies, procedures, and training.

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