The City Really, Really Doesn’t Want Jonathan Josey to Have That Promotion

An arbitrator called for the controversial cop to be promoted to captain in July.

Philly Police Lt. Jonathan Josey (center) in infamous video clip of his encounter with a woman at the Puerto Rican Day Parade in 2012.

Philly Police Lt. Jonathan Josey (center) in the infamous video clip of his encounter with a woman at the Puerto Rican Day Parade in 2012.

The tug of war over Jonathan Josey‘s career is still going strong.

The city’s Law Department filed a motion in Common Pleas Court last Friday to overturn an arbitrator’s decision from late July that called on the Philadelphia Police Department to promote Josey from the rank of lieutenant to captain.

Earlier this year, Police Commissioner Richard Ross declined to promote Josey, who rose to infamy in 2012 after a video was shared on YouTube showing him striking a woman named Aida Guzman at a Puerto Rican Day Parade celebration in Fairhill.

The backstory goes like this: Then-Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey fired the hulking Highway Patrol cop after the parade incident for excessive force and lying on a “Use of Force” report about what occurred. District Attorney Seth Williams charged Josey with simple assault. Josey was later acquitted, and an arbitrator ruled in 2013 that he could have his old job back — with the caveat that the Police Department had to remove references to Josey’s firing from his personnel file. (Since getting back on the job, Josey made headlines for rescuing a family from a house fire in South Philly.)

In 2014, Josey took a promotional exam for the rank of captain. He finished 15th out of 57 candidates, according to the Law Department’s motion. Ramsey declined to award him a promotion when the department was filling openings for captains in January of 2015.

Josey was interviewed by a three-member Promotional Review Board in February for another round of openings; Internal Affairs Chief Inspector Chris Flacco argued that Josey should not be promoted because of the “detrimental impact” the 2012 incident had on the department’s relationship with the public.

Ross opted to pass Josey over, later testifying that he believes “good judgment” to be a “paramount factor” for anyone who is promoted to the rank of district captain, a position that Ross likened to being the chief of a small city like Wilmington, Del.

And that was that — except it wasn’t. The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 5 filed a grievance over Ross’s decision, and arbitrator James Peck, Jr. ultimately sided with Josey and the union.  Peck wrote that the department had violated Josey’s rights under the collective bargaining agreement by denying him a promotion based on the Guzman incident, which “should have ceased to be a factor in future discipline, or future promotability” based on the 2013 ruling. The arbitrator Josey was owed a promotion, and back pay to boot.

But the Law Department contends the arbitration award needs to be overturned. For one thing, promotional lists have a shelf life of two years. Josey took and passed the test for captain in 2014; the list he was on officially expired on June 1st. Forcing the city to award him a promotion now would constitute an “illegal act,” the Law Department wrote in its motion.

Beyond the time issue, the city argues that Peck “exceeded his jurisdiction” by overruling Ross’s decision. “By second-guessing the Commissioner’s decision as to who is qualified to be promoted, the award invaded the city’s managerial prerogative, recognized by our Supreme Court, to select and direct personnel,” reads the opening passage to the motion.

The city also argues that Ross didn’t make his decision based off old material in Josey’s personnel file, but rather Ross’s memory of the video. Whether any of this is enough to vacate Peck’s award remains to be seen. The FOP, for one, isn’t worried.

“It’s a lot of excess work for nothing,” said the union’s president, John McNesby.  “I’m not surprised, but I’m also very confident that they won’t be successful.”

Josey will remain at the rank of lieutenant while the matter is sorted out. “He’s still going to work, still doing a good job,” McNesby said. “I’m sure it’s an emotional rollercoaster for him. But I think he has confidence in the system, and knows he’ll be okay.”

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