“The National Guard is traditionally not an urban police department. We used the National Guard in the civil unrest period to secure areas that needed to be secured from looting and burning, and it freed up the police to do other things,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told reporters during a press conference this week.
“But to send in the National Guard and a troop carrier into a neighborhood in Philadelphia, to me, is not respectful to that neighborhood, number one. Number two, they are not capable or trained to do urban policing, or do policing of any kind,” he added.
Kenney, a Democrat, would have to ask Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, another Democrat, to order the Guard to Philadelphia, unless Wolf made the order without Kenney’s support.
Wolf, who activated the Guard to help deal with potential unrest in April as jurors prepared to announce the verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, could not be reached.
Murders have spiked in Philadelphia this year, part of a crime wave that stretches back in many major U.S. cities to early 2020.
The 340 homicides recorded through Aug. 18 is a jump of 20 percent from the same time period, according to city data.
Most of the shootings stem from arguments, with gang activity linked to a small number, police officials told reporters during Kenney’s briefing. And officials are struggling to pin down suspects in many of the cases, which they attributed to a “reluctance” from people to share information with the police. Just 43 percent of homicides have been cleared so far this year.
Some community activists have urged Kenney to try to get the Guard to the city.
“Bring them in and use them strategically. They have the data and the statistics to know where the violence is occurring. Put the National Guard there,” Stanley Crawford, cofounder of the Families of Unsolved Murder Victims Project and the Black Male Community Council, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“It’s an action. Something is being done, as opposed to a bunch of talk, and we do need action. And when people say, ‘You want to bring in the man,’ I have one question for them: Are you ready for somebody in your family to die?” added Jamal Johnson, an activist who has lobbied for criminal justice reform.
Officials in other jurisdictions are considering calling for the Guard to help stem rising crime, including council members in Jackson, Mississippi.
“They’re dying in this city,” Jackson Councilman Kenneth Stokes told WLBT-TV. “They are dying in this city and if we can get the National Guard’s help, do it. If we have to ask the governor for help, do it.”
But still others have, like Kenney, rejected calls.
“Well that doesn’t surprise me,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, told Fox 45 when told of a poll that found most Baltimore residents want Guard help.“The people are that frustrated. … People just don’t understand the National Guard is not really built for policing a city,” he added.