Last Saturday night, three people were killed and eleven others wounded when several suspects involved in an altercation fired at each other through a large crowd of patrons on the 300 block of South Street in Philadelphia, according to police. Law enforcement has identified the three victims killed, and said the eleven wounded ranged from seventeen to 69 years old. Two suspects are in custody, and police are seeking a third.

Since then, political talking points between Mayor Jim Kenney and DA Larry Krasner have centered around gun control. However, as videos emerge showing police vehicles on the scene, but not intervening, as fistfights and other violations occurred before the shooting started, the question should be about the policies that allowed the situation to escalate.

After news of the incident broke, concerned citizens took to social media to ask where the police were, given that this is such a busy section of Philadelphia. Later, video evidence of the incident emerged on Twitter, showing flashing red and blue lights highlighting the scene moments before the shooting started. There was a robust police presence — which did nothing to prevent the incident.

As further videos appeared on Twitter, it also became clear that the police on scene ignored disorderly conduct, physical assaults, and other unlawful behavior leading up to the shooting.

More alarmingly, Fox 29 reporter Steve Keeley featured, in an interview, a video taken moments after the shooting. Police officers attempting a “scoop and run” procedure to transport one of the victims to the hospital were blocked by an unruly crowd chanting “F—k the Police” as the victim lay dying in the back of their cruiser.

This horrific crime is another example in a pattern of violence that has worsened every year since Krasner’s election in 2017. Kenney has attempted to shift accountability for the shooting from the criminals themselves and lack of police intervention to again blame the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania legislature, which recently reaffirmed a 1994 law preventing Philadelphia from passing unconstitutional municipal gun laws that conflict with both state laws and the Second Amendment to the Constitution. On Tuesday, Kenney told the Inquirer that, had the shooters on South Street been unarmed, the brawl and ensuing melee could have been “a fistfight.”

“There’s lots of social problems we’re dealing with,” Kenney said. “But the issue is: Take the gun out of the equation, and we’re not having this conversation.”

Reporters did not press Kenney to address why the officers on the scene did little to control the unruly crowd that took over the streets and broke into the fistfights moments before the gunfight. 

READ MORE — Ben Mannes: As radical criminal justice policies result in record murders, where’s the bully pulpit?

Instead of advocating for the proven public safety tactics used by the nation’s fourth largest police force, sources within the Philadelphia Police Department attribute the shooting to Kenney’s appointment of Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, who has instituted non-confrontational policies that discourage officers from proactive policing. The results illustrate a clear correlation between the soft-on-crime policies of Kenney, Outlaw, and Krasner, and the violent crimes committed in eyeshot of police.

“Our leaders’ reticence to engage in proven strategies stems from the realization that when we implement deterrence efforts in the places where they are most needed, they are not racially equitable … but that doesn’t change the fact that these measures work,” wrote Temple University Criminology Professor Jerry Radcliffe in an op-ed for the Inquirer. “Black and brown Philadelphians shouldn’t be made to feel like they are overpoliced. Equally though, they shouldn’t be made to feel less safe than white residents. But that is exactly what is happening: More than 90% of people shot so far this year are Black or Hispanic, and it is their communities that are bearing the brunt of our failure to find a balanced approach to gun violence.”

Even more telling is that, while Philly’s Mayor and District Attorney blame a lack of gun control laws for the skyrocketing violent crime in their city, statistics prove a steady decline in the enforcement of existing gun laws since their elections.

If the elected and/or appointed officials in a city are derelict in providing effective public safety and law enforcement, where is the oversight and accountability for them? When Commissioner Richard Ross was replaced with Danielle Outlaw in late 2019, the city totaled 356 homicides. Last year, we had 562 murders and there have already been 222 in 2022 to date, with the bulk of the summer ahead of us. So how does Outlaw still have a job?

The same arguments can be made about  Krasner and  Kenney — however, they are in power in a city and state with no recall law. The Attorney General has been almost totally absent from the conversation while campaigning for Governor.

A. Benjamin Mannes, MA, CPP, CESP, is a Subject Matter Expert in Security & Criminal Justice Reform based on his own experiences on both sides of the criminal justice system. He has served as a federal and municipal law enforcement officer and was the former Director, Office of Investigations with the American Board of Internal Medicine. @benmannes

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