In July 2020, City leadership commissioned CNA’s Institute for Public Research and law firm Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads to conduct an independent after-action review of the City of Philadelphia’s response to mass demonstrations and civil unrest that occurred from May 30, 2020 to June 15, 2020. An after-action review was necessary because of the obvious and numerous failures on the part of the City and the PPD during those days. Demonstrators and bystanders were subjected to excessive and sometimes brutal force by PPD officers. Planning and communication failures left Philadelphia in chaos as leaders tried to keep up with events around the City, and bad actors were able to take advantage of these weaknesses.

The after-action review culminated in a report released on December 23, 2020. The report identified various problems within the City’s response – but these problems were apparent to anyone who witnessed the events of the days of unrest. The value of an after-action review, especially when the problems are obvious, lies in the solutions generated by the review. This report offered few actionable reforms. It contains a great deal of information and well-known facts but falls woefully short of providing a useful roadmap to improve future PPD operations.

While there are some useful recommendations, many are vague, making implementation impossible to track and improvements unable to be measured. Further, several recommendations are only statements regarding obvious problems. They provide no guidance or suggestions for improvement, and further, place the responsibility of drafting solutions on the PPD.

Moving forward, the PAC intends to use this report as a historical account of the events that took place in the summer of 2020. From there, the PAC will conduct an in-depth analysis, addressing the merits of the recommendations offered. The PAC will build out recommendations with the intention of presenting the PPD with thoughtful, comprehensive, and research-based items that can be implemented, tracked, and measured.