High-Ranking Philadelphia Cop Joseph Bologna Facing Felony Assault Charges For Allegedly Beating Protester

A line of police in Philadelphia.
Mark Makela / Getty Images

A high-ranking member of the Philadelphia Police Department is facing felony assault charges for allegedly beating a protester with a baton during demonstrations in the city this week following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, Staff Inspector Joseph Bologna Jr. faces a number of charges, including felony aggravated assault, after video footage appeared to show him beating a Temple University student with a baton during an arrest on Monday.

Bologna was taken off street duty and had his guns taken away on Thursday evening, the report noted. The 31-year veteran of the police force was charged within a day, with the swift action by local officials making national news.

The veteran cop is being defended by the city’s police union, with leader John McNesby saying that Bologna had to make a split-second decision while covering a chaotic protest. He condemned local leaders for what he saw as a rush to judgment, noting that protesters accused of assaulting police officers in Philadelphia have been released from jail with prosecutors not pursuing charges.

“Why are officers not afforded those same basic rights?” McNesby asked in a statement.

The report added that there are rumors in the department that a large number of officers plan to call in sick as a protest against the charges leveled against Bologna, leading to pushback among some of the leadership within the department who warned officers that doing so could put the public at risk.

Officers in Buffalo, New York, have made a similar show of solidarity for officers facing scrutiny following a viral incident on Thursday night. A video showed officers pushing an elderly man who walked toward the line of police after the city’s curfew went into effect. The man stumbled backward and fell hard to the ground, where he struck his head and began to bleed from his ear.

The officers came under scrutiny, as well as the department, which initially issued a statement saying that a protester was hurt when he tripped and fell, not mentioning that it was preceded by a shove from officers. Two officers were placed on unpaid leave pending an investigation.

On Friday, all 57 members of the Buffalo department’s elite Emergency Response Team resigned from the team in solidarity with the officers who had been placed on leave.

Bologna faces charges of felony aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and possession of an instrument of crime, which police noted referred to his department-issued baton.