Tag Archives: Philadelphia Police

Three decades as a Philly Cop come to a close

Recruit training, Philadelphia Police Academy, summer 1990

This past Friday, January 19, was my last official day on the payroll of the Philadelphia Police Department. After nearly three decades, I hung up my badge and gun, riding off into the sunset of retirement.

I come from a Philly Cop family. My brother, Mike, remains on the job as a Sergeant with the Central Detective Division. For a few years way back in the early 1990’s we were partners working a police wagon.

Our father, Matthew Veasey Jr (I’m the third), had been a Philly Cop himself for three decades from 1960 through 1989. He passed away back in August knowing that my retirement was coming up. If you combine his and my own service, the calendar year of 2019 will be the first in a half-century without a Matthew Veasey serving in uniform.

We also have a pair of cousins on the job. John Bernard is a Detective and Bob Veasey is a police officer. So even though I’m now out, the family influence remains within the Philly law enforcement ranks.

Trying to write about all of the experiences that I had, all of the people who made a difference, in one piece would be an exercise in futility. There were so many, I could write a book. Maybe some day I will do just that. I certainly understand how so many cops have written books and scripts in the past. There are that many amazing, wild, and touching stories.

But I will take a few paragraphs to glance back at my career as both a general reminder, and as a sample of where a career in the police profession can take you.

I started out by taking the written exam in December 1989. I had just turned 28 years old, and had been working in the banking profession for the previous decade since my graduation from high school.

This wasn’t my first time taking the police test. I took it previously way back in 1980 as an 18-year old. At that time, I passed the written test as well as all of the subsequent exams and checks.

Unfortunately, for one of the few times in history, not only was the PPD not hiring, they were actually laying off officers. I remained on a hiring list for two years while that layoff and city hiring slowdown continued. My list eventually expired, and by that point I was settled in to my job with First Pennsylvania Bank.

By the time that 1989 testing opportunity came around, I had moved over to Fidelity Bank. Though I was making better money in a more responsible position, I still wasn’t seeing much of an interesting future for myself in the banking profession.

In those days, the city actually gave you a booklet to study for the written test. I studied hard, and it paid off. When the results came out, I had finished high. By the end of January 1990, I was attending the orientation session at the old Academy facility on State Road.

Over the next few months there were numerous tests: psychological, psychiatric, lie detector. There was a background check in which neighbors and family members were contacted about my conduct and character.

I passed everything with flying colors, and entered the Philadelphia Police Academy as a member of Class 289 on April 23, 1990. The next five months were like being back in high school. Classroom work, homework, and studying. There was regular physical training that got me into the best shape of my life.

In mid-September of 1990 our class graduated. I was assigned to the 6th District, the same place as my brother, who had graduated the previous year. The 6th served an extremely diverse area in those days, stretching from Broad Street down to the Delaware River, and from South Street up to Poplar Street.

The Veasey Boys, 6th District wagon crew in the early 1990’s

While there are districts with far worse violent crime situations, few could rival the 6th District for the variety of assignments and citizen interactions. You went from a job in the drug-infested Richard Allen Homes projects on one call to the wealthy inhabitants of Society Hill for the next.

There was a thriving gay community, the burgeoning club scene along Delaware Avenue, and the boardwalk atmosphere of South Street. The entire downtown area was a hodgepodge of residents, visitors, workers, and transients. It was a great place to learn how to interact with people from all walks of life, and from all socio-economic backgrounds.

We had great cops in my squad, many of whom stayed together for much of the more than six years that I was in the district. One of those cops was my brother, Mike. He and I would spend much of the early 1990’s as partners working a patrol wagon together.

My brother passed the Sergeant test and moved on, and for a couple of years I worked mostly on a solo patrol car, though I still occasionally worked a wagon with other partners.

In late 1995, I took the exam for Detective, finishing at 103 out of hundreds on the list. In January of 1996 the department promoted 89 people to the rank, going through 96 names on our list to get them. This left me just seven slots away, but now I had to wait. That wait lasted most of the year.

That promotion to Detective finally came in November 1996 when I received the gold shield and began my investigative career with the East Detective Division. In more than four years at EDD it became obvious to me that cops who worked the “Badlands” of the 25th District saw more violent crime in a year than I had in six years at the 6th District.

It was so consistently violent in East Division that we had a phenomenon known as the “Nine O’clock Shooting” – there was a shooting nearly every night on the 4×12 shift somewhere around that time.

Headed out for first day as a Detective in November 1996

The Detectives, supervisors, and cops who I met during my time at East were some of the best that the profession has to offer. A number of the Detectives from our division would eventually move on to assignments at Homicide, basically the investigative elite.

Just after Christmas in 1999, I transferred to the Northeast Detective Division. This was mostly just a move to get a closer commute from my home, as my family had moved up to the Somerton section of Far Northeast Philly earlier that year.

Any thoughts that it might be quieter at NEDD than it had been at EDD went out the window on my very first night. Working a 4×12 shift, I got more jobs that night than I had in a typical night at East. And not only that, but I got a shooting that night. Yep, the old “Nine O’clock Shooting” followed me.

Just how bad the crime situation had gotten in the 15th District of Northeast Philly was a bit of an eye-opener. It would turn out that Northeast Division, while not as consistently violent as East, was every bit as busy from a policing and investigative perspective.

What I gradually found during the two and a half years that I worked at NEDD was that I was missing the streets. This was something that was a bit of a surprise to me. When I made Detective, became a member of the Gold Badge Club, and got to wear business clothes every day, I thought that I would never put on a uniform again.

But the cop bug began to bite again, and I took the test for Sergeant in the spring of 2002. I thought that I did well, but you never really know with those things until the results come out.

Final annual qualification at the shooting range, September 2017

In early August, my wife and I were preparing to go away on a vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The day before we left, my phone rang. It was my Sergeant at the time, Mark Burgmann, who said just one word: “Ten.

I knew his voice, but was in vacation mode and just wasn’t getting the context. “Ten what?” was my response. “You came out number ten on the Sergeant list.” I thought for sure that he was messing with me. I figured that I must have done well, but that he was bumping me up a bit. Turns out he wasn’t.

What that meant was, as long as the city actually hired off the list, I was getting promoted again. It was just a matter of time. Turns out, it was a lot of time.

There were no promotions off that list into 2003. Finally that spring, some seven months after the test results were announced, I was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

Following the promotional ceremony at Temple University, all of the promotees went to a downstairs area. There we were to turn in our old badges, and receive our new ones, along with our new assignments.

As I waited in line for my turn to get my new badge and assignment, a friend of mine, Brian McBride, was in line in front of me. Brian was also making Sergeant. When he got close enough to see the list, he turned to me and said “18th.”

In my head I thought “18th?” Honestly, I couldn’t even have told you where the 18th District was at that time. All I knew was that it was somewhere out in West Philly, a section of the city where I had never worked, lived, or traveled.

The 18th District headquarters is located at 55th and Pine Streets. When I tell you that there is no easy or quick way to get there from my home at the far end of the 7th District in Northeast Philly, well, that is an understatement.

Visiting with granddaughter Elysia as an 8th District patrol Sergeant in 1996

During the year that I spent out in the 18th, there were two days where, coming home on daywork do to severe traffic problems, it took me two hours to make the drive – without ever leaving the city of Philadelphia.

The 18th turned out to be a great learning experience, including that I got to know a section of the city that was unfamiliar to me. Approximately one-third of the district was taken up by the University of Pennsylvania, which afforded a number of opportunities to work with and around some great events such as the Penn Relays and Big Five games at the Palestra.

Two of the best medical facilities in the country, the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) are in the 18th. Working with their E/R staffs was a great experience as well.

But it was just too far to travel every day, and the first opportunity that I got, I put in a transfer looking to move somewhere closer to home again. It took about a year, but in March of 2004 that transfer came through sending me up to the 8th District in Northeast Philly.

The transfer to the 8th was a godsend as far as travel goes, but it came with a qualification. I had to accept a “Last Out” assignment for the first time in my career. While at East Detectives, the department had briefly switched to a schedule that saw us work “around the clock” shifts for about a year. But this would be the first time that I had to work the overnight “graveyard shift” on a daily  basis.

Graduating from St. Joseph’s University in May 2009

For nearly four years, the 8th District was my home. It was very close to my actual family home, about a 10 minute drive. And it turns out that I was able to adapt to working overnight fairly easily. I did switch to a “regular” squad schedule of daywork and 4×12 for a year, but found that I actually preferred overnights, and so switched back.

Then in the fall of 2007, almost on a whim, I put in a transfer request that would change my life. Ever since high school, I had always wanted to be a teacher. That desire had never left me, and that it had never happened became a regret as I moved through my banking and police years.

I had never attended college, not one class, when in the fall of 2003 while at the 18th District at age 41, I finally changed that situation. The PPD had a working arrangement with the Community College of Philadelphia which allowed officers a chance to take classes at the Police Academy in their spare time. I signed up for the program, and finally began to work towards a degree.

Taking classes year-round, which continued as I moved to the 8th District, I finally attained my Associates Degree in Criminal Justice from CCP in May of 2006. I then moved immediately on to Saint Joseph’s University to begin work towards a Bachelor’s Degree, which I would receive in 2009.

The school experience reignited my overall interest in education, and so in the fall of 2007 came that life-altering transfer request to the PPD Training Bureau. The transfer came through, and November 1 of that year began a decade-long run as an educator.

Teaching at Philadelphia Police headquarters in October 2013

I was finally getting to do what I had really always wanted. It was a natural fit, standing in front of a classroom and presenting police professionals the information that would help them do a better job in serving the public while also staying safe.

That was where my journey ended this past Friday. It was a journey that allowed me front row and behind-the-scenes exposure to some of the great events in Philadelphia over these past three decades.

Like most Philly cops, I worked all of the big Philly events, including things like the “Welcome America!” celebration around July 4th, the Greek Picnic, the annual bike race through Manayunk, the Dad Vail Regatta, and multiple “Freedom Medal” ceremonies.
I worked the Mummers Parade at a number of spots over the years, including four that stand out. With my brother in the early 90’s, we were the “beer wagon”, holding and transporting any cases that were confiscated by officers. Needless to say, there were many.

I worked the “Two Street” parade night celebration just once, about five years ago. And in both 2016 and 2017 got to work really fun assignments as a supervisor out on Broad Street, including right at City Hall a year ago.

In recent years there were multi-day details for the visit by Pope Francis in 2015, and the NFL Draft a year ago. While I didn’t have to work the Democratic Convention in the summer of 2016 thanks to a scheduled vacation, another political gathering was a career highlight.

In summer 2000 while I was still at East Detectives, the Republican National Convention came to Philadelphia. I was detailed to work for two weeks at the Dignitary Protection Unit, and was paired with a Philly cop named Billy Stuski, who was also from South Philly.

Billy and I were teamed up with a pair of cops from the District of Columbia Police Department as the security detail for U.S. Senator Don Nickles of Oklahoma for the duration of the convention. Nickles was the Senate Majority Whip, one of the key spokespersons of the GOP at that time.

My Dad, retired Philly PD Captain Matthew Veasey, visits my office at the new Training Bureau in June 2016

For two weeks we went everywhere that the Senator went. Sometimes we did “advance” work, scouting out the locations that he was to visit the day before his actual trip. Most of the time we accompanied him around the city.

This was both during formal convention-related events, usually in the evening, and also during social events, such as various dinners, lunches, concerts, and more. He was an avid golfer, which got me into a handful of prestigious locations such as Merion and Pine Hill, where he shot rounds during his stay.

When reading this, you’ll note that I didn’t “name names” very much, other than my family. There are just too many of them. Suffice it to say that nearly every person who I worked with and got to know thanks to this career was appreciated.

Also, I didn’t tell many specific stories. I’ll save those for future police-related pieces here. Or maybe for some future book or script. There are a million of them.

At my retirement party on Friday night, a nice crowd showed up from all across these last 28 years. I was honored with a plaque and some very nice words that summed up my career. And then I was handed the microphone, always a dangerous proposition when I’ve had a few beers.

I kept it fairly short. But one statement that I made summed it up. Of all things, it was a takeoff of a Priscilla Presley quote from “The Naked Gun” when she made the statement “I like cops!” because I do. Actually, I love cops. And I love teaching. For the last decade, I got to teach cops.

Short of managing the Phillies, I can’t think of a better job for myself. Also, it was the prototypical “square peg in a square hole” – a perfect job for my tastes and my talents.

Thank you to the Philadelphia Police Department for all of the various opportunities of the last three decades. And more importantly, thank you to all of the unforgettable people who wear the badges and carry the guns. The men and women who stand the wall and work hard to keep our city safe around the clock every single day.

For nearly three decades, I was honored to continue a family tradition. I was honored to stand as a member of the Thin Blue Line. After my promotion to Sergeant, I was told by a Detective that “once a member of the Gold Badge Club, you’re always a member.” Well, for the rest of my life, I’ll be happy to remain a member of the Blue Family.

2017: the year that I lost my Dad – but in the end, not really

Mike, our Dad, and myself in the late 1960’s

The calendar is about to flip not only to the end of a month, but also to the end of another year. The end of December causes most of us to take a glance back at the events of the past year. As usual, this one was filled with many good times

But the calendar year of 2017 was a year of goodbyes for me as well. The biggest goodbye of all was one of the hardest of my life. This was the year that I had to say goodbye to my Dad.

I’m sure that many of you can say something similar to this regarding your own fathers. My Dad, Matthew Joseph Veasey Jr, was my hero. He was also very much a role model and inspiration. But it wasn’t always that way.

Many of the memories that I hold from childhood and my teenage years regarding my relationship with my Dad are way too personal to share publicly. The specifics of those memories belong kept between he and I, and a few close family members.

Suffice it to say that I was the test case for challenging my Dad. I have a younger brother, Mike, and I’m fairly certain from conversations that we all had in later years that he would back me up on that fact.

I grew through my teen years and tried to spread my wings away from the control of this tough-guy U.S. Marine and Philadelphia Police boss. It didn’t always go smoothly.

But through those difficult years we learned a greater respect for one another. And the fact that I had already softened him up made things a little easier on my brother coming up right behind me. You’re welcome, Bro.

As I said, my Dad was a Philly cop, rising through the ranks to retire as a Captain after three decades of service to the community. I took the test at the age of just 18 as well, and passed through all of the preliminaries. Unfortunately for me, this was the one time in the last half-century that the PPD was going through actual layoffs and not hiring anyone new.

Despite taking that test and my father’s career choice, I never had some overwhelming urge to become a police officer myself during my 20’s. After that early test, I never even considered that line of work.

Dad (L) with Mike & I and our families, summer 1993

I began to draw closer to my Dad during the decade of the 1980’s. He got much more political in his 40’s, and recruited me to help out with those efforts. This involved volunteer work on a couple of Philly mayoral races, and his move into the presidency of the Philadelphia Emerald Society, a local Irish organization.

Conversations that we had during those years definitely can be given credit for at least planting seeds of change in me. I was a liberal Democrat to that point in life. He had become much more conservative.

While I disagreed with many of his positions in our discussions, which at times bordered on arguments, he forced me to think and to defend my own thought process.

Over time, I would challenge myself in my worldview, leading to more open-minded self-education on my part. This ultimately led to a wholesale change that was much more in line with his thinking.

I made him a grandfather twice over in those 1980’s, and at a young age. This allowed him to enjoy decades with his granddaughters, who he loved unconditionally. He wanted to be called “Grandfather” by them, because he felt it was more regal. Though we busted his chops on that choice of title over the years, the girls embraced it and him, returning his love completely.

That ‘busting chops’ aspect would become a staple of conversations involving him, my brother, and I during the 1990’s. Over the last three decades of his life, those little dining table discussions among the three of us will always remain some of my own life’s favorite moments.

Following his retirement in late 1989, our Dad moved down to Florida. He would spend the last quarter-century of his life there, but returned to the Philly area for regular visits. Even though we all eventually gained a greater ability to stay in close touch via access to the Internet and cell phones, he stated “I need hugs”, and would make his way up to Philly for a visit.

As he was retiring, I had decided to take another shot at the Philly police test myself. At age 28, I aced the test and was in the Police Academy by April 1990. My brother had already done the same a year ahead of me.

Dad, with myself and Mike at my Police Academy graduation 1990

I know for a fact that nothing ever made our Dad prouder than having both of his boys serving as police officers. He loved passing along advice in the early years of our careers, and then just listening to our own ‘war stories’ as those careers unfolded. We both advanced to supervisory positions, which only made him prouder. And of course, that shared experience in uniform only drew us closer.

His last visit north had come in the early summer of 2016. Then at Christmas a year ago, our Dad began to experience symptoms from the rare form of lung cancer that would eventually take his life. He struggled all through 2017, back and forth to various doctors, in and out of hospitals.

Mike and I finally flew down to Florida to visit him in mid-August. Dad had been in the hospital for two weeks that time, and we were both feeling serious apprehension.

We got to visit with him on a Saturday, spending much of the day together. Though it was in a hospital room with Dad obviously laboring to breathe rather than sitting around a dining room table, he was still as feisty of spirit as ever.

At that point, he was still holding out hope. He knew that he was battling a terminal condition. But there were tests results still to come. His hope was that he could be stabilized, go home, and begin some form of treatment that would give him a few months, if not a couple more years.

It wasn’t to be. He did return home with his loving wife Vicki just a couple of days later, but it was to hospice care. There was nothing more the doctors could do. He died the next weekend.

Unlike when our Mom passed away suddenly back in 1998 at just age 58, I was much more emotionally and spiritually prepared for this one. But it was still a gut punch. I let my tears out just once, with my wife Debbie.

Taking part in his funeral services down in Florida and back up here in Philly was cathartic. I was honored by Mike in allowing me to speak on our behalf at both ceremonies. Both church communities were fantastic. Here in Philly, both the USMC and the PPD presented him with honors. Dad would have been moved and proud.

Dad’s USMC flag presentation and PPD Honor Guard gun salute in Philadelphia

‘Matthew J’ was a tough guy, but he was always an emotional man. Life threw difficult challenges his way as a child, as a young father, as a veteran police boss, and as an older man. He fought his way through all of them with tenacity, a refusal to back down or surrender that would be a lesson that absolutely wore off on me.

On one of his visits north just a few years back, I went along with him to the cemetery outside of Philly where much of his family was buried. This included a visit to the graves of his mother and father, some aunts and uncles, and our brother Joseph, who was stillborn in December 1960.

He also did some preliminary genealogy research on his family tree back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the results of which he turned over to me. This spurred me on to include my Mom’s side of the family, and take much of those tree branches back some four and five generations.

Those things mattered to my Dad: family history and memories. As long as he was alive, the people who mattered to him during his life were still alive. They were alive in him, in his photos and stories and memories.

One thing that I’ve found over these last few months without him, going through “firsts” such as my first birthday and Christmas without him, was that his feelings on the importance of preserving family memories really are important.

You see, what I’ve (strangely to me) found is that I “feel” him now more than I ever did when he was alive. Maybe that was because I took for granted during his life that he was out there. That he would be back up to Philly for a visit in a few months. That I could pick up the phone and talk to him any time.

Our last picture together in June 2016

Now, he seems to be constantly with me. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. Very few hours pass in a day that I don’t hear his voice in my head. It’s not a bad thing, or a sad thing, or a somber thing in any way. It’s a good feeling.

So what I’ve found is that, while I absolutely miss him terribly, he is still with me. He is always going to be with me. Death didn’t take him away. I see and hear him constantly.

And one more thing. He was a man of faith, something that was always with him, but that developed more fully later in life.

That aspect of faith, a knowledge of the truth of Jesus Christ and of God’s love, is another lesson learned by watching my hero. It may be the most important lesson that he ever passed along, in fact.

And because of this one, I know for a fact that one day I will again see my Dad. When I get to wrap my arms around him for one of his hugs again, what a great day that will be.

While 2017 is always going to be remembered by me as the year that my Dad died, I won’t really ever have to think of it as the year that I “lost” him.

Matthew J. Veasey Jr is not lost. He’s not even gone. He’s right here with me now. I would venture to guess that the same goes for any of you reading this now who knew him. It will remain that way for at least as long as any of us remain alive.

My Experience at the 2017 NFL Draft in Philadelphia

Working the 2017 NFL Draft in Philadelphia

To say that the 2017 NFL Draft, held in my hometown of Philadelphia over the last three days, was a major success would be an understatement.

I got to experience this signature event of the National Football League up close and in person as a Sergeant with the Philadelphia Police Department. It was just the latest in a number of high profile events that I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy while on-duty during my career.

Assigned to take charge of a group of police officers, we spent both days on the south side of the 2400 block of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

It was a slight surprise to me when my group actually took that position and found that we were at the very front lines of the stage and seating arena area. It turned out to be an exciting and rewarding assignment.

The crowd was massive, but Philly-friendly and cooperative. As far as their interactions with myself and my officers, I couldn’t have asked for a more positive reception. Everyone was friendly to us and appreciative of our efforts, and quite a few let us know that fact.

One thing that none of us knew, from the top brass on down to rookie police officers, was exactly what kind of crowd we would be met with. It was the first time that the NFL had put on their annual Draft of college players in that big of a show.

Philly can be notorious at times for our fan reactions, especially where Eagles fans are concerned. You also had to add in the factor that this was a free event. Would the crowd turn surly at any point? Sometimes it only takes a few bad apples to spoil things for the whole bunch. If any officials held any concerns of a worst-case scenario, those never materialized. In fact, just the opposite.

Even when faced with moments involving the hated, rival Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, or Washington Redskins, the Philly faithful responded with spirited but controlled reactions.

The biggest target of the ‘Boo Birds’ over the first couple of days was easily the Commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell. Yet even with the Commish, I witnessed first-hand a somewhat different reaction from the crowds.

On Thursday, before the actual player selection process got underway, Goodell came out and greeted fans along the very front of the crowd at the sturdy barricades which separated the street from the arena section. As he emerged, there were boisterous boos.

Goodell approached and then walked down the entirety of that front line. He reached across the barricades to shake hands, fist-bump, and even take selfies with those in front, all of whom looked star-struck. The crowd returned his outreach with smiles and handshakes. There were no boos at that point.

Yours truly with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

As the Commissioner made his way back towards the actual arena, he walked straight at me and shook my hand. I took the opportunity to ask if he minded a quick photo, and in a friendly tone he responded: “For you? Absolutely!” He then thanked me for the work we were doing. Great stuff!

As all cops do, I’ve worked many of these high profile details over the years. I’ve been within interaction distance of numerous famous folks including U.S. President Bill Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and South African President Nelson Mandela. I certainly could have tried to insinuate myself with any of them at some point, but always held off.

I’ve gotten to shake hands and exchange quick pleasantries with folks such as Flyers legend Bernie Parent and numerous other musicians, athletes, politicians, and celebrities. Goodell was the first time that I asked for a photo. Strange choice, no?

As the time came for the Draft ceremonies to begin, the event was kicked off with a beautiful rendition of our National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner“, by Chloe and Hallie Bailey.

Standing at attention, facing the stage and flag, I threw up the customary respectful salute. As I held my salute through the anthem and the girls wound towards the end, two cameramen suddenly charged me. Next thing I knew, there I was, flashing a salute (1:39 into below video) on national television for the NFL Network audience.

As the Draft itself unfolded, the crowd grew massive at the front of the stage area. They roared with approval whenever a local favorite such as Ron ‘Jaws’ Jaworski appeared, and booed lustily when some rival legend showed up. The best was former Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson, whose boisterous pro-Dallas rant was met by an equally vibrant reaction from Birds’ fans.

Early on Thursday, prior to starting my work assignment, I had visited the 2100 block of the Parkway. There I got to view some of the other attractions which I would end up missing while working up at the arena area.

I also ran into my cousin, Philly police officer Bob Veasey, who was working the daywork shift in that 2100 block of the Parkway. Bob told me that he had a great day, even getting a picture with the Vince Lombardi Trophy awarded to the Super Bowl winners.

Philadelphia looked fantastic. The mid-spring green colors in the trees were highlighted by unseasonably warm temperatures. It was as though three early-summer days had decided to invade the springtime, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time for the city.

Part of the crowd near the front of the general public staging area for the 2017 NFL Draft

A chilly rain had fallen for days prior to the start of the NFL Draft. With the event over now, Sunday is cloudy with a chance of rain. So it turned out that even Mother Nature was on Philadelphia’s side this week.

The Parkway itself was fully decorated in NFL Draft paraphernalia. Numerous tents and attractions drew fan participation and photo opportunities.

There was plenty of opportunity to purchase food and beverages. If you bought a bottle of water, you could refill it for free at a handful of kiosks scattered around the event. Porta Potty’s were aplenty.

From a concession stand set up next to the famed “Rocky” statue, I got to enjoy a delicious hot sausage on day one, a jumbo hotdog on day two, both washed down by a nice, cold bottle of H2O. The sausage, I waited in a short line and purchased by myself. The hotdog was a treat from a couple of my officers.

Speaking of those police officers, I couldn’t have asked for a better crew. I had the same group of cops under me on both days. Only one of the officers had any time on the job, the others were all rookies.

All of the officers comported themselves with professionalism. They basically held to my directives: “I need to see you around regularly, keep an eye out for problems while enjoying the event and the people, and don’t do anything to get yourselves on TV.” I was ribbed by a couple of them on that last one after my salute appearance.

While visiting with that Rocky statue, waiting on my first-day hot sausage, I ran into an old classmate from my Police Academy class 289. Newly minted Philly PD Deputy Commissioner Dennis Wilson has always been a great guy, and hasn’t let the new rank change him at all. My only problem with him? The man looks like he hasn’t aged a day in 27 years.

People in the area where I was assigned from outside of the Philadelphia Police Department were extremely cooperative and friendly. Fire Department paramedics on their Segways were everywhere. The event security personnel, federal law enforcement, the NFL staff, and employees of the various networks providing TV coverage all worked together well.

One member of that NFL staff gets particular thanks from me, and I’m sorry that I never got his name. The situation went like this: on Thursday night, after taking a few opportunities to capture some of the pageantry by taking a few pictures and videos, my cellphone died.

Still having a few hours to go on the work detail, I realized that I had left my portable charger back in my car. Overhearing me mention this in a conversation with my officers, a member of the NFL Network technical crew offered to charge my phone. I took him up on the offer, and a half hour later had a half-charge and was back in business.

Near the end of Thursday night’s first round, I got to meet and speak for a few minutes with the woman who was in charge of the actual arena structure. If you didn’t get to see it in person or on TV, the NFL Draft arena was an amazing piece of temporary architecture.

Flanked by Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders

She said that her company goes from town to town, event to event, pulling off similar amazing feats. For instance, this summer they will be handling the huge Lollapalooza concert in Chicago in August. Her folks did a phenomenal job putting that structure in place.

On Friday, newly-promoted Philly PD Deputy Commissioner Joe Sullivan stopped through my area and mentioned that “we haven’t even had to handle a fight.” We both knocked wood, hoping it would stay that way.

Stay that way it would. No fights, no major disputes. I saw one protest sign the entire time (“Investigate Pizzagate – it’s real!“) which garnered zero attention for the guy trying hard to get some. He left the front after about two minutes and no crowd response.

There were a couple of lost children, ultimately returned to their families. And there was one other incident that was handled by myself and my crew with the help of Chief Inspector Frank Vanore and the PPD Bomb Squad.

A non-thinking member of the stage crew had left a backpack leaning unattended against a tree for a length of time near a side stage entrance. The bag was reported to us as a concern by the NFL Network folks.

This was ultimately great work performed by the brave Bomb Squaders, who thankfully got to deal with a bag full of clothing this time. After the 2013 Boston Marathon attack, unattended backpacks are a no-no at major public events, people. Something to keep in mind.

It was this spirit of cooperation and friendship that was on display everywhere you looked this week which truly stood out. Whether it was with internal PPD ranks, or with security staff.

Especially with the crowds. Philly fans were outstanding, even from or towards rival Cowboys and Giants fans. A couple of Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders humored me with the above photo. Everyone was in it together, and in it for the right reasons – a peaceful good time.

Congratulations to everyone associated with bringing this showcase to Philly, and with organizing, managing, and running the event itself. The 2017 NFL Draft was a major success story, one of the nicest events that I’ve had the pleasure to work over a law enforcement career that is now in the middle of its 28th and final year.

No Savesies?

As I write this, the sun is glistening off the snow pack that has covered my street for the better part of the past six weeks. Temps are forecast to keep rising and, mercifully, the snow should be gone by the weekend.

But for weeks now, Philadelphia and surrounding areas have had to deal with mountains of snow in a continuous barrage, the likes of which I cannot remember seeing in my lifetime.

Sure, we’ve had large snowfalls in the past, but they seemed to last on the ground a few days, and then temps would rise, rain would come, and the piles of snow would be gone. This year we never seemed to get a break. It was one measurable snowfall on top of another. Again, hopefully that is all coming to an end now.

With the snow have come a number of practical issues that we have all had to deal with, from altered transportation schedules to cancelled school and work days, and, of course, physical labor. The need to continually dig out from the storms. In Philly under Code 10-720, residents have to clear a 3-foot wide path in front of their homes within six hours of the end of a storm.

But that clearing of “a path” only takes care of enabling folks to use a walkway. There is another issue, one that has become extremely heated and controversial over the years and been particularly highlighted this year due to the regularity of the situation: the saving of a parking space from which you dug out your private vehicle.

Over the years we have come up with a number of colorful ways to save the spaces. Some have placed elaborate, creative, humorous artworks in the space. Others have put household objects such as old toilets out there to save a spot. For most, the tried and true method is the placing of lawn or beach chairs in the spot.

These saved parking spaces have caused problems over the years, both here in Philly and elsewhere.
People have argued over them, physically fought one another over them, and people have even been severely assaulted, even shot and killed over them. What makes the idea of a saved parking space during an extreme weather situation push people to such lengths?

There are two sides to every story, or so it is said. For a man who has experienced the good, bad, and ugly of both sides, I think that I can speak on the issue as well as anyone. In winding down what will in the end have been a 28-year career in law enforcement, and having grown up in the tough, close-knit, and difficult parking 2nd Street neighborhood of South Philly, I have seen it all.

On the one side you have the position as formally taken up and aggressively advertised in news interviews and on social media during this recent difficult stretch by the Philadelphia Police Department. That position has become characterized by the simple, catchy slogan of “No Savesies” – that there is no private parking on public streets, and that it is unlawful to block access to such spots, no matter the circumstances.

On the other side you have the position as passionately taken up by a large number of hard-working, blue collar, everyday Philadelphians of all races, sexes, and across all neighborhoods. I know this simply by reading voluminous exchanges on social media and at news outlets: this other side is indeed diverse, vocal, and insistent. Their view: I worked hard to dig it out, then for a short period of time, I deserve access to that spot.

Frankly, I completely empathize with the latter group. I have been digging out cars from parking spaces constantly for over a month now. I know what it is like to get bundled up, sometimes early in the morning, get out in the freezing cold, and manually dig a vehicle out from under and behind a foot or more of snow.

It is hard work, it takes time, and at 52 years of age it is a little tougher now than it used to be for me personally. You do the hard work, straining your muscles, thankful if a neighbor with a snowblower comes along to provide some blessed assistance. Remember, you are usually digging out not just a vehicle, but also a walkway, possibly a driveway, a fire hydrant path, and more.

And in the types of conditions in which we have been faced with lately, you often have to be creative. There is an aspect of engineering and carpentry involved in carving out a parking space that both frees the vehicle now, and that will be reusable later, all while not creating hazards and inconveniences for surrounding neighbors and motorists.

So you do it. You get out there, you do all the hard work. You open up and clear your home walkway, clean a path to the fire hydrant on your street, and free your trapped vehicle so that you can get to the store, to work, to school while also making the space clear enough to reuse later when you inevitably return.

You have done a great job, and you are tired. But now you have to actually go to work, or drive your kids to school, or go to a doctor appointment, or get to the grocery store, or to checkup on a family member. You ease your vehicle out of the parking spot, leave for the doctor office, or school, or store.

And then you return an hour or so later. There is still a foot or more of snow on the ground. There are mountains of snow, both from Mother Nature’s original dump, and from the movement around of the piles by you and your neighbors. The usual limited number of street parking spaces is even further restricted by these conditions.

But you’re not worried, because you did a nice job of working hard to dig your car out, and will simply put the car back into that hard-earned, well-crafted parking space from which you left just a little while earlier. As you return, your mind finds it almost incomprehensible: someone has parked in the space that you dug out.

Now you can be a well-seasoned, even-tempered, professional law enforcement officer who thinks up pleasant slogans like “No Savesies”, or you can be a hot-blooded, mean-streak, quick-tempered “whatever” profession you want to insert here. I don’t care who or what you are, I guarantee you that the emotion sweeping over you at that moment will at the very least be described as frustration. Frankly, many get downright angry.

Here is where the truly important part of all this begins to develop. The answer to a simple question will say a lot about you: what do you do now? You really have two choices. You can get out of your car, rage, seek out the interloper, and demand they move, creating a confrontation or worse if they don’t. Or you can sigh, move along, and try to find or create somewhere else to park your car, even though that may end up being a block or more away from home.

In those cases, you really have no choice. No matter what, you cannot create a public nuisance or start a fight about a parking space over which you legitimately have no ownership stake. When you purchased your home, it did not come with public, on-street parking spaces. That is a simple fact. You cannot get self-righteous over parking, no matter the circumstances.

In many cases, the person now taking up the parking space may be a neighbor, and you may recognize the car. You may decide to go up to their home, or call them on the phone, and let them know that you are back, politely asking if they will be long. But you had best be prepared before doing so to handle the situation maturely if the response you get is that they have parked and do not plan on leaving.

The bottom line is that, other than the concepts of formally designated handicapped parking spaces and private, clearly marked driveways, you do not own a parking space on a public street. You cannot park in a handicapped space, and you cannot block someones driveway. Otherwise, on a public street, no one owns parking spaces.

There is no formal “law” against the act of reserving parking spaces in the ways that Philadelphians have been trying to do for generations during snowstorms. You are not going to get arrested for putting a lawn chair in a dug out space. However, there are a number of local and state codes, including littering and obstructing the highway, which have fines attached and which can be applied by law enforecement in such situations.

You cannot reserve parking spaces by placing trash bags, a lawn chair, an old toilet in them, by having your kids build a snowman in them, whatever. But perhaps even more importantly, if you do so, and you return later to find that someone has moved them aside and parked there, even that your items are completely missing, you cannot create drama.

We have to be mature and responsible in dealing with any situation, including under the types of difficulties created by nature over the last month. We even have to be mature and patient when dealing with our fellow man during these times, no matter how wrong or ignorant we feel they may have acted.

And also, consider this. If you are young enough, fit enough, and have enough respect and consideration for your hard-working neighbors, maybe you can even use that spot that you just stumbled upon on your own return home, the one someone so carefully carved out, as a temporary refuge for your vehicle while you go and find and dig out another spot on your block.

Not only will this save some hard feelings, it will also give you and your fellow neighbors yet one more place to put their vehicles over the coming days, when parking is likely to remain at a premium. Working together, having respect and consideration for one another, and treating one another with patience and maturity, this is how we will best get through these temporary tough times.

So yes, there are “No Savesies”, and you need to wrap your mind around that concept and embrace it. You cannot save a private spot on a public street by placing an object there, no matter the circumstances. It should go without saying that you cannot assault one another or create a public nuisance. But also, you should try to be considerate of your neighbors, the difficulties that they are under, and their hard work.

2014 MPO SET TO BEGIN

A new teaching year is beginning for myself and my fellow members of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Advanced Training Unit, with a handful of new courses to be presented and refreshers coming on a few more.

Each year, the Municipal Police Officer’s Education & Training Commission (MPOETC) develops four courses as mandated classroom training for all of Pennsylvania’s law enforcement officers.

In Philly, it is the ATU’s job to present those courses to the vast majority of the city’s 6,000+ officers, detectives and supervisors. The ATU also provides fee-based training to ‘outside’ jurisdictions such as the police from SEPTA, the university police at Temple and Penn, and a few other agencies and municipalities.

Each MPOETC course is presented as a half-day of training, making for two full state-mandated days in the classroom for each officer. Every single year, the 15 or so members of the ATU staff will provide instruction to roughly 25,000 attendees in a couple of thousand sessions.

However, for 2014, that number will expand, because every two years all officers are also required to receive recertification training in CPR and First Aid. The CPR training is a full day. The First Aid training is a half day, and the PPD always takes advantage of the other half day to present some type of additional training.

So in the 2014 teaching year, the ATU will be presenting four classroom days to each officer in the two days of MPOETC-mandated training, a day for CPR, and another day for the combined First Aid/departmental training. Factoring in only Philly cops, the ATU staff will provide classes to at least 42,000 attendees during the year.

The four MPOETC offerings this year are “Legal Updates“, “Invisible Wounds“, “Crimes Against the Elderly“, and “Social Media“, while the departmental bonus training to accompany First Aid will be a “Policy Updates” course.

A new version of “Legal Updates” is presented each and every year to all officers. The course highlights any major changes to existing laws, presents important new laws passed during the last year, and goes over the particular facts involved in specific case law from around the Commonwealth and the nation in the last year.

Crimes Against the Elderly” is a course highlighting the problems being presented by transient criminal groups who run various scams and other crimes, frequently targeting more vulnerable elderly members of the community with their organized crime schemes. These include frauds involving home improvement, roofing, driveway resurfacing, and more.

Invisible Wounds” is a course designed around the elements of ‘PTSD’, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As many of our officers learned during a recently-presented course on “Suicide Prevention“, PTSD is considered the primary cause of that particularly devastating issue. Officers should emerge with a better idea of not only the dangers to those in our profession, but also will learn some strategies to help them avoid, mitigate, and manage it’s effects.

Social Media” is a course that will introduce the officers to various forms of social media and their importance in the world at large, while also discussing how it can be used as an investigative tool. There is discussion of the benefits, as well as the perils, of their individual on-duty use as sworn and salaried city employees, as well as their off-duty use of media and it’s relation to their employment responsibilities and expectations. There is also a presentation on the necessary growth of departmental/agency uses of social media.

The PPD has determined that a “Policy Updates” course would be beneficial, and this will be presented on the same day that First Aid training is provided. This course will be a review of the key points in a couple of dozen important internal policies, mostly Directives, which the department has updated over the last couple of years.

All of this training presents a challenge to the management and staff at the Advanced Training Unit, with a full schedule that will keep them busy for much of the year. Captain Hugh Lynch, who has been the on-site Commanding Officer at the unit for the last couple of years is being promoted by the PPD, so it will be a new challenge under a new Commanding Officer as well.

Also notably, this marks the last scheduled year in the careers of a pair of the units key personnel: Lieutenant Jim Gould and Lieutenant John Bradley. Each of these men plays an important role, but each is wrapping up his career with the PPD. Both are scheduled to retire at the very beginning of 2015, at the latest.

The staff at the Advanced Training Unit is fully invested in the education of Philadelphia’s police officers. This year’s schedule may be a challenge on the minds, the feet, and the vocal chords of that staff, but we realize that the benefits to the individual officers, the department as a whole, and subsequently to the community are great.

With pitchers and catchers scheduled to begin reporting to Major League Baseball spring training camps in the next couple of weeks, it seems appropriate to borrow from our National Pastime for a relevant opening statement to our own teaching year: “Play ball!”