Philadelphia Mayor-elect Cherelle Parker got it right when she chose Philadelphia Police Department Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel as the new police commissioner.
Parker has been a frequent guest on my show over the past 18 months or so, and several times, she told me she wanted someone as commissioner who could find “Broad and Spring Garden without using a GPS.” She wanted someone who knew the DNA of Philadelphia and the police department. She also wanted a data-driven person to proactively prevent crime.
Former Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said that when he, former Mayor Michael Nutter, and former Police Commissioner Ramsey worked together to make Philadelphia a safe city, Bethel was the point person. Bethel suggested and executed strategies to fit their master plan. Williams commended Bethel’s emotional intelligence and agreed with me about how Bethel would engage with Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who we both view as a major obstacle to Philadelphia’s safety.
I think Bethel gave us a clue to his plan in his opening news conference. He diplomatically said he looked forward to working with Krasner but then pivoted to saying that he would enforce all laws and consistently present the public with the records of arrests and police operations.
That tells me that Bethel, unlike former Commissioner Danielle Outlaw, will enforce and document police actions on things like shoplifting. Krasner famously issued a directive to his staff not to prosecute shoplifting crimes that were under $499.
As a result. police looked the other way for most shoplifting, and shop owners felt they just had to endure these crimes–or close up shop and leave Philadelphia.
Parker said she would challenge this $499 rule in her victory speech.
I was heartened by Bethel’s comments on the role of police.
“I can sit here and tell you, I ain’t gonna lock up a 10-year-old child for coming to school with a pair of scissors,” Bethel said. “But I also could tell you that I’m gonna lock up somebody who comes in a store and robs somebody with a gun. I am gonna talk about locking up somebody who sits there and kills people in our streets. We are gonna talk about that. I’m gonna talk about my mother-in-law, who’s scared to come out of her door. My mother-in -law has been in her home for 50 years, but scared to come out of her door. Why can she not sit on her step? So, we have a job to do as part of policing. Our job is to enforce the law.”
Bethel also has a record of treating police officers fairly while holding them accountable. My police sources vouch for him in this area.
So, Danielle Outlaw is gone, and Mayor Jim Kenney is down to around his last 30 days. I expect very good things from Parker and Bethel. I also don’t expect Krasner to change. I do think Bethel will challenge Krasner’s position regarding leniency for felons carrying firearms. Bethel will prove that the police are enforcing shoplifting laws and Krasner is not. I also hope Parker and Bethel can make the case in minority communities that Krasner is an impediment to safety.
And, arguments are being made this week before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to certify Krasner’s impeachment, which could lead to his possible removal with a trial in the Pennsylvania Senate.
Looking in my crystal ball, I see improvements in Philadelphia with a big battle ahead.