Is Goode Playing A Shell Game With The Police Force?

Posted: October 21, 1988

A week or so ago I was an eyewitness to a quasi-bank robbery at Broad and Walnut. I say a quasi-bank robbery because this one was no Willie Sutton masterpiece.

This one was the act of a rank amateur, but he fared a lot better than Willie Sutton. He didn't get caught.

It was more akin to a purse snatch, except it unfolded inside the Meridian Bank, on the northwest corner of Broad and Walnut.

This tall, lean kid grabbed the payday envelope from the hands of a tall, lean and pretty lass as she left a teller's window.

And the next thing you knew, the tall kid came bounding through the bank's big glass doors and out onto South Broad Street with the pretty girl a stride behind screaming, "He's got my money . . . he's got my money."

It looked like a scene out of the sprint heats at the Olympics. The kid ran like a deer - but so did the pretty girl.

And she almost caught the bum, too.

Meg Dougherty, who is 27, chased the kid down the subway steps and was within an arm's length of collaring him when she slipped and fell and the kid vanished into the crowd on the subway platform.

Meg Dougherty bounded back up the steps to find a cop, but, alas, there was none. This was Broad and Walnut, one of the busiest corners in Center City, in mid-afternoon but there wasn't a gendarme in sight.

For the record, it took five minutes for a lone cop, on foot and coddling a police radio, to get to Broad and Walnut from City Hall.

A week later I lunched with Bob Hurst, the retiring FOP president.

He was being honored at the Clover Club's annual October luncheon Monday in appreciation for his long years of service in law enforcement, and I wanted to hype the event with a column.

But Bob Hurst and I got lost talking about the incident at Meridian Bank and the absence of a single cop at Broad and Walnut in mid-afternoon.

"How come, Officer Hurst?" I asked. And Officer Hurst went into a soliloquy.

"There aren't enough cops to have one at Broad and Walnut," Bob Hurst said. "Wilson Goode has depleted the police force beyond belief. I think he wants to see how far he can go before the entire system collapses."

And, with that, Officer Hurst began hitting me with numbers.

He said that at present the police force is down to 5,900 officers.

And he asked that I contrast that number with the total on the force in 1980 when Wilson Goode was sworn in as managing director - with the Police Department directly under his jurisdiction.

"There were 3,000 more on the force in 1980," Bob Hurst said.

"That's how many cops Wilson Goode has gotten rid of - a third of the department. That's why there aren't any more cops on the big downtown corners. Wilson Goode has transferred most of the tactical unit to the districts, where police manpower is already down to the bone.

"There are districts where only three or four officers are reporting for roll call on given shifts - shifts that once numbered 16 to 18 cops.

"Wilson Goode is playing a shell game with the Police Department."

The words were strong and full of passion. I got the idea that I had struck a raw nerve in Bob Hurst's chemistry.

"A shell game?" I begged.

"A shell game," Bob Hurst answered. "A pure and simple shell game.

"There's $270 million in the current budget to increase the Police Department to 6,904 - plus added money to hire an additional 150 officers to fight the drug problem. And what has Wilson Goode done?

"Nothing. Right now he's maneuvering in City Council to transfer $20 million of the police appropriation back to the general fund where he can use it as he wishes - all this while the city falls apart.

"And if you don't believe it, watch the nightly news on television. You'll see desperate people in the streets protesting the lack of police protection. Why, innocent children are being murdered on the streets.

"And Wilson Goode's answer is to take his dog-and-pony show to the scenes of the crimes and tell the citizens he'll stop the drug war."

Bob Hurst drew on a filtered cigarette and shook his head.

"In my opinion," he said, "Wilson Goode has reduced law enforcement efforts in Philadelphia to a blood-splattered joke."

Strong, strong words, even for a cop who has seen a lot of raw living.

But all I really wanted to talk to Bob Hurst about was the lack of a single cop at Broad and Walnut when a pretty, fleet-footed girl was robbed of a week's pay as she left a bank and had to chase the robber herself.

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