Tucker took a department deemed ``unfocused, unmanaged, undertrained and unaccountable'' and sent its commanders to management seminars at Harvard University. He widened the use of computers in record-keeping, set up foot patrols and mini-stations to bring officers closer to residents, wrote guidelines to curb police abuse, enrolled officers in crash courses on Spanish language and culture.
Can it be only 10 years ago?
Tucker's crowning touch was a commissioned study of the department, ``Philadelphia and Its Police: Toward a New Partnership.'' Last year, as a professor tells it, Philadelphia police brass asked Temple University's criminology department for a copy; no one could find one at the Police Administration Building.
Now comes John F. Timoney. Again, an outsider is tapped by a Philadelphia mayor to overhaul a department clobbered by critics.
Again, a new commissioner is talking about demanding accountability and curbing abusive behavior. About sending middle managers to college and reaching out to minority communities. About upgrading technology and tapping the latest in crime-fighting theory.
Looking back at the Tucker experience, it's clear that a reform spirit will soon die off if roots aren't nourished. Timoney is guaranteed even less time than Tucker had - the 21 months remaining in Mayor Rendell's term. Timoney is scheduled to announce a package of initiatives around May 1. Some may trigger controversy, some cost money.
For Timoney to make an imprint that lasts, he'll need the city leadership the way an officer needs a good partner.
They'll have to back him up.
* When Kevin Tucker took over, the department was still very much Frank Rizzo's department - shaped and shadowed by the tough-talking figure who dominated as commissioner in the late 1960s and mayor in the 1970s.
It was a swaggering police force both loved and hated. In the name of law and order, it set records for shooting unarmed civilians. It was the first department ever sued by the U.S. Justice Department for tolerating and encouraging brutality. In the early 1980s, it saw 31 commanders and officers convicted of corruption.
Rizzo's successor as mayor, William Green, had appointed a commissioner, Morton Solomon, who reined in police use of deadly force. But ``the department regarded Green and Solomon as insults,'' says James J. Fyfe, a Temple University criminologist and expert on police shootings.
The officers thought little better of W. Wilson Goode. Goode was mayor on May 13, 1985, when Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor took charge of a mission to arrest members of the hated group MOVE.
Sambor's men fired 8,000 to 10,000 shots into a West Philadelphia rowhouse, then ended a daylong stalemate by dropping a bomb from a helicopter, causing a fire that was allowed to burn, ultimately destroying 61 homes. Eleven people in the MOVE house died, including six children.
``Talk to police officials around the country,'' says Fyfe, a former lieutenant in the New York Police Department, ``you'll find they think that MOVE was the single most stupid police action in this century.''
Amid the ashes, Goode appointed Tucker, a 20-year veteran of the Secret Service, to grab hold of the Police Department and tame it.
The first outsider to lead the department since the 1920s, Tucker's ``mere presence was an insult to the culture,'' Fyfe says.
It was bad enough that Tucker wasn't a Philadelphia policeman. He hadn't been a policeman, period. Nor did it help that he maintained residence in Medford, N.J., contrary to requirements that city employees live in the city.
But for a young, bright generation of Philadelphia police officers, Tucker was a gust of fresh air. When he sent commanders to Harvard and to local corporations to learn supervisory and management skills, he was casting off a long departmental tradition of antipathy toward advanced education.
``Here he was, taking people who'd spent their whole lives in Philadelphia, opening up whole new worlds,'' says William Bergman, an inspector under Tucker, now Temple University's police chief.
To neighborhoods that had feared the police as an occupying army, Tucker extended olive branches. ``It was really the first time we began talking about community policing,'' Bergman says.
Tucker raised $250,000 in private funds and asked a task force of businessmen, educators, clerics and law-enforcement experts to probe the department in depth.
The panel pinpointed a host of weaknesses: Shabby facilities. Insufficient training. Inadequate salaries. Wasteful deployment of officers. City laws and traditions that handcuffed the commissioner's ability to pick a management team and promote the best people.
By the time Tucker stepped down to take a bank vice presidency, he was an unexpected hero. ``By virtually all accounts,'' The Inquirer reported, ``he leaves behind a department in the midst of a renaissance.'' But a fragile one, cautioned Gerald Caplan, staff director of the task force: ``One strong wave could wash it away.''
Contacted in Medford last week, Tucker declined comment on his tenure or its aftermath.
His successor, Willie L. Williams, a Philadelphia police veteran of 24 years, was a Tucker protege who vowed to continue on Tucker's course.
Williams deepened the department's involvement with community policing, but overall it was a bad time for new initiatives. The city's finances were bleeding, and Mayor Goode was continually feuding with City Council.
``It seems the changes that were made were the changes that didn't cost any money,'' says Thomas Seamon, one of Williams' deputy commissioners.
Funds barely existed to maintain the status quo, let alone move toward the 21st century.
In 1991, the department was spending 43 percent less on materials, supplies and equipment than it had in 1982 (in inflation-adjusted dollars). Buildings went unmaintained. The state of the vehicle fleet, according to the city's 1992 five-year financial plan, was ``alarming.''
Rendell took office in 1992 amid full-blown fiscal catastrophe. David L. Cohen, chief of staff and budget disciplinarian, held a whip over all departments' spending.
From 1992 to 1995, police budgets focused obsessively on milking the most out of dwindling dollars. The sworn force was reduced from 6,300 to 6,000. Wages were frozen for two years. Rookie pay was cut. Morale plunged.
Williams resigned to head the Los Angeles Police Department during Rendell's first year, replaced by career policeman Richard Neal. However, much power remained in the mayor's office.
``The shift of power to the mayor's office - while you might argue it had to be done because of the fiscal exigency of the city - also had the by-product of dismissing the importance of agency heads,'' says Jack Greene, a criminology professor at Temple University who has worked for years with the Philadelphia police on a variety of research and training projects.
The low-key Neal seemed content to be out of the limelight. And Philadelphians seemed content with the department. The city consistently ranked among the safest big cities in America. Crime fell 13 percent between 1995 and 1996, according to an Inquirer analysis. And as city finances stabilized, more officers were hired, and spending on supplies and equipment increased.
Neal contended that the department had done much to reform itself, as the Tucker Commission had urged. ``A lot of those things were implemented,'' he said in an interview earlier this year. The commission's work was ``not forgotten, actually.''
But serious flaws lurked beneath the surface. ``There was a long history of disinvestment in the department,'' Greene says, ``especially in communications and records-management information systems - and that's where other departments have excelled in making policing smarter, instead of just making it cheaper.''
The department, for example, is installing mobile data terminals in its patrol cars - a decade behind many other cities.
Officers had their own reasons for dissatisfaction. ``They felt they were working hard, but not getting backing or support,'' Fyfe says, ``that they were under-equipped, underappreciated, the brass didn't talk to them and didn't recognize good work.''
Commanders weren't encouraged to think on their own, Bergman says. The prevailing mind-set, according to Greene: ``Just tell me what to do, boss, and I'll do it.''
Education was no priority. ``An inherent antipathy to higher education has been there in the 20 years I've been in the department,'' says Richard Costello, president of the Fraternal Order of Police. ``The more highly educated officers are not the ones who rose to the top.''
According to Costello, the department does not keep records of police officers' educational achievements. ``In some ways,'' he says, ``it's frightening.''
One result: a striking parochialism. ``The department,'' Greene says, ``has failed to link itself in many ways to broader movements around the country. It's amazing to me how little Philadelphia sees of the rest of the police world.''
The Rendell administration tried to loosen the hold of civil service on promotions and appointments. The Tucker Commission had recommended just that. But with the FOP leading the attack, a ballot measure to change the City Charter was badly defeated in 1994.
For a long time, there was little pressure on the department to improve. As the Tucker Commission had put it in 1987: ``The community has not demanded enough from the department.''
But then police in New York City slashed the crime rate in supposedly ungovernable Gotham.
In Philadelphia, a growing chorus last year wondered why the same miracle couldn't happen here. City Council members, state legislators, neighborhood people - black and white, Democratic and Republican - clamored for better results from the police.
Neal took the brunt of the criticism. The spotlight fell his way after Cohen resigned as Rendell's chief of staff in the spring. ``That was Neal's Waterloo,'' Costello says. ``People turned to him and said, `You be the commissioner.' And he had never been forced to do that before.''
Neal was assailed when department crime data proved inaccurate. He performed poorly when City Council members questioned him on drug strategies. He ducked a couple of public appearances.
He resigned in February.
Timoney, a 29-year veteran of the NYPD and a key player in New York's crime turnaround, was appointed a week later. That Rendell could land him for Philadelphia has raised high hopes for big changes in policing, big improvements in the crime rate.
* Timoney is taking the reins of a force that's been looking for leadership. It's not the hostile, self-satisfied outfit that Tucker contended with.
``Tucker was a smack in the face,'' Fyfe says. ``Timoney is more of a wake-up call - to people who want to be woken up.''
Unlike Tucker, Timoney's credentials are not in question. He's a ``cop's cop'' who rose through the ranks. His two master's degrees are augmented by 65 medals and commendations.
Indeed, in his first weeks at the Roundhouse, Timoney has found a surprising welcome. ``I've been very impressed with the caliber of the leadership at the captain level,'' Timoney said a week ago. ``They're very enthusiastic. Some are very young, very raw. They can be melted and molded. I'm really looking forward to it.''
Not that success is a given. To keep the respect of the troops, Timoney will have to operate independently of the mayor's office. So far, Rendell has seemed only too pleased to give Timoney a free hand.
The paradox is that Timoney must have City Hall behind him. Seamon, the former deputy to Williams, says, ``He's going to take some tough stands, and the mayor's going to have to back him up.''
Timoney's proposals will likely require money. ``This can't be a Pathmark operation,'' Timoney has said. In New York, after all, former Mayor David Dinkins hiked city income taxes in 1991 to hire 6,000 more police, a buildup that set the stage for the successes enjoyed by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
To plant seeds for reforms that outlive his tenure, Timoney will probably propose civil-service and charter changes that could prove controversial. He'll need political backing.
``Any improvements have a price tag,'' cautions Costello, who is likely to be a Timoney foe on some issues. ``If the money doesn't come, neither will the improvements. And then all we'll have is another Tucker report.''