Ramsey says 2 police districts in N. Philly will merge

Posted: November 19, 2009

For much of Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey's two-year tenure, there have been rumblings about his desire to cut the number of police districts, or at least redraw their boundaries.

Turns out those rumors had more than a shred of truth to them. Come Jan. 3, the 22nd and 23rd districts in North Philadelphia will merge, Ramsey told the Daily News in a recent interview.

The districts, which share the same headquarters at 17th Street and Montgomery Avenue, are among a handful that police brass have considered combining.

Lest longtime residents take to the streets in panic, Ramsey noted that the merger will not lead to a reduction in the number of cops who patrol the neighborhoods in the districts, which include Strawberry Mansion, North Philly and Brewerytown.

"As far as the community goes, the police station's still there, and the officers from both districts will still be there," he said.

"They're both relatively small districts. We're merging them primarily because we don't have enough resources to staff 23 police districts."

The merger is not occurring because of, and will not lead to, any financial savings, according to Ramsey.

According to police statistics, the 22nd District, has about 200 police officers; the 23rd has about 150.

A handful of lieutenants, sergeants and administrative staff will be transferred to other districts, as will 23rd District Capt. Joe Bartorilla. Branville Bard, captain of the 22nd, will be in charge of the combined district, Ramsey said.

The "new" district, which will be known as the 22nd, will have boundaries that stretch from Poplar Street to Lehigh Avenue, and from 10th Street to 33rd.

Bard, who has worked in the 22nd for much of the past three years, said that the merger will allow him to significantly boost the number of cops on foot and bike patrols.

"There's definitely been a greater emphasis placed on having officers interact with the community as part of their patrol," Bard noted. "It's hard to do that in a car."

While community meetings have yet to be held to explain the merger to residents, police officials have already briefed neighborhood politicians on the plan.

"I don't have a problem with it," said City Councilman Darrell Clarke, whose 5th Councilmanic district includes neighborhoods in the 22nd and 23rd.

Clarke said that he wants a new police facility built to house the combined district, and has suggested a handful of city-owned buildings that could be used. "I want to get them out of that dump," he said, referring to the headquarters.

State Sen. Shirley Kitchen, D-Phila., said she hopes that meetings will be scheduled soon for the public. "I just think it's important that this information is put out there so people can have some level of comfort," she said.

After the merger is complete, Ramsey said, he and his deputies will turn their attention to possibly combining the 3rd and 4th districts, both based at 11th and Wharton streets in South Philadelphia.

"We'll see how that goes," he added. "For a city this size and a department this size, I just think we should have significantly fewer districts."

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