Cuffed by marriage & vocation, 2 cops now share a happy promotion

Posted: November 23, 2009

OK, so how's this for a Kodak moment?

Lamonte and Dara Gambrell met more than a decade ago as a pair of twentysomething recruits at the Police Academy. They flirted like teenagers, started dating on the sly (it was against the rules, of course), graduated and were assigned to neighboring districts in North Philadelphia.

From there, the years flew by. They married, raised two kids and spent most of their days serving the city at the expense of time together - the price of regularly working opposite shifts.

Their rosy backstory will culminate with the aforementioned Kodak moment about 10 a.m. today, when the Gambrells and 28 other cops will be promoted to the rank of corporal during a ceremony at Temple University's Mitten Hall.

Police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore said that the dual promotion is the first of its kind in years, if not ever.

"We've had husbands and wives on the force before who have both been promoted," he said, "but I don't ever remember having two spouses promoted to the same rank on the same day."

To hear the married cops tell it, they've treated their impending promotions with good-natured, aw-shucks humility.

"From what I'm hearing, everyone says that it's an accomplishment," said Lamonte, 40. "I guess it is pretty cool."

Dara, 39, was more enthused. "It's exciting!" she said. "I never would have expected us to be promoted together, but so far, our careers have pretty much gone hand-in-hand."

The jump in rank, she said, has given them an excuse to look back on the life they've shared, including their sitcom-worthy courtship in the academy.

"We had to sneak around, because they told us recruits weren't allowed to fraternize," Dara said. "Then we graduated and realized that, actually, it really wasn't a big deal."

After graduating in 1995, Dara was detailed to the 22nd District, while Lamonte wound up in the 23rd District. The districts share a headquarters at 17th Street and Montgomery Avenue.

Over the years, Lamonte said, the couple supported each other through long, tough hours and tours of duty that regularly put them in harm's way.

"Now, I just hope we can have the same schedule after 14 years of flip-flopping," he said.

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