Philly police plan major changes

Posted: February 22, 2011

The Philadelphia Police Department will be faced with a raft of unexpected changes this year, all of which are shaping up to be good news. Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison discussed the planned moves - kept under wraps until now - on Friday.

Fresh boots

Ramsey said that the department expects to get approval from the city to hire a class of recruits in July after budget woes forced the city to cancel two classes scheduled to graduate this year. Last October, 153 recruits graduated from the Police Academy; at the time, several department insiders whispered their worries about not seeing another graduating class for two or three years.

The city's finances have settled into "a new normal," Gillison said - not a great situation, but not the end of the world, either.

"We're committed to having a class after the start of the new fiscal year," he said. "I hope to put in as many [recruits] as I can . . . we need to get some more troops on the streets. I'm trying to make sure it happens."

Fresh eyes

When the time comes for the department to screen applicants, the job will be done by a different group of people.

Ramsey said that he's putting Internal Affairs investigators in charge of digging into the backgrounds of recruits. That task had long been performed by the 25-member Recruit Background Investigations Unit.

When it became clear that the department wouldn't make any hires before the start of the next fiscal year, which starts on July 1, Ramsey disbanded the unit and transferred its members to detective divisions and patrol beats that needed more manpower.

Going forward, he said, it made more sense to have Internal Affairs detectives analyze applicants who would one day be expected to carry a gun and a badge and represent the city.

It could be argued that there are few tasks as vital to the department right now as weeding out potential bad apples.

At least 13 Philly cops have been arrested in the last year, including Nicholas Adelizzi, who was charged Jan. 21 with stealing a dietary supplement from a nutrition store in the Northeast.

Police sources said that Adelizzi, who previously worked as a cop in Upland Borough, had been charged as a juvenile with indecent assault. The background unit did not turn up that information when it researched Adelizzi because his name had been misspelled, sources said.

"That should have been picked up, but that's not the reason why I'm doing this," Ramsey said. "We have to reorganize out of necessity." He said that the former background-unit cops are needed on the street.

New digs

How's this for a surprise: Come July 1, there will be a new Police Academy.

The next group of recruits will train and be taught at the academy's new digs, the former Armed Forces Reserve Center, on Woodhaven Road near the Northeast Philadelphia Airport.

This move, Gillison said, has been a long time coming.

The federal government deemed the property unneeded surplus as part of its Base Realignment and Closure program several years ago. The city applied for the property and was approved. "We should take ownership as of July 1," Gillison said.

And the best part? The new academy will cost the city nothing.

The Woodhaven Road property is in "much better shape" than the current Police Academy, Gillison said, adding that he hopes the site will become a regional law-enforcement training center.

The old academy, on State Road in the Northeast, will be used by the Police Department as a firing range.

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