Kathryn M. Battle, 57, soothed families of murder victims

Posted: September 05, 2012

Kathryn M. Battle was the victims' assistance officer for the police Homicide Division.

A more inadequate job description can hardly be imagined.

Kathryn Battle dealt with the survivors of murder as if they were her own family. Nothing was too much trouble for her. She didn't hesitate to donate her own time, and even her own money, to help people whose family members were brutally snatched from their lives by killers.

Talking about her, those who knew her and worked with her constantly used the expression "above and beyond the call of duty."

Kathryn Battle, a Philly cop since 1987 and a homicide victims' assistance specialist for the last 10 years, a devoted churchwoman and dedicated mother of two sons, died Monday after a battle with breast cancer. She was 57 and lived in Overbrook.

Kathryn had beaten the disease six years ago, but it returned last year. Nevertheless, she wasn't about to let the effects of chemotherapy slow her down. She arranged her work schedule around the treatments.

"She was a real fighter," said her nephew, Norman Bell, manager of the Youth Study Center. "I'd take her for chemo, and afterward she would say, 'Let's get something to eat.'

"'Yeah,' she would say, 'I'm going to get through it.'"

"She wanted to bring comfort to the next of kin of murder victims," said Lt. Norman Davenport, administrative officer of the Homicide Division. "She took that responsibility personally. She had many contacts in city government and she would use them to get whatever resources were needed."

"She was young at heart. She was full of life. She viewed life as a gift. She truly believed she exercised that gift to the best of her abilities. She was an amazing woman."

Kathryn's work began after a murder had been committed. The day after a homicide, Kathryn would call the victim's family and let them know the resources available to them. That includes up to $6,500 for funeral expenses to offset any costs not covered by insurance. Families can also file claims for counseling, loss of support and earnings, relocation and crime-scene cleanup. She would send families a 12-page packet of information, followed up by a personal visit.

In an interview in April with the Daily News, Kathryn said her job was to show victims' families the "human side" of the Police Department.

"Our objective is to show them that we do care about them as a family, that their loved one is a person to us, not just a number," she said.

"Our job is to help the family heal and to come back to some type of normalcy."

Kathryn was often honored with certificates from the Police Department. She was a runner-up in the Daily News' Fencl Award in 2001 when she was victims' assistance officer in the 12th District in Southwest Philadelphia.

She was past president of the Guardian Civic League, the organization of black police officers, and an active volunteer with the CHEERS (Community Health Enrichment Empowerment Resources Services) program.

Kathryn was an active member of the Fifty-Ninth Street Baptist church in West Philadelphia, where she was a deaconess. She also mentored at-risk youth with the Southwest Youth and Family Network and the Organized Anti-Crime Community Network. She was on the board of the African-American Brotherhood of Southwest Philadelphia.

"She had the unique ability to make every person feel as though they were the most important people in the world," her nephew said. "So many people have called me to tell me how she helped them. Everyone felt so connected to her."

Kathryn was born in Philadelphia to the late James McNeil and Jaundice Grant. She graduated from John Bartram High School in 1972. She joined the police force in 1987 and worked for a time as a street cop out of the 17th District.

After a stint as an undercover narcotics officer, she transferred to the 12th District at 65th Street and Woodland Avenue, to work with crime victims' families.

She is survived by her mother, and two sons, Christopher Tucker and James Headen.

Services: 11 a.m. Saturday at Fifty-Ninth Street Baptist Church, 315 S. 59th St. Friends may call at 8 a.m. Burial will be in Fernwood Cemetery.

Contact John F. Morrison at morrisj@phillynews.com or 215-854-5573

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