Borough offices searched in probe of public safety director

Investigators leave the Colwyn police station. They also searched the borough hall and the safety director's office.
Investigators leave the Colwyn police station. They also searched the borough hall and the safety director's office. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 11, 2013

Philadelphia and Delaware County detectives, joined by at least one FBI computer specialist, raided Colwyn Borough Hall on Thursday in an investigation of a city officer who was hired to run the tiny borough's police department while still on active duty in Philadelphia.

Colwyn Mayor Daniel Rutland said the three law enforcement agencies were involved in the search of the borough hall, the police department, and the office of Rochelle Bilal, the borough's new part-time director of public safety.

Rutland said investigators removed computer servers from the office of Bilal, who was hired in September to run Colwyn's department. Bilal retired from her job in Philadelphia on April 26.

A week before she retired, the Philadelphia Daily News reported on her hiring in Colwyn and an ensuing investigation by the Philadelphia police's Internal Affairs Bureau.

Rutland said that he had vetoed Bilal's appointment but that the council still hired her, which created a tempest in the borough of 2,200 residents. Under state law, the mayor of a borough oversees public safety and controls the police department, he said.

According to the search warrant, Philadelphia police twice denied Bilal's request for outside employment in Colwyn. She held both jobs simultaneously, however. The warrant states that she is being investigated for alleged theft - apparently for getting paychecks from two departments.

In an interview, Bilal said she carefully separated her work in Philadelphia and Colwyn, where there are 10 part-time officers, including herself.

"I never worked there on city time, never, ever," said Bilal, who is president of the Guardian Civic League, which represents black officers. "This is a malicious attempt to damage my credibility."

Bilal said "a few bigoted politicians" who run Colwyn were trying to discredit her.

"There's some racist stuff going on here," she said. "They're making it out to be more than what it is. . . . It's ridiculous."

Bilal said the investigation was being conducted by Philadelphia police, who subpoenaed payroll records from Colwyn. The warrant was signed by a Delaware County district judge and the FBI's involvement was only to provide the computer technician, she said.

Rutland, who is white, said there was no racial motivation on the part of local officials because "none of us called anyone in" to investigate.

He said Colwyn, which borders Southwest Philadelphia, is about 80 percent black.

Crystal Powell, Colwyn's solicitor, said she was aware a warrant had been served but could not divulge any further information. The Delaware County District Attorney's Office confirmed it assisted Philadelphia police in serving the warrant but declined to give details.


Contact Mark Fazlollah

at 215-854-5831 or mfazlollah@phillynews.com.

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