Passing the baton

ANDREW THAYER / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Beverly Milligan (right) and her daughter, Sicily, share more than just last names. They're both officers in the 22nd District.
ANDREW THAYER / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Beverly Milligan (right) and her daughter, Sicily, share more than just last names. They're both officers in the 22nd District.
Posted: July 07, 2014

SICILY MILLIGAN was 9 years old and by mom Beverley's side at Mount Airy Church of God in Christ when the policeman spoke to their congregation. "He said, 'We're looking for police officers and I'll be standing at the back door when service is over, just handing out applications,'" Beverley Milligan recalled.

Neither mother nor daughter thought much of the policeman's short speech at the pulpit that day, but when they left church, something made Beverley raise her hand and take an application.

Nobody in their family had ever been a cop and as a single mother at 36, Beverley thought she might be too old to join the force.

But today, not only is Beverley Milligan a police officer in the 22nd District, so too is the 9-year-old little girl who was by her side at church that day.

When Beverley retires after 20 years of service in November, she will pass the torch - and her badge - on to Sicily.

But for the four months since Sicily graduated the academy and in the four months to come until Beverley's retirement, the mother and daughter are sharing stories, advice and a common purpose at the 22nd District: policing.

The 22nd District, at 17th Street and Montgomery Avenue in North Philadelphia, merged with the now-defunct 23rd District years ago, but back when Beverley was a little girl growing up in North Philly, that building housed both the 22nd and 23rd districts.

When Beverley's mom would go to work at a nearby textile mill, she'd drop her daughter off at the baby-sitter's house across the street from the districts.

"The district was always here that I can remember and I would just sit on the steps sometimes, me and the other kids, and just see the officers coming and going," Beverley said. "Unbeknownst to me that, years later, I would be one of those officers."

As a child, Beverley wanted to be a nurse, but after a job at a textile mill and an accounting firm, she went to work as a secretary in the city's Law Department.

"I was kind of in search of, but at the time I didn't really know what it was," she said. "You know how you have that 'I knew there was something,' but I didn't know exactly what it was."

That's when the policeman came to the pulpit at her church.

Beverley hoped her only daughter would grow up to be a teacher, but Sicily had different plans. She graduated from Kutztown University with a degree in criminal justice, thinking she might go to work as a juvenile probation officer.

Instead, Sicily, now 29, worked for four years as an intake worker with the Department of Human Services, often making first contact with families in need.

"It was rough. I felt like I had a pretty good childhood, I can't really think of a time where I was really in need of anything," she said. "And to see children growing up in households that aren't fit, it really is an eye-opener."

Sicily knew that to advance at DHS, she would have to get her master's degree. Her mother had always told her that working for the city provides job security, so she started looking at other city jobs that might be a good fit.

"My mom said, 'They're hiring, the Police Department is hiring. You should try and see what happens,'" Sicily said. "I applied and I didn't think anything more of it."

Beverley helped prepare her daughter for the physical requirements at the police academy.

"I told her, 'I can see you doing fine with all the books, but that physical, I can't see you doing too good with it,' " Beverley laughed. " 'So we're going to start small, we're going to walk, then we're going to do a little trot, then you're going to run.' "

When Sicily graduated from the police academy on Feb. 28 this year, her 8-year-old daughter, Ari, and Beverley were in the audience.

New police officers don't know where they'll be assigned until the day of their graduation, when the captain of the academy calls their names one by one.

"I was trying not to get my hopes up because we had no clue where we were going," Sicily said. "I stood up and he said, 'You are going to the 22nd District.' That made my day. The rest of the day didn't matter because I knew where I was going." Beverley laughed.

"Did you hear me at all?" she asked her daughter. "My granddaughter and I was like, ' yes!' "

Both mother and daughter said the 22nd is a good district in which to learn policing.

"You can really get your feet wet and learn really quickly and then you'll get permanent assignments," Sicily said. "I don't know whether I'll stay here or be moved to another district but either way, I'll be prepared."

Captain Robert Glenn, who is currently overseeing the 22nd, agreed.

"If you do a year in the 22nd it's like five years anywhere else," Glenn said. "As Frank Sinatra says, 'If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.' "

Glenn, who called the Milligan officers a "dynamic duo," said they are "very, very good people."

"It happens from time to time that a parent and child will work together, but mother and daughter is unusual because of this being a male-dominated profession," he said. "But going forward, you'll start to see others."

Unlike her mother, who started in patrol, Sicily started - and is still working - a foot beat.

"I love it because I feel like we get exposure we wouldn't get if we were in cars," she said. "I treat everyone with respect and I don't have a problem with saying 'Hello' and 'Good morning.' I feel like people return that and it goes a really long way."

For the last four years, Beverley has been a turnkey, keeping watch on prisoners in the 22nd's holding cell.

"You'd be surprised, you still do a little psychology work back there, listening to them," Beverley said. "You get tears and anger, you get a combination. Through it all you have to have that patience."

Not only has Beverley taught her daughter to have patience with criminals, but also with the civilians she serves.

"I've trained officers and told them if you look around the community, everybody is not a crook or a criminal here," Beverley said. "There's people that get up and go to work every day. They love their kids, their family and their property.

"Having patience with people and letting them maybe get off some steam they may have is OK," she said. "You know, everything's not always about showing your authority. Sometimes people just need to be heard."

Also, recognizing the effects your actions have on others' lives is important as a police officer, Beverley said.

"We have some serious powers to actually make or break a person's life just by them being arrested," she said. "And so it keeps you humble with your understanding and outlook on life."

The other big piece of advice Beverley has passed along to her daughter?

Always look up.

"That's the first thing when you go out on the street and everything's new to you - look up," she said. "Always know where you're at because if something happens and you need the troops to come in, they want to be able to know where you're at."

As for Sicily, she's savoring these last few months with her mother as her coworker.

"I can say that not many people have the opportunity to do something that they enjoy doing and do it with someone they love, respect and look up to - and I have that right here," Sicily said, looking toward her mother. "I have that right here.

"Thank you," she said.


Online: ph.ly/crime

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