Mayor-elect Cherelle Parker will name Kevin Bethel as her pick for Philadelphia’s next police commissioner, ushering in a new era for one of the nation’s largest police departments. Bethel, a former deputy commissioner and now chief of school safety for the School District of Philadelphia, will be announced Wednesday to head the 5,500-member force. His appointment comes as the Philadelphia Police Department tries to navigate the city out of a three-year wave of gun violence while it has been gripped by low morale and a shortage of nearly 1,000 officers, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. The hire will be the first staffing decision made by Parker, who won the mayoral election this month and takes office in January. She campaigned on a pledge to end “lawlessness” in the city by hiring hundreds of police officers, increasing the number of cops who patrol on foot and bike, and embracing tough-on-crime tactics such as stop-and-frisk.
Bethel, 60, has been seen as a top candidate. He spent three decades rising through the ranks of the police department, culminating in 2008 when then-Commissioner Charles Ramsey named him a deputy commissioner charged with leading patrol operations across the city. Bethel will be expected to address serious public safety challenges, inheriting a department with an $850 million budget that has for years been mired by internal strife. His supporters say his experience is a key asset. Ramsey has described Bethel as “a right arm to me” during the eight years the two worked in top leadership. ”I was usually the first one in and the last one out [of headquarters] at night,” Ramsey said. “If anyone was still in the office, it would be Bethel, going over crime numbers. He is absolutely driven when it comes to fighting crime.” Former Mayor Michael Nutter said there’s “no one more serious than Kevin Bethel about public safety."