Challenges ahead for rookie Phila. cops

March 31, 2009 4:34:28 PM PDT
Philadelphia's newest police officers face tough realities.

This morning's roll call at 19th Police District headquarters included several brand new officers. Just one week after their graduation from the Philadelphia Police Academy, they will be pounding the beat in various sections of West Philadelphia, sections which, according to crime data, had the biggest concentration of violent crime last year.

Rookies Brian Scher and Mike Shear will spend a month on foot patrol being shown the ropes from veterans like Officer Nikesha Johnson.

The old-fashioned officers on the beat say they can get closer to the good folks in the neighborhood and keep a closer eye on the usual suspects.

"Veteran officers already know who some of the major trouble makers are in the area, and they are pointed out (to the rookies)," said Sergeant Sal Feda. "It seems to follow a pattern of repeat offenders."

The rookies are hitting the streets during some of the toughest of times. Seven officers have been killed in the line of duty over the last two years, unemployment is high, and the warmer days of spring and summer are just ahead.

The newest officers in the 19th District are among one hundred rookies now on foot patrol across the city. They will be walking the mean streets from April through October, streets where at times folks practically live under siege.

Residents and merchants say they are delighted to see the officers again. Liz Jacobs owns a Christian bookstore and take-out restaurant at 59th and Lansdowne.

"When they see police officers in the neighborhood on foot, it decreases the crime," she said.

Venise Hollis of West Philadelphia said, "It lets the older people get out doing what they have to do during the day. People feel more comfortable with the foot patrol as the foot patrol becomes familiar with the neighborhood."

The first one hundred foot soldiers are pounding the pavement as of today. In June, when the next rookie class graduates, about sixty more officers will be joining them thru the fall season.

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