Philadelphia police captain retires, reflects on tenure with Special Victims Unit

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For nearly a decade and a half, Capt. John Darby has been the heart and soul and face of the Special Victims Unit. (WPVI)

Philadelphia Police Capt. John Darby retired on Friday. For nearly a decade and a half, he has been the heart and soul and face of the Special Victims Unit, which has become a national model for how the crimes of rape and child abuse are handled.

"You know I'm proud of my service. Thirty-five years with the police department," said Darby.

Darby found the Sex Crime Unit, as it was called then, in shambles when he took over 14 years ago. His mission: To completely reinvent the unit, and build credibility with activists and the public at large.

"The idea of screening applicants for the unit, training them to do the job was lacking," said Darby. "There were literally thousands of cases that has been downgraded, coded to 'non-crime' categories."

Former Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson tells Action News Darby was chosen because of his reputation for dedication and hard work, sensitivity and compassion, critical to changing the culture and perception of the unit.

"You open the door, and you became totally transparent," said Darby. "That is, you allowed advocacy groups to come in, and basically look at your entire process."

The baton is now passed to 35-year veteran Capt. Mark Bergman who says he's ready to assume the leadership of this key unit, especially in its dealing with the crime victims and their families.

"These people, it's the worst time of their life," said Bergman. "You have to have a lot of compassion and sensitivity."

The city says well done captain, thank you and enjoy your retirement.

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