SEPTA Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel III retires effective immediately; new acting chief named

Officials said a search for a permanent SEPTA police chief will begin immediately.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2022
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Officials said a search for a new permanent SEPTA Police Chief will begin immediately.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- SEPTA Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel III is retiring effective immediately, transit officials announced Tuesday morning.

This announcement comes after calls for the chief to resign last year, at least one lawsuit and increasing violence reported by passengers and against SEPTA employees.

In recent years serious crime has doubled all while facing staffing shortages under Nestel's leadership.

SEPTA's media director, Andrew Busch, said there is not one specific reason for this sudden retirement.

"There are number of challenges transit police department faces and SEPTA faces, it wouldn't really be a way to time something for things like that to not be happening;" said Busch.

Leslie Richards, the general manager and CEO of SEPTA, said Charles Lawson, a SEPTA police inspector, will serve as acting chief.

"The safety and security of customers and employees is SEPTA's top priority, and plans have been put in place to ensure continuity of operations for the Transit Police Department during this transition," Richards said. "We are also actively recruiting for new police officers to join the SEPTA Transit Police Department."

Lawson, 49, has been with the transit police for more than 28 years.

He started as a patrol officer and has served as a SEPTA Transit Police Inspector, the department's second-highest-ranking role, for the last four years.

Union reps for TWU Local 234 reacted to the news and said the announcement is unexpected, but they are not surprised.

In 2021, the group unanimously voted "no confidence" in the SEPTA police chief's leadership.

Fraternal Order of Transit Police Vice President Troy Parham said they do have confidence in the new acting chief, Thomas Lawson.

"We're excited about the changes that are going to come. We're excited about the current and acting chief, we all came up through the ranks with him. He understands policing in our system; he understands what we're going through," said Parham.

Officials said a search for a permanent SEPTA police chief will begin immediately.