Kevin Bethel, a widely respected police veteran who recently rose through the ranks to deputy commissioner, has been named the winner of the 23rd George Fencl Award.

Bethel was lauded by Daily News readers for his work in the 17th District in South Philadelphia, where he spent the past three years as a captain and created neighborhood programs aimed at curbing crime and helping juvenile offenders straighten out their lives.

"I'm very humbled to receive this award," said Bethel, 44, who was promoted earlier this month by Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey to a one-star deputy commissioner in charge of regional operations.

"It's been an incredible run," Bethel said. "I feel extremely blessed not only to be appointed a deputy commissioner, but also to be given the Fencl Award."

The award - named for the legendary late Civil Affairs Inspector George Fencl - is bestowed annually on a police officer who brings a unique blend of courage, integrity and determination to the job.

Officer Juan "Ace" DelGado, 44, was named first runner-up for his ability to ease neighborhood tensions and to bring together people of various races and ethnicities in South Philadelphia's 3rd District.

Slain 35th District Officer Chuck Cassidy was named the second-runner up. Cassidy was fatally shot last Halloween when he interrupted a robbery at a West Oak Lane Dunkin' Donuts.

"Our family is very honored that Chuck was considered and is being recognized as part of the award process," said Cassidy's brother-in-law Tony Conti.

"The award has to do with how officers connect to the community in a positive way, and that really does fit Chuck." *