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To pol, karate cop's arrest was like a kick in the teeth

Councilwoman questions Police Department's handling of rape case

Tyrone Wiggins, left, in a karate pose.  Wiggins, a recently retired city cop accused of raping a 12-year-old, taught karate at the Olney Recreation Center.
Tyrone Wiggins, left, in a karate pose. Wiggins, a recently retired city cop accused of raping a 12-year-old, taught karate at the Olney Recreation Center.Read more

Shock. Awe. Outrage.

Those were the reactions that City Councilwoman Marian Tasco and other city employees had after reading yesterday's Daily News report on accused child rapist Tyrone Wiggins, a former Philadelphia police officer who continued to volunteer at the Olney Recreation Center for a month after his Nov. 19 arrest.

"When I read the story, I thought, 'Oh, wow! What is this?' " Tasco said. "I just couldn't believe it."

Wiggins, 50, met his alleged victim in 1995 at the Olney Recreation Center, where he gave karate lessons to youngsters, according to court documents viewed by the Daily News.

Two years later, when the girl was 12, he raped her in a van in Fairmount Park, the documents allege.

The incident proved to be a starting point for physical, sexual and psychological abuse that lasted eight years, the girl told police in 2007.

The victim is now a Philadelphia police officer, police sources said.

Wiggins, a former Marine, retired Nov. 18 and was charged the following day with rape, statutory sexual assault and related offenses. He faces a preliminary hearing Jan. 14.

Police officials never publicly disclosed his arrest or notified the city's Recreation Department.

Wiggins, meanwhile, continued to teach karate lessons - to adults - every Tuesday night at the Olney Recreation Center, at A Street and Champlost Avenue, in the 9th Councilmanic District, which Tasco oversees.

Recreation Department Commissioner Sue Slawson vowed that Wiggins would not be allowed to volunteer at the center, after she learned about his arrest from a Daily News reporter.

"I'm really annoyed that they [police] did not notify the Olney Recreation Center, or the recreation commissioner," Tasco said.

"I would have thought they would have immediately notified them so they could get him out of the facility, away from young people."

Tasco said she channeled her emotions into a fiery e-mail yesterday to Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey.

The e-mail demanded answers for the department's silence during and after the investigation into Wiggins' alleged acts.

"We have a fine Police Department, but . . . this puts a blot on their reputation. It makes it look like somebody is protecting this guy," Tasco said.

Ramsey said last night that he was unaware of the e-mail.

On Monday, Ramsey told the Daily News that the failure to disclose Wiggins' arrest had been "an oversight, not an attempt to conceal something."

"I'll take the responsibility, and I apologize for that," he said.

That explanation did not go over well with employees at the Olney Recreation Center.

"What was the word that he used, 'oversight?' " said James Bell, a facilities supervisor at the center. "I think 'negligent' comes to mind."

Bell said that Wiggins last taught a class there from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 15.

No children were in Wiggins' class, but dozens of teens were at the center for different functions, including cheerleading practice and other high-school athletic endeavors.

During a tour of the wide, mirror-lined room that Wiggins used for his lessons, Bell noted that he never knew the eighth-degree black belt had been a cop.

"I didn't know till I read it in the paper. He never mentioned it," Bell said. "All he ever told me was that he [volunteered] here for 20 years."

Numerous concerned parents contacted the center yesterday, Bell added, shaking his head.

Tasco said she hoped Ramsey would move quickly to get to the bottom of "where the breakdown took place" during internal discussions about Wiggins, including why he had been allowed to retire before his arrest - a move that presumably was aimed at protecting his pension.

A police union official said yesterday that the Pension Board could revoke his pension if he is convicted.

"There are just too many questions for me," Tasco said.