Paying tribute to the city's police force and making one of his last public statements, outgoing Mayor John Street today honored local police officers with Police Appreciation Day.
Street said the City Hall ceremony - the first official Police Appreciation Day for the 6,700-member force during the Street administration - was "driven by the fact that in this city, as well as other cities, law enforcement officials are coming under unprecedented attack."
Flanked by city Managing Director Loree Jones, Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson, and Fraternal Order of Police president John McNesby, Street addressed an audience of nearly 100 uniformed officers and 50 city employees, well-wishers and reporters in the Mayor's Reception Room.
"We have to make a public statement that, in this city, we appreciate the men and women in blue," said Street, who noted that six police officers were killed since he took office eight years ago, including Office Chuck Cassidy on Oct. 31.
Johnson, who received a standing ovation when introduced, presented awards to various special-unit officers. Johnson has been criticized for creating special units within the department at the expense of putting more officers on the streets.
Johnson is retiring next week after a 40-year career as a Philadelphia police officer.
"We're not a department that's broke," Johnson said. "We don't have a corruption problem, we don't have a brutality problem.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it . . . and we're not broke," said Johnson, who said he was wearing his dress blues today for the final time.
The mayor's office asked city officials to wear blue today to show their support for Philadelphia's men and women in blue.
Street pointed out that serious crime is down nearly 14 percent in the city despite the high homicide rate, but "because of a serious homicide problem, people can't see the good that is happening."
As of yesterday, there were 390 homicides in Philadelphia this year.
"There is a story of great policing happening in this city, [but] you can't get any recognition for your work because homicides are way too high," Street said.
To commemorate Police Appreciation Day, PECO's Crown Lights board atop its corporate headquarters at 2301 Market St. will shine blue light this evening.