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Nutter: Police moves can wait

Mayor Street is expected to promote dozens of frontline police supervisors in his final months in office, a move that his likely successor, Michael Nutter, said should wait for a new administration.

Mayor Street's spokesman says safety isat stake.
Mayor Street's spokesman says safety isat stake.Read more

Mayor Street is expected to promote dozens of frontline police supervisors in his final months in office, a move that his likely successor, Michael Nutter, said should wait for a new administration.

Loree Jones, the city's managing director, said she was considering a proposal for promotions from Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson. Neither Johnson nor Jones would provide numbers, though the Fraternal Order of Police put the total number as high as 225 detectives, sergeants, lieutenants and captains.

Johnson said the promotions would fill a critical shortfall in street-level supervision. "Every district is short," he said.

But Nutter, the Democratic mayoral candidate considered the prohibitive favorite in November, questioned why Johnson and Street would be making decisions that will be borne by the next mayor.

"I do not see why all these people need to be promoted at this point in time - this is a decision that should be made by the next police commissioner and the next mayor," said Nutter, who is expected to appoint a new commissioner if he wins.

"I don't know that anyone can make a good case of why it should happen now, as opposed to February or March," Nutter said.

Street's spokesman, Joe Grace, said the promotions "are needed to protect our citizens today. We cannot wait four months."

"They are necessary to everything the department is doing to reduce and prevent violence," Grace said.

Al Taubenberger, Nutter's Republican opponent, said if supervisor jobs were open, then the promotions made sense.

"These are not policy-making positions. These are positions that are needed to fight crime on a daily basis," Taubenberger said.

Johnson said he could have justified making the promotions in the spring, but waited until two classes of police recruits - more than 320 have graduated since June - came on board. In addition, Johnson said, he wanted to make promotions at lieutenant before that two-year promotion list expires in November.

"These people study and sacrifice to get promoted, and now is the time for promotions," said Johnson, noting that he wasn't inserting a new top-level management team for a new administration. "I'm the commissioner today, I'm going to work right up until the last day, and right now, the decision to make promotions is up to me."

Robert Eddis, president of Lodge 5 of the FOP, said he was told by a number of high-ranking police officials that the administration was considering promoting 60 detectives, 120 sergeants, 40 lieutenants, and five captains. Johnson would not confirm those numbers.

Eddis said that supervisor positions at captain and below were badly needed and that he believed the department was top-heavy. He said he would be wary of promotions into the inspector and deputy commissioner ranks by a lame-duck mayor. But Johnson's proposal "is fine with me," he said.

Johnson provided figures indicating that the department, with 6,681 officers, currently has 522 fewer officers today than it did in 2003. As of Sept. 10, the department had 533 detectives, down from 612 in 2003; 516 sergeants, down from 605; 238 lieutenants, down from 287; and 89 captains, down from 122.

Nutter questioned the impact on the city budget, which administration officials wouldn't discuss. An Inquirer analysis of the city budget shows that all the positions, with the possible exception of sergeant, fall within the number of positions budgeted for 2008.

"These are reasonable promotions, they're fair promotions, and these people shouldn't be subject to politics," Johnson said.

Rochelle Bilal, president of the Guardian Civic League, the local chapter of the National Black Police Association, said, "I'm trying to figure out how you can get top-heavy on this job. We need all the help we can get."