Managing Director Camille Barnett is being driven to and from work by a uniformed officer in a marked police car because of a security threat made against her months ago, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said yesterday.
The threat occurred early last winter when a man who appeared to be homeless yelled obscenities and followed Barnett as she walked her two Yorkshire terriers near her apartment at the Phoenix, a condominium across the street from her city office at the Municipal Services Building.
The man has never been caught, Ramsey said. But based on a security assessment conducted afterward, he decided that police should escort Barnett, particularly home from night meetings.
"I don't want to sound sexist, but I do take it more seriously. . . . You got a woman that's all alone," Ramsey said.
That protection has become more visible - now, a marked car typically waits for her each morning - since Barnett moved last spring to a rowhouse southwest of Rittenhouse Square.
Ramsey said yesterday that there is as much reason now as then to continue the practice. "She is a very high-ranking person in our government, and we are going through a period now when we've got all sorts of things going on: cutbacks in service, layoffs in personnel," he said.
"It's no longer about some guy threatening because of dogs and so forth," Ramsey continued. But given some of the anger displayed at the neighborhood meetings Mayor Nutter is holding about closing libraries and fire companies, he said: "The mayor is protected with security detail. . . . She is the No. 2 person in government, and I'm not going to leave her hanging out there."
The commissioner also added that he has "no plans of stopping" the daily escorts.
Barnett did not return a call for comment.
The officers who drive Barnett come from traffic detail, and are not pulled from police districts. Adding that he has given her rides home himself, Ramsey said, "This is not an overtime situation. They are on duty, working, anyway."
Asked if other senior city officials should be provided police protection because of potential responses to Nutter's budget cuts, mayoral spokesman Doug Oliver said the administration endorses no "blanket policy" on such matters.
"In Dr. Barnett's case," he said, "it's a precautionary measure based on a viable threat."
Barnett also has a city car assigned to her - a 2008 Ford Taurus - but Oliver said the car is currently used as a pool car for the Managing Director's Office. Noting that it was cheaper to have several workers share one car, he said, "Consistent with the vehicle policy for pool cars, the vehicle is used on an 'as needed' basis for city business only by individuals in the Managing Director's Office, including the managing director herself on occasion."