Northeast Times

Top cops on the block

— New bosses take the helm in three po­lice com­mands in the North­east. They know their turf.

(left to right) Second dis­trict po­lice Cap­tain Frank Palumbo, In­spect­or Mike Co­chrane, and Fif­teenth dis­trict Cap­tain John Mc­Clo­s­key get to­geth­er at the second and fif­teenth po­lice dis­trict build­ing. (Maria Pouch­nikova)

  In­spect­or Mi­chael Co­chrane spent about 11 years sport­ing the shiny black jack­et, fit­ted Navy blue pants and pat­ent leath­er rid­ing boots of the Phil­adelphia Po­lice De­part­ment’s High­way Patrol, first as an of­ficer then later as the unit’s com­mand­ing of­ficer.

Those two stints ac­count for a little more than one-third of Co­chrane’s 32-year ca­reer, yet the May­fair nat­ive and re­cently ap­poin­ted North­east patrol di­vi­sion com­mand­er may forever be re­membered for his as­so­ci­ation with the po­lice de­part­ment’s hard-char­ging, mo­tor­cycle-rid­ing tac­tic­al force.

His fam­ily surely pic­tures him that way.

“They had tears in their eyes the day I was pro­moted,” Co­chrane said, ex­plain­ing that his pro­mo­tion last April from cap­tain to in­spect­or signaled the end of his days with High­way Patrol.

The unit had be­come an ex­ten­ded fam­ily for Co­chrane’s wife, Jane, and their three teen­age daugh­ters, who grew up see­ing a more-sens­it­ive side of the edgy-look­ing crime­fight­ers.

“They were say­ing, ‘We’re gonna miss all those guys,’” Co­chrane re­called.

Non­ethe­less, his pro­mo­tion also en­abled his even­tu­al re­turn to his old neigh­bor­hood. Last month, Com­mis­sion­er Charles Ram­sey named Co­chrane North­east Di­vi­sion com­mand­er as part of a large-scale re­struc­tur­ing and re­shuff­ling of the po­lice de­part­ment’s com­mand staff. Join­ing Co­chrane at di­vi­sion headquar­ters were Capts. Frank Palumbo and John Mc­Clo­s­key, the new top cops in the 2nd and 15th dis­tricts, re­spect­ively.

All three new ap­pointees work out of the po­lice sta­tion at Har­bison Av­en­ue and Levick Street in May­fair.

THE BIG THREE

Co­chrane, 54, re­placed In­spect­or John Heath, who served eight years and three months in the job. Heath was re­as­signed to the Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions bur­eau. Palumbo, 43, re­placed Capt. Mike Mc­Car­rick, who served sev­en years and three months in the 2nd, was pro­moted to in­spect­or and now com­mands the East Di­vi­sion. Mc­Clo­s­key, 56, suc­ceeded Capt. Frank Bach­may­er, who spent six years and three months in the 15th and was re­as­signed to the Nar­cot­ics Strike Force.

Co­chrane brings a wealth of patrol and ad­min­is­trat­ive ex­per­i­ence in­to his new role. A 1977 Fath­er Judge High School gradu­ate, he began his po­lice ca­reer in 1981 as a beat cop and worked more than six years in the 14th dis­trict, cov­er­ing Ger­man­town, Mt. Airy and Chest­nut Hill. After that, he served three years and four months as a mem­ber of the High­way Patrol, a unit that spe­cial­izes in sup­port­ing patrol of­ficers in the city’s high-crime areas.

He thrived on the ac­tion.

“I loved it. I worked all over the city with the best cops in the city,” he said.

He spent one brief spell, about four months, on a de­tail in the 2nd dis­trict be­fore re­turn­ing to High­way.

Later, he served as a ser­geant in the 9th dis­trict (Cen­ter City) and a lieu­ten­ant in the 26th dis­trict (Fishtown, Kens­ing­ton, North Phil­adelphia).

Then-Deputy Com­mis­sion­er Thomas Nestel hired Co­chrane for his ad­min­is­trat­ive staff. Co­chrane cred­its Nestel for “shap­ing” his ca­reer.

“He was in charge of the ad­min­is­trat­ive end of the po­lice de­part­ment. It’s a side of the po­lice de­part­ment a lot of people nev­er see,” Co­chrane said.

He learned about budgets, train­ing, fa­cil­it­ies man­age­ment and equip­ping the po­lice force. He in­ter­ac­ted with the many non-po­lice pro­fes­sion­als who help the de­part­ment func­tion. Co­chrane stayed with Nestel for eight years un­til the deputy’s 2004 re­tire­ment.

BACK TO THE FU­TURE

By then, Co­chrane had been pro­moted to cap­tain. Co­in­cid­ent­ally, Nestel’s son Thomas was pro­moted to in­spect­or that year and va­cated the com­mand­er’s job in High­way Patrol. Co­chrane was po­si­tioned to fill the void.

Now, fol­low­ing Co­chrane’s own pro­mo­tion to in­spect­or, he finds him­self back where he began.

“It’s not the di­vi­sion I re­mem­ber when I was a po­lice of­ficer here in 1988,” he said. “It’s a very busy di­vi­sion now. There are pock­ets in the 15th and 2nd (dis­tricts) with vi­ol­ent crime is­sues. In­spect­or Heath in eight years did an ex­cel­lent job here and he had ini­ti­at­ives here that were good — tac­tic­al things to ad­dress crime con­cerns in cer­tain areas. I’m go­ing to keep them.”

Al­though vi­ol­ent crime is more isol­ated in the North­east than in some oth­er sec­tions of the city, the North­east is second to none in volume of crime. It is the largest di­vi­sion geo­graph­ic­ally, span­ning from the Ta­cony-Frank­ford Creek in the south­w­est to the Poquess­ing Creek in the Far North­east, and from the Delaware River to the Mont­gomery County bor­der.

Prop­erty crimes like burg­lary and theft, along with “qual­ity of life” is­sues such as dis­orderly crowds and graf­fiti, ac­count for most of the com­plaints to po­lice in the North­east, ac­cord­ing to Co­chrane.

“There are a lot of things new to me, but there are a lot of things old hat to me,” he said. “I know the streets and I know the neigh­bor­hoods.”

THE CAP­TAINS

In Palumbo and Mc­Clo­s­key, the in­spect­or will work with one re­l­at­ively new cap­tain and one ex­per­i­enced one. Mc­Clo­s­key at­ten­ded St. Cecil­ia’s School in Fox Chase and gradu­ated from Car­din­al Dougherty in 1974. He has spent his en­tire 35-year ca­reer in patrol as­sign­ments.

Mc­Clo­s­key has worked all over the city, in­clud­ing a five-year stint in the 15th dis­trict in the 1980s. He served as the long­time com­mand­er of the 35th dis­trict in the de­part­ment’s North­w­est Di­vi­sion un­til Septem­ber, when Ram­sey sus­pen­ded him and took away his com­mand for al­legedly help­ing to cov­er up the March ar­rest of a re­tired po­lice cap­tain’s grand­son.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port in Ju­ly by the Daily News, two 35th dis­trict of­ficers ar­res­ted the grand­son in con­nec­tion with a felony as­sault on po­lice. Mc­Clo­s­key’s then-boss, In­spect­or Aaron Horne, sub­sequently asked Mc­Clo­s­key to help erase the charges from the de­part­ment’s com­puter sys­tem, which the cap­tain did.

Ram­sey ul­ti­mately sus­pen­ded both Horne and Mc­Clo­s­key without pay for 30 days. It was the stiffest pun­ish­ment per­mit­ted un­der de­part­ment reg­u­la­tions short of fir­ing. After his sus­pen­sion, Mc­Clo­s­key worked in the Com­mand In­spec­tions Bur­eau. Palumbo filled in at the 35th on an in­ter­im basis un­til both cap­tains got their new as­sign­ments last month.

When asked by the North­east Times about the case, Mc­Clo­s­key said that as cap­tain in the 35th, it was his prerog­at­ive to ap­prove or over­ride ar­rests made by his sub­or­din­ate of­ficers. He de­clined to dis­cuss de­tails of the case.

GOOD RE­VIEWS

Des­pite the cir­cum­stances, com­munity lead­ers in the 35th dis­trict were dis­ap­poin­ted to see him go. About 75 res­id­ents at­ten­ded a rally to sup­port him. Long­time Town Watch head Rose Hol­lo­way re­portedly told the Daily News, “I [worked] un­der a lot of cap­tains, and Capt. Mc­Clo­s­key stands out the most. He was al­ways there for us.”

ldquo;He’s been the ul­ti­mate com­munity en­gager and am­bas­sad­or. He’s al­ways there for us,” said Eric Brice, an­oth­er Town Watch of­ficer.

Mc­Clo­s­key hopes to have the same re­la­tion­ship with folks in the 15th dis­trict.

“I want to have bet­ter com­mu­nic­a­tion between people and the of­ficers on the street,” he said. “I want to have of­ficers be friendly and listen to people. The biggest thing for po­lice of­ficers is to listen to people. All com­plaints are ma­jor to the per­son mak­ing the com­plaint.”

Palumbo is a South Phil­adelphia nat­ive with 21 years of po­lice ser­vice. He lives in the North­east now, however, and feels at home here. He has no re­la­tion to the le­gendary South Phil­adelphia res­taur­at­eur and polit­ic­al fig­ure or to the Com­mon Pleas Court judge, both of whom share his name.

“I’ve also been mis­taken for Lieu­ten­ant Columbo,” he said.

Palumbo says he’d prefer to work in a “busier” dis­trict over a low-crime, quieter one.

“[The 15th] is busier now than we are, but the lower ends of both dis­tricts are the busiest. The north ends have less vi­ol­ent crime,” he said.

Palumbo wants to get ahead of the prop­erty crime curve by edu­cat­ing people about how thefts hap­pen and how they can pro­tect them­selves and their pos­ses­sions.

For in­stance, crooks seem to be tar­get­ing cell phones and GPS devices a lot more than jew­elry nowadays. Those devices should be pro­tec­ted ac­cord­ingly.

“Every­body has tech­no­logy in their hands,” he said. “I don’t think I took one re­port in three months [in the 35th dis­trict] of someone hav­ing their [neck] chain snatched.” ••

Re­port­er Wil­li­am Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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