Patrol officers share an oath and many of the same buildings with detectives in the Philadelphia Police Department, but differences often define comparisons between the two classes of cops.
Capt. Frank Bachmayer is getting a crash course in those distinctions as the new commander of the Northeast Detectives Division. The longtime leader of the 15th district has spent most of his 31-year career in patrol, but now he’s fighting crime from a different angle, albeit in very familiar territory.
“I grew up in the Northeast and I was assigned as a police officer in the 2nd district for a number of years, then as a captain in the 15th district,” Bachmayer said last Friday during an interview with the Northeast Times.
“I got a lot of community support [in the 15th] and I got to know the crime patterns. So working with the four [Northeast patrol] captains and Inspector Mike Cochrane is an excellent opportunity to have an impact on crime in the four [Northeast] districts.”
As noted by Bachmayer, Northeast Philly is divided into four police districts — the 2nd, 7th, 8th and 15th — each with its own captain as commander. Those four report directly to Cochrane in the police department’s hierarchy. Bachmayer now oversees the group of detectives who conduct follow-up investigations on most high-level crimes that occur in the four Northeast districts. He reports directly to Cochrane, too.
As a policy, the police department does not reveal how many cops or detectives it has in particular units for security reasons.
Two of the Northeast districts, the 2nd and 15th, are based on the first floor of a police station at Harbison Avenue and Levick Street in Mayfair. Northeast Detectives are on the second floor, as is Cochrane’s office. Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey assigned Bachmayer to Northeast Detectives on April 30.
Bachmayer, 52, grew up in Mayfair, attended St. Timothy School, graduated from Father Judge High School in 1979 and now lives in the Far Northeast. Among his early partners in the department was fellow Judge alumnus Cochrane. They worked together in the 2nd district in the 1980s.
“We were in the same squad, same car, same wagon,” Bachmayer said.
Northeast folks probably know Bachmayer best professionally from his six-year tenure as commander of the 15th district. Last November, Ramsey reshuffled many of the department’s commander assignments and Bachmayer ended up with the Narcotics Strike Force. It wasn’t his cup of tea. So when the retirement of Capt. Jack McGinnis created a vacancy in Northeast Detectives, he was first in line.
In his new job, Bachmayer no longer wears a uniform every day. Rather, civilian “plain” clothes are standard for those in detective units. He’s also got a whole new set of management responsibilities.
“When I was in the 15th district, crime happened and I had to have a response right away, short-term, and a plan to prevent it long-term,” he said. “Here, it’s more of a long-term process, developing information through investigation, identifying witnesses, developing suspects and getting arrest warrants. That doesn’t always happen within a day or two.”
The high volume of 9-1-1 calls in the 15th district afforded Bachmayer plenty of “street” time, which he preferred as opposed to four walls and a desk. The captain would spend many days and nights driving the thoroughfares and side streets of the district among the cops in his command.
With the detectives unit, his presence in the neighborhoods and at crime scenes isn’t as essential, but he still escapes the office regularly.
“I find the time to go out, yes I do,” he said. “I like being out on the street. I go out every day. I’ll go look at locations where we’ve had shootings and see what the landscape is like.”
Typically, when a major crime happens, patrol cops will be first to respond. They will summon detectives. Patrol cops should provide detectives with key leads like descriptions of the perpetrators and the names and contact information for possible witnesses. This exchange of information should occur on the scene, face-to-face. Paperwork comes later.
“What I’m trying to work on here [is] when officers bring a crime to detectives, [that] they work as much as they can with detectives to get as much information as they can,” Bachmayer said. “It’s important we have a good rapport with patrol officers because they’re the first investigators.”
Bachmayer tries to glean even more information from his post-mortem crime scene tours and identify telling patterns that may not be evident in paper reports. If a rash of similar unsolved crimes occurs, first-hand information may help him connect the dots.
Technology is another useful tool in the detectives unit, he said. After a crime occurs, detectives will canvas the scene looking for public or private surveillance equipment. The department as a whole is turning more and more toward video evidence and the public to solve crimes.
“Every robbery that happens, we’re checking with the [department’s] Real-Time Crime Center to see if they have cameras in the area,” Bachmayer said. “And if the 7-Eleven gets robbed, or there’s a burglary, we’ll go out and look for cameras [that filmed it].”
Bachmayer knows that combating robberies and property crimes are big priorities in the Northeast. But he’s still assessing how best to deploy limited resources to meet the challenge.
“Jack McGinnis was here over seven years and he implemented some good programs. We’re going to follow up and expand some of the programs,” Bachmayer said. “We have teams that look at robberies, burglaries and domestic [violence] issues. … We want to make sure there’s an urgency of getting arrest warrants as quickly as possible [while] doing full and thorough investigations.” ••