Northeast Times

Back in the captain’s seat

Former 15th dis­trict com­mand­er Frank Bach­may­er re­turns to the NE as the area’s de­tect­ives cap­tain.

Fa­mil­i­ar ground: Bach­may­er knows many loc­al com­munity lead­ers from his time in charge of the city’s busiest patrol dis­trict.

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.” •• 

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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