New Philadelphia Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel looks to restore ‘law and order humanely’

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Kevin Bethel has been sworn in as the new Philadelphia Police Commissioner and looks to utilize his more than three decades of police experience to improve public safety.

Bethel was sworn in at Russell Conwell Middle School in Kensington on Tuesday, addressing the neighborhood’s drug crisis and its impact on school children that he saw as the chief of school safety.

Before becoming commissioner, Bethel served for nearly 30 years in PPD, becoming deputy commissioner. He most recently worked as chief of school safety for the School District of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel (right) salutes the American flag as the National Anthem was being performed during his swearing in ceremony at Russell Conwell Middle School on Jan. 2, 2024. (6abc)

After being sworn in, Bethel thanked Mayor Cherelle Parker for the opportunity and said that as commissioner, he would be “embracing a profound responsibility.”

“So I say to all of you, let’s embark on this journey together,” Bethel said. “With courage, determination, and unwaving belief in a safer and better tomorrow for Philadelphia. I thank you Mayor for the opportunity to serve. I thank the community for the opportunity to serve. Let’s get to work.”

Bethel also addressed the ongoing drug epidemic affecting the nearby Kensington neighborhood, saying he would restore “law and order humanely.”

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel embraced his family after he was officially sworn in during a ceremony at Russell Conwell Middle School on Jan. 2, 2024. (6abc)

“Our streets, as well as our schools, should be safe havens for our children, are instead battlegrounds against substance abuse, violence, and despair here in Kensington,” Bethel said. “The reality is stark and painful. Needles litter our paths … Our youth are often diverted from their potential, and the community spirit is under siege and stressed. But let it be clear, this ends today.”

According to the city’s most recent data, a record high 1,413 people died from overdoses in 2022, including a 20% jump among Black residents. The single highest number of overdose deaths by city zip code — 193 deaths — occurred in the Kensington and Harrowgate neighborhoods.

  • January 3, 2024
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