Philly has a new police commissioner

Kevin Bethel will be the city’s next police commissioner.

The announcement of Bethel’s promotion was made by Mayor-Elect Cherelle Parker on Nov. 22, succeeding Danielle Outlaw, who resigned in September. Since Outlaw left, the department has been under the command of interim commissioner John Stanford, who has been with the department 22 years. Bethel, who previously served in South Philly’s 17th Police District, will take over in January.

“I believe that Kevin Bethel is an excellent choice to be the next Philadelphia police commissioner starting in January 2024,” said City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson, who also serves as vice chair of Council’s Public Safety Committee. “I first met Kevin when he was the commanding officer of the 17th Police District in Point Breeze. Our working relationship and friendship has grown in my roles as a Pennsylvania state representative and as councilmember for the Second Council District.”

Bethel joined the Philadelphia Police Department in 1986. In 2019, he joined the School District of Philadelphia and is currently chief of school safety.

“Kevin has an extensive background in working with the juvenile population in Philadelphia as well as grassroots, boots-on-the-ground organizations that are fighting the violence impacting Philadelphia daily,” Johnson said. “This knowledge will help him greatly in his new role as police commissioner.”

Through Nov. 23, the city has experienced 377 reported homicides in 2023, which is actually on pace for a 19-percent decrease from last year, which ended up with 514. 

“As a seasoned law enforcement professional who has served for decades in the Philadelphia Police Department, and who oversaw a sea change in juvenile justice interventions at the School District of Philadelphia, Kevin Bethel brings strong credentials and promise to the post of police commissioner,” said District Attorney Larry Krasner, “I look forward to working with him on new and creative approaches that will make Philadelphia thrive.”

Philadelphia House Delegation Chairwoman Morgan Cephas highlighted Bethel’s extensive career that includes almost three decades of work for the Philadelphia Police Department. 

“We welcomed the news and congratulate Bethel,” Cephas said. “He has been a champion of reformative justice and creative thinking in public safety and community policing. We are confident that Bethel would help us lead our city to resurface from the profound public safety crisis impacting it.” 

The Board of Education extended its congratulations to Bethel on his appointment. 

“While we recognize that his transition represents a significant loss for the School District, we are confident that Commissioner Bethel will bring his unwavering dedication and exceptional leadership to the broader realm of public safety in our city,” the BOE said in a statement. “The Board is sincerely grateful for Chief Bethel’s invaluable contributions during his tenure, particularly in spearheading innovative initiatives such as the Safe Pathways Program and the Police School Diversion Program among others. His visionary approach and commitment to both passion and pragmatism have left an indelible mark on the School District, and we anticipate that these qualities will continue to positively impact Philadelphia under his new role.”