Jump to content

Philadelphia's finest grapple with growing strains of service


Recommended Posts


Those were the words of my good friend Rob Lively, a veteran of over 1,000 combat missions for an elite unit of the Army. When Rob speaks to audiences, with a command presence that is born from a career spent defending our country, one is remiss not to listen. Yet, in this case, Lively is not talking about capturing a high-value terrorist target or rescuing civilians from an airplane hijacking. Lively is instead talking about how one has a choice to make each morning when they wake up. A choice that is under a person's own control. 

In a world in which there is so much uncertainty, it is how we take care of ourselves that is a defining choice in our lives. A choice to stay fit, healthy, and in the arena (in whatever profession) as we mature and grow older. Sure, get a cup of coffee when you open your eyes, Rob jokes. But then you need to jump into what will matter. Hydrate, eat right, take physical fitness seriously, and embrace sleep hygiene — these are things that we can control.

In May, I returned to the Philadelphia Police Department. It was a follow-up visit to speak to the brave men and women of the nation’s fourth-largest police force. After my visit last year, I wrote a piece in the Washington Examiner that resonated in the media. Once again, Capt. Matthew Gillespie, head of the Southwest Detective Division, hosted me. 

Gillespie's drive and commitment to policing are only matched by his concern over the toll the profession is taking on his colleagues. This time I asked Lively (who I had served with in the Middle East many moons ago) to come along. Like me, Lively is dedicated to wellness and resiliency. It's a subject that Gillespie and I wanted to stress for Philadelphia's finest, given the stress and demands they endure working the streets of their city. Gillespie particularly wanted us to spend time with specialized units such as SWAT and explosive ordnance disposal, given Lively's background and their special challenges. We nevertheless found a receptive audience from all the units we met, from the regular officers to the detectives.

We observed a profession that remains under siege. 

It's a profession struggling with lower staffing levels. It's a profession desperate to protect the citizens of Philly from levels of gun violence not seen in decades. The people we talked to acknowledged that there are problems in the police ranks at times. But most street officers just want to do good for those they are sworn to serve. The truth remains: Suiting up every day for what, by far, is one of the most demanding jobs in existence just gets harder and harder. Previously, I had told the officers that I believed there were legitimate comparisons between the professions of policing and the intelligence community in which one’s successes are rarely heralded and one’s mistakes are splashed across every media outlet. This notion is perhaps even more relevant right now, with an exclamation point that both institutions are indispensable to the security of the country.

But what has changed over the last year? 

Well, for one, the gun violence on these streets has actually gotten worse. This was most recently reflected in a mass shooting in Philadelphia that garnered international headlines and left several dead and many wounded. The city is on track for over 500 murders — for the second year in a row. That's a staggering figure, reminiscent of the crack wars in the 1990s. At the same time, the local district attorney's prosecution rates for crimes involving guns are actually decreasing. Gun possession cases have dropped to a 32% conviction rate in 2021. Carjackings are so prevalent that they may hit over 1,400 in 2022 (just two years ago, the number was a little over 400). The result, at least in the minds of some officers we talked to, is a city in which many areas feel out of control. 

During my last visit, I went on a ride-along that entailed several hours on the streets. Weeks after I left, one of the officers I had met with had been in a gunfight with a man brandishing an AK-47. The officer was shot and was in recovery even months later when I returned. My God, I thought. This is not Fallujah under al Qaeda in Iraq or Raqqa under the Islamic State. It is a wonderful city dripping with great culture and steeped in American history.

The burnout of police officers in Philly is a major problem that has no end in sight. The force is several hundred officers under strength, and more officers leave the force each week. The majority of Philly PD officers are in their 20s, and many grew up in the city. Yet they deal with violence and lawlessness on a daily basis and feel a lack of support from city leaders. That cultivates an overall climate of distrust which makes officers' jobs nearly impossible. Many suffer from low morale, depression, anger issues, and a lack of sleep, all with no organized plan to help. But they suit up each day. 

Unscripted, we stopped to speak with one officer in Kensington, who spends most of his day trying to get the scores of addicts in this area the help they need. I found him to be remarkably compassionate. He was not dismissive toward the homeless or addicts, and his ire was more against a system that was failing to solve problems. He cared. He loves his city. And he is demoralized at what he sees every day. This officer seemed fine now, but what will he be like months and years in the future? It is not normal to witness such horrors every day, not for a CIA officer or special operations forces operator with multiple war-zone deployments. It should not be normal for a Philly officer who works in Kensington for months on end.

Several weeks ago, Gillespie emailed us. He stated that Lively's message on wellness and resiliency had been critically important to the officers. Unfortunately, it was quite timely as well, as an officer (albeit one we had not met) tragically had just taken his life. This hit home. The police saw Lively as an American hero, tough as nails, but talking about the toll that an extraordinarily difficult job can take. So they listened to what he had to say. 

Control what you can control. Take care of yourselves. What you witness every day is not without both physical and emotional costs. It’s human to be affected by what you see and do each day. I was heartened by Gillespie's email, that somehow our visit had made a difference. I had previously sent Gillespie a link to a charity I support, " Sound Off ," which provides mental healthcare for U.S. military and intelligence community veterans. We agreed, particularly after the suicide of a police officer, that these programs are now absolutely needed for first responders as well. 

It's time to do more to help our greatest helpers. It’s the least we can do for those who do the toughest job in America.


  • Poop 1

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”


Twitter: @HKTheResistance


HipKat, on *** other h***, is genuine, unapoli***tically nasty, and w**** his hea** on his ******. jc856

I’ll just forward them to Bridgett. comssvet11

Seek help. soflabillsfan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, HipKat said:


But what has changed over the last year? 

The decay of society is what is causing all of this especially those that think "interrupting the nuclear family" is a great idea.

Then there's the "defund the police" idiots who want to release violent criminals at the same time. We know which side is all for that.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

10 minutes ago, SpikedLemonade said:

Philly sounds like a shit hole which is expected given its finest are fuckin' retards.


The Political Climate in Philadelphia, PA is Strongly liberal.

Philadelphia County, PA is Very liberal. In Philadelphia County, PA 81.2% of the people voted Democrat in the last presidential election, 17.9% voted for the Republican Party, and the remaining 0.9% voted Independent.

Philadelphia county voted Democratic in every Presidential election since 2000


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...