Philadelphia police

‘Policeman's Policeman' John Timoney, Former Philadelphia Commissioner, Dies at 68

Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney, noted for revolutionizing use of crime mapping technology and winning over officers and citizens alike as a "policeman's policeman," died after a battle with lung cancer. He was 68.

Timoney, who came to the U.S. from Ireland as a teenager and began his career as a beat cop in New York City in the 1960s, took the helm in Philadelphia in 1998 and served as the department's top officer until 2001. During his tenure, he pioneered policing technology using crime mapping to identify patterns and deploy officers.

"He came in and changed the way we deploy our police, changed the way we target our police," former Philadelphia Mayor and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who helped lure Timoney to the city, said. "He really was the first person to bring modern police technology to the city, and by that I mean they would map crime literally every day to see if they could find trends in specific neighborhoods."

Timoney took heat in Philadelphia in 2000 after the Republican National Convention, when city police fell to criticism over their dealings with protesters, but is remembered as a cop's cop who would often don a helmet, hop on a bicycle and join officers on patrol.

News surfaced last month that Timoney was battling stage IV lung cancer and undergoing treatment at a Miami hospital.

"I didn't even know he was battling cancer," Rendell said. "It's a great loss, because, in addition to a great policeman, he was a great guy ... he was a very colorful figure, popular with police, nonprofit groups, the business community."

Officers who worked under Timoney remember him working side by side with them in patrol and having no fear of getting his hands dirty.

Joe McCabe, a 26-year Philadelphia Police veteran who served as a bike officer and trainer for 20 years, including during the Republican National Convention, said Timoney joined officers on the front lines during raucous protests the RNC drew in 2000. One night, McCabe recalled in an interview with NBC10 in July, a group of RNC protesters jumped Timoney and officers in Center City.

"They had jumped the three of them, Commissioner Timoney and two of the officers riding with them," McCabe said. "He got out there and rode his bike with us."

When he pictures Timoney, whom he last spoke with a few years ago, Rendell said he sees him not sitting back in the commissioner role, but joining officers on the front lines in patrol.

"If I close my eyes and think of John, I think of him in police shorts and a police shirt with a helmet on, riding his bike on patrol," Rendell said. "He was an Irish cop who always maintained all the good things about a beat cop, a rough-and-ready guy."

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