2008 was the year of the mourning crepe for me and my co-workers in the Philadelphia Police Department (P.P.D.). It seemed like all of us wore a black band covering our badges for the longest time. Our city’s police department has the sad distinction of experiencing the most line-of-duty deaths of any law enforcement agency in the nation this past year, according to the annual report by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) and Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.). In just a short period of time, six-and-a-half months actually, my Department lost four heroes in four separate and heartrending incidents.
On May 3, 2008, 24th District Sergeant Steven Liczbinski was shot and killed while pursuing bank robbers. Then on September 5th, a Narcotics Strike Force Officer, Isabel Nazario, was killed while she was a passenger in a patrol car that was broadsided by a stolen vehicle. Then, just 18 days later on September 23rd, Highway Patrol Officer Patrick McDonald was shot to death while attempting to arrest an armed fugitive. Lastly, on November 17th, 2008, disaster struck yet again in the 24th District. Sergeant Timothy Simpson was slain while responding to a 911 robbery assignment when his vehicle was struck by another auto, driven by a wanted male fleeing police in the area.
The deaths of these officers hit the whole P.P.D. harshly, but the grief was particularly severe in the 24th District. In a large metropolitan police department like Philadelphia, with 6,700-plus officers, for tragedy to strike the same place twice and in such a short period, would surely test the mettle of those involved especially hard.
While I knew the Highway Patrol and Narcotics Strike Force officers from different encounters around the job, it was the two Sergeants that hit real close to home for me. I worked personally with them both as a fellow supervisor in the 24th District. Sgt. Simpson was actually the squad’s replacement supervisor for the group of officers who lost their original Sergeant, Steven Liczbinski, just a half year earlier. Additionally, Sgt. Simpson, Tim, was a constant figure from the start of my police career. Fourteen years earlier, when I was a rookie patrolman in the 24th District it was Tim, a veteran cop, who always had experienced advice and officer safety tips for me and the other new cops on the beat. Tim was later promoted, and I transferred, when we met again and worked together in the SWAT Unit. Tim was my Corporal in SWAT until his promotion off the team to a patrol assignment as a Sergeant. A few years later, after my attaining Corporal rank, we worked together once more, back in the same district where we both started, in the 24th. Such profound loss was felt by all at the passing of four of our police family. 2008 was surely a tough year for a tough job.
Due to the number of tragedies in my department in 2008, our Police Survivors Fund has been financially strained; a fund has been set up to help cover the funeral and other expenses incurred by families of fallen officers as well as providing ongoing financial support to the families of the injured, and officers killed in the line of duty. If you would like to donate to the Philadelphia Police Survivors Fund the address is: Police Survivors Fund, Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #5, 1336 Spring Garden Street, Dept GW/LE, Philadelphia, PA 19123, 215-629-3600 or contact them online at www.fopsurvivorsfund.com.