Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel was last week named the LGBT liaison, taking over for recently retired Dep. Comm. Steven Johnson, who held the role for about two years.
Bethel, 49, has been on the force for 26 years.
The married father of three is a native of West Philadelphia and currently lives in Mount Airy. He holds a master’s in public safety from St. Joseph’s University and a bachelor’s in criminal justice from Chestnut Hill College.
Bethel most recently served as Deputy Commissioner of Regional Operations Command South but, amid the department’s sea change earlier this month, was assigned to Deputy Commissioner of Patrol Operations.
He said his new role made him a good candidate to take on the liaison position, for which he volunteered.
“I have all the patrol functions and detective divisions within the city now, so sitting on top of those operations, I thought it was important to make sure I have my tentacles on all the things that are going on,” he said. “When the LGBT liaison position came up, I thought there would be no better place for it now than under me.”
Bethel, who also serves as a liaison for the Police District Advisory Council, attained the rank of deputy commissioner in 2008, after a career that included posts as captain of the 17th District; as a lieutenant in the 18th District, in Internal Affairs and in the Narcotics Intelligence Investigative Unit; as a sergeant in the 17th and in the Narcotics Strike Force and Field Unit in the Special Investigative Bureau; and as an officer in the 6th District, which includes the Gayborhood.
“I worked in Center City many years ago when I first started, and I know that clearly the community has seen its share of discrimination, with a lot of prominent incidents,” he said, noting that diversity has always been a part of his life. “I was raised by a great mother who instilled in me that I need to treat everyone equally. It’s all about making sure there’s equality, fairness and no discrimination across all segments.”
Bethel said he’s eager to make sure the lines of communication between police and the LGBT community are open.
“In this role, and in policing in general, it’s important that we are communicating,” he said. “We need to make sure we’re listening to the concerns to identify the issues and move quickly, as we do in all cases, to address them. That’s what makes us successful.”
As liaison, Bethel will work closely with the LGBT Police Liaison Committee, a collection of LGBT community leaders, by attending their monthly meetings and looking into and reporting back on any individual cases or issues impacting the community.
He said that, while there will be a period of adjustment as he eases into the position, he will make it a priority.
“It’s a role I’m going to have to learn and there are going to need to be some lessons for me to make sure I’m doing and saying all the right things. But Commissioner Ramsey has made clear that this is an important role for the department. We need to make sure we’re reaching out to all segments of the community, and clearly this is an area that we need to be very much involved in, addressing any issues of discrimination, inequality or assaults that may happen. I plan to stay completely linked in and in tune with what’s going on in the community to address these issues.”