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Police Chief Retires After He Was Reportedly Threatened With Termination

REUTERS/Tim Shaffer

Mary Rooke Staff Writer
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Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s (SEPTA) Chief of Police Thomas Nestel has abruptly retired from the Transit Police Department amid reports he was threatened with termination.

Nestel was “ousted” from his Transit Police Chief position after criticism from riders, employees, and even Transit police officers that the Philadelphia transit system was overrun with violent crimes, reported FOX 29’s Steve Keeley.

“FOX 29 new sources say Nestel told to resign by today or be fired,” reported Keeley. (RELATED: Videos Show Stark Contrast In Philadelphia As Two Officers Get Shot While Fireworks Fly Overhead)

SEPTA General Manager and CEO Leslie S. Richards promised Tuesday that Nestel’s retirement would not impact SEPTA’s ability to continue operating its bus and train lines, FOX 29 reported.

“During this transition, you can be assured that SEPTA remains committed to your safety, and that of our customers – nothing is more important,” Richards’ statement read, reported Keeley. “Plans have been put into place to ensure the continuity of operations for the SEPTA Transit Police Department, and to move forward on the enhancement of the Authority’s successful safety and security initiatives.”

SEPTA Police Inspector Charles Lawson has been named Acting Chief of the SEPTA Transit Police Department, according to the police department’s website.

Richards said Lawson would serve in this position until a permanent replacement has been found and assured that “a search for a permanent Police Chief is underway,” the statement showed.

Nestel told members of the SEPTA police department that he notified the transit system that he would be retiring after the July 4th detail, according to Nestel’s email titled, “Thank You,” reported Keeley.

“I have loved being a member of the Transit Police,” wrote Nestel, according to Keeley. “I will miss being with you as you fight the good fight, but I will remain your biggest fan and supporter.”

“Chiefs come and go. What really matters is the dedication and commitment of the men and women in the field. Stay focused, stay safe, and thank you for giving me so many years of pride and enjoyment,” Nestel added.

President of Transport Workers Union Local (TWU) 234 Brian Pollitt, who has been vocally opposed to Nestel’s job performance, told the Daily Caller he hopes the new leadership will take a different approach to security than Nestel did.

TWU Local 234, which represents more than 5,000 SEPTA transit workers, called for Nestel’s resignation last year when the union felt that Nestel’s “philosophy was ‘hush, hush.’ Don’t talk about security issues, don’t warn the public, and don’t scare anyone away,” said Pollitt.

“We proposed concrete solutions to make SEPTA safer, including great use of monitored security cameras, awards for catching those responsible for criminal acts on SEPTA buses and trains, and an end to catch and release programs,” Pollitt told the Daily Caller. “Hopefully, with new leadership, SEPTA can now be made safer for both riders and SEPTA workers. If the system isn’t safe, the riders won’t return.”

The SEPTA Police Department and The Fraternal Order of Transit Police Union did not respond to the Daily Caller’s request for comment.