Sheriff Jewell Williams joined several of his top officers to officially welcome three canines (Carter, Blair and Jimmy) to the Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County, that will be trained to sniff out bombs and narcotics.

The three dogs—donated to the sheriff’s office by James Binns, Philadelphia lawyer and philanthropist—are about a year old and will form the newly created K-9 Unit.  Their handlers are Deputy Sheriff’s Barry Johnson, William O’Leary and Andrew Ortiz.

The dogs, named after the grandchildren of Binns, made their first public appearance on recently during ceremonies at the Citizens Bank Park to also recognize the  newly formed Bike Patrol Unit, and awarded badges and pins to the Special Operations Group, Honor Guard Unit, and Homeland Security.

The event was hosted by Sheriff Williams, Staff Inspector Paris Washington and Lt. Roy B. Herbert.

“I want to especially thank Jimmy Binns,” said Sheriff Williams, “for his extreme generosity and for the support he has shown myself and these officers over the past several years”.

The Special Operations Group honored at recent ceremonies at Citizens Bank Park consisted of :

Standing—(left to right)—DSO Willard Rozier, DSO Ronald Jones, DSO Bilin Carera, Deputy Sheriff Sergeant Robert Castelli,   Sheriff Chief of Staff Robert Jackson, Deputy Sheriff Lt. Vernon Muse, CFO Benjamin Hyllar, Sheriff Jewell Williams, Chief Sheriff Deputy Kevin Lamb, DSO Bryan Dixon, DSO Virginia Killman, DSO Paris Davenport.

Kneeling—(left to right)—DSO George Morse, DSO Kevin Butler, DSO Andrew Ortiz.

 

 

 

The newly created Bike Patrol Unit was recognized and given certificates of merit to mark the admission of this unit into the Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County. 

Standing—(from left to right)—DSO Arnelio Alanguillan, Deputy Sheriff Sergeant Robert Castelli, DSO Marcus Morris, DSO Jennifer Burrell, DSO Craig Palmer, DSO Phil Belton, Sheriff Chief of Staff Robert Jackson, DSO John McCleary, James Binns, Sheriff Jewell Williams, Deputy Sheriff Sergeant Michael Bastone, Deputy Sheriff Lt. Monte Guess.

Kneeling—(left to right)—DSO  Vance Robinson, DSO Roberto Cosme

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time officially set aside by President Barak Obama for special consideration of one of the most vulnerable groups in America.

The subject permeates every level of our society and crosses all racial, political and religious boundaries and it comes in many forms.

From physical abuse, to neglect, to the type of emotional abuse that leaves them with low self-esteem and a growing resentment of authority.

It also touches my office because it is the children who suffer as much as anyone when a family loses a home for one reason or another.

The stress it creates, as mentioned last year in the journal Pediatrics, can lead to child abuse as parents manifest their frustrations in the form of physical assaults on their own children.

The children become victims again when they are forced to physically leave their home and move in with relatives, or another, probably less desirable home, or even a shelter.

As Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County, the above scenario is one my office bends over backwards to prevent.

We sponsor mortgage foreclosure workshops across the city and invite any entity we feel can address some aspect of the myriad of reasons that lead to a family losing their home.

From immigration officials, to health experts offering advice on everything from high blood pressure to diabetes and heart disease.

If you are sick, you can’t work, and if you can’t work, you can’t pay your mortgage.

At a workshop in West Philadelphia recently we had more than 250 members of the Caribbean and African community come together at St. Cyprian’s where we spoke in detail on different programs and hotlines available to help keep people in their homes.

Among the informational vendors were representatives from health care agencies, immigration, and certified mortgage counselors offering valuable advice for free.

On May 4th we will host another such workshop at The Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations (Concilio) at 705-709 N. Franklin Street from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in partnership with El Sol, a Spanish language newspaper and will repeat this scenario in other neighborhoods throughout the city at least once a month for the rest of the year.

I have always believed that education is a powerful deterrent to hopelessness and ignorance.

New courts integrating First Judicial District juvenile delinquency and domestic cases are slated to open next June.

But at a budget hearing today before City Council, Sheriff Jewell Williams said he doesn’t have the manpower to staff the building – or even to adequately fulfill his office’s existing duties.

That’s why he’s asking for $4.1 million in additional funding to hire 100 additional deputies, along with several support staffers.

“If we have to deploy 40 people over to that building, it will not be enough to secure that building the way it should be,” Williams said.

“We can do it if we have to, but it’ll be a risk. I just hope the victim of that risk is not a citizen doing their civic duty or someone bringing their grandkid to visit a father who has an issue in the court.”

He said the Sheriff’s Office has reached a “critical point” and is in “desperate need” of additional manpower.

“I want to say on the record if you do not hire additional deputies, you’ll be opening up a courthouse next June with untrained professionals,” he said.

Williams pointed out that most violent courthouse incidents – such as the recent shooting in New Castle, Del. – have occurred in domestic courthouses, often in connection with cases involving visitation or child support.

Those are the very courthouses that are in Philadelphia currently staffed by private security firms.

“We have some courthouses where the front line is security personnel, not trained Sheriff’s deputies that go to school to look for certain types of weapons, certain kinds of weapons that disperse projectiles. We’re trained for that.”

Williams said private security workers aren’t held to the same standardized educational programs and retraining sessions as sheriff’s deputies.

“I would not recommend people who don’t have the training on how to recognize a bomb – I would not want to put those people in the courthouse,” he said.

“Because if you don’t have the training, you can actually cost someone’s life.”

He said his staff “are more trained that you could ever imagine,” so much so that he “couldn’t imagine paying someone $8 an hour from a security company” to do the same job.

Travel to train?

The training process for Sheriff’s deputies is another issue Williams raised – the only state-authorized program is currently offered through Penn State University in State College, a two to three-hour commute for most Philadelphians.

“One of the bigger problems with having that is when the Sheriff invites someone to join the Sheriff’s Office and the Sheriff informs them they have to go for 20 weeks to Penn State, many decline because it means 20 weeks away from their families,” he said.

He said he’s advocating for a change in those laws, but it would require action from the state.

“It’s very difficult because of the Republican power structure in Harrisburg but we’re working very hard to see if we can have that legislation amended,” he said.

Dire straits

Williams said he also needs more equipment for the Sheriff’s Office.

“We have deputies who have bulletproof vests and the clock is ticking, it’s expiring,” he said.

“When you wear vests over a certain period of time, the Kevlar or bulletproof material on the vest gets weakened by your body sweat. They haven’t changed those vests in over five years so that’s another incident waiting to happen.”

He said he’d also like to have the staff to be able to confiscate all cell phones and cameras from each courthouse and return them when visitors leave.

“If I had the manpower, I would collect every camera and every phone that came inside that courthouse,” he said.

“But I have to choose between protection from the immediate threat or the threat that may happen later on and I have to use it to protect judges in that courthouse.”

“On the other hand,” he added, “That picture’s going somewhere else. That’s why we need additional deputies.”

Court delays

Some Council members were critical that Philadelphia’s courts may simply not be run efficiently enough to best use Williams’ services.

Williams said prisoners are escorted to the courthouse an average of five times before they actually see a judge due to delays in proceedings.

He said the sojourn to and from jails alone is also time-consuming.

“There’s a delay bringing people down in morning on 95,” he said.

“If we had a dedicated highway lane, we could bring people faster down to the Criminal Justice Center and, likewise, get them back faster to the prison in the evening.”

He said the court system is clogged – and the backlog is only going to continue.

“The problem is the courts are overwhelmed,” he said.

“We’re getting more inmates every day. The juvenile courts [are] off the hook. There’s an increasing number of young people getting arrested and when look at the adult side, we have more multi-defendant cases which require more deputies in courtroom.”

Downplayed

Williams said the Sheriff’s Office is often left out of public discussions about public safety but plays a key role in protecting judges, witnesses and court staff, as well as assisting other law enforcement agencies in their duties.

He recounted how the Philadelphia Police had to request his office’s assistance during last week’s “flash mob” incident at 15th and Chestnut.

“We are an integral part of law enforcement but a lot of the time we get downplayed because we don’t have the manpower we deserve,” he said.

“Let me just say that again – we deserve to have more deputies to protect the public. Thank God we haven’t had any major incidents at our courthouses, but we are stretched very thin.”

He said in light of recent tragedies, it’s time to “get ready for the unknown.”

“I cannot say this enough,” he said.

“The Sheriff’s Office is in desperate need of those deputies. God forbid if we had a major incident, we could not help all the people we would want to help. And unless we get those additional bodies – I have to put this on public notice – it would be a very disastrous incident if we don’t have the bodies and the trained personnel.”

But as far as raising court fees to pay for his proposed staffing increase, Williams said that’s not a something he’s willing to fight for.

“I can tell you as a political maverick – you don’t talk fees to City Council,” he said. “I’ll be supportive, but I won’t be making the recommendations.”


Written by Alex Wigglesworth for the Metro on April 17, 2013.

IN HIS PROPOSED BUDGET, Mayor Nutter did not seek any additional money for the Sheriff's Department despite its expanding responsibilities, but Sheriff Jewell Williams on Tuesday asked City Council for a 30 percent increase.

That increase amounts to $4.1 million for 100 new deputies, a budget director, a computer-support employee and a clerical position. Williams said there were 230 deputies in 2008 compared with 194 now.

"We get downplayed because we don't get the manpower we deserved," Williams said. "We are stretched very thin."

Williams said more deputies are needed to staff the new multi-story Family Court building at 15th and Arch streets, set to open next year, and courts opening up in the Widener building.

"We are in dire need of additional deputies," Williams said. "God forbid we have a major incident [like Boston] and don't have trained personnel."

Meanwhile, Council President Darrell Clarke did not take a stand on Williams' request for more money, but said the security concerns were worth revisiting. Referring to City Hall, Clarke said, "This is probably one of the least-protected buildings in the city of Philadelphia."


Written by Jan Ransom for the Daily News on April 17, 2013.

As both a lifelong resident and now Sheriff of this wonderful city, I read with great interest several recent stories in both the Philadelphia Daily News and Philadelphia Inquirer that addressed issues of housing and the Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County itself.

The stories showed how complicated and complex each can be while illuminating the need for strict enforcement of laws already in existence, as well as more innovative ways to level the playing field for purchasing a home at a sheriff’s sale, and clarifying the procedures for getting money owed from the sale of a property.

Our other responsibilities and duties range from insuring the safety of the Criminal Justice Center, Family Court, and Traffic Court which represents about 64 individual courtrooms we protect.

We also transport more than 500 prisoners per day between the prisons and the courts, serve warrants, track down fugitives, post notices for evictions, and, of course, execute the sales of properties upon the order of the court.

Unfortunately, it is the latter we are most associated with because we are the last, and most public part of the process of someone losing his or her home.

Despite inheriting a plethora of challenges and hurdles that include a shortage of staff at almost every level, an inadequate computer and phone system, and a public image that’s less than stellar, we have made significant strides in a relatively short period of time that include:

  • Approximately $10 million transferred to the city and $23.4 million to the state as proceeds from the legitimate sale of properties. 
  • Approximately $2 million returned in long overdue refunds to individual homeowners and defendants. 
  • Signing historic MOU agreements with both the City of Philadelphia and the First Judicial District to define clear relationships and mutual responsibilities that establish transparency between the Sheriff, the City and the Courts.    
  • Working to install a new computer system to replace an outmoded technology that restricts the ability of the office to be responsive and timely in addressing the needs of citizens as well as city and court officials.

Our office has also:

  • Conducted 20 seminars teaching citizens “How to Buy Property at a Sheriff Sale” that’s been attended by 2500 mostly moderate income people and first time homebuyers and/or community groups looking to invest in their own communities.
  • Conducted six mortgage foreclosure prevention workshops in conjunction with community organizations
  • Continue to work with Women Against Abuse in protecting those women coming for court appearances and educating them on reaching out to a sheriff’s deputy if they feel threatened or unsafe in a courtroom.

After my election in 2012, I had to address and assist in two major investigations of the previous administration; a federal criminal investigation and a class action suit.

Two other major operations and financial issues also confronted me:  millions of dollars in unclaimed funds owed to the state, city and individual homeowners and an outdated computer system that manages millions of dollars in mortgage foreclosure and tax sale proceeds.   As outlined above, the office has now returned millions of dollars to the City of Philadelphia and its citizens as a first step toward more effective and transparent and timely operations.

So, when I read a column in the Philadelphia Daily News that says our office has a vendetta against one individual lawyer and that is why we have yet to return money on a property to his client (who has yet to produce the proper identification needed to do so), I just shake my head from side to side, then move on to the next challenge.

My immediate goals include becoming an even bigger part of the solution to ridding the city of abandoned homes and vacant lots, and continuing to streamline this organization to make it as efficient as possible.

These are challenges that are neither personal nor vengeful; two things that have no place in the Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County.

 

Ernie Ross, Jr., 18, was Sheriff For A Day on February 22nd as part of a city-wide "takeover" of government positions by PAL youth from across the city.  Ross spent the day with Sheriff Jewell Williams and Staff Inspector Paris Washington touring the different buildings and court rooms protected by the Deputy Sheriffs. Ross lives in the Allegheny West Community and is a member of the Hartranft PAL Center.   

 

The tragic killing of three people in the lobby of the New Castle County Court House in Wilmington, DE recently is something the Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County tries actively to prevent through constant training and vigilance of the areas we are charged with protecting.

My condolences and prayers to the family and friends of those killed, and to the innocent people in the vicinity of the incident who witnessed the horrible event.

Anyone going to a public facility—especially a courthouse—should feel secure and confident as they go about their business.  The security and safety of the general public, judges, witnesses, defendants and the accused at the Criminal Justice Center (CJC), Traffic Court and Family Court here in Philadelphia are all our responsibility and we are constantly training our Deputy Sheriff’s and reviewing our security at each place.

Unfortunately, though, when someone with a gun is determined to use it, such a scenario is a challenge for even the best security.

The shootings in Wilmington occurred in the lobby of the county court house prior to people going through the metal detector.  The lobby area of the CJC in Philadelphia is constantly monitored by uniformed personnel who are trained to respond in an “active shooter” scenario, and we are always on high alert throughout the day as hundreds of people come in and out of the building.

We’ve beefed up our security by adding two officers on bikes to patrol the perimeter of the CJC, and though we are down in personnel overall, we will continue to keep a uniformed presence in the outer perimeter of the building.

Still, anyone seeing something suspicious, or notice a person acting erratically in, or near any of the above-mentioned facilities should make one of our Deputy Sheriff’s or any police officer in the vicinity aware of the situation.

Again, the Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County does all that it can to insure the safety of those conducting business with the courts, but awareness on everyone’s part is welcome and appreciated as we go about our daily routine.

No sweet love and kisses here. Cops woke up 22 fugitives this morning with hand shackles and a ride to jail.

In their 16th annual, predawn Valentine's Day warrant sweep, more than 50 cops fanned out across Philadelphia and its surrounding counties in search of about 300 fugitives wanted on warrants for offenses big and small. They caught 22 of them in the five-hour sweep and hauled them in to Family Court for processing.

"I'm an Afghanistan veteran. Thanks, America!" a shackled fugitive barked at reporters on his way into courthouse. Another shouted expletives at news photographers.

But Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams had little sympathy for the nabbed fugitives, who will get no roses or candy on this day celebrating sweethearts.

"They'll be eating cheese sandwiches today," Williams said. Fugitives "creep around like little rats so they don't get caught. But today, we have taken some bad guys off the street."

Williams noted that his office organizes the sweep every year on Valentine's Day, so "it would seem to me these people should know we're coming."

The fugitives caught were wanted for crimes including robbery, theft, driving under the influence, failure to pay child support and failure to appear in court, Williams said. Sheriff's deputies and other officers from Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties and Pennsylvania State Police troopers participated in the sweep. 

Williams urged fugitives to turn themselves in. Tipsters who know of any fugitives' whereabouts can call deputies at (215) 686-3578.


Reported by Dana DiFilippo for the Daily News on February 14, 2013.

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - February 14, 2013 (WPVI) -- The Philadelphia Sheriff's Office, along with other city and regional police agencies, rounded up dozens of suspects in a Valentine's Day warrant sweep.

The Action Cam was there early Thursday morning as police went to various homes in the city in search of the fugitives.

The suspects were wanted for everything from attempted murder, domestic violence, failure to pay child support and other crimes.

In all, nearly 300 people were targeted in the sweep.

The sweep is a Valentine's Day tradition for the sheriff's office, which has been conducted for 16 years.


Reported by Action News on February 14, 2013.

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Twenty-two people are in custody today after an early morning sweep by the Philadelphia sheriff’s department for parents who haven’t paid child support.

But the sweep netted more than that.

Sheriff Jewell Williams says the sweep started about 2am and wrapped up five hours later. But instead of using just Philadelphia records, he says, the sweep included the surrounding counties using state police records.

“We found that there were other outstanding warrants — for burglary, robbery, theft, receiving stolen property, aggravated assault, simple assault,” he tells KYW Newsradio, “and we just included those other counties, and we found that we had people who were wanted for more than just not paying child support.”

Williams says some will have to serve time behind bars because they violated the child support agreement. And he says with apparent satisfaction that those who committed additional crimes will also be off the streets.


Reported by Kim Glovas of CBS Philly on February 14, 2012.