Capt. John Fleming is no stranger to Northwest Philadelphia.
For more than half of his 16-year career, he worked in police districts that patrolled the area, including stints in the 35th District (headquartered in Olney) and the 39th District (headquartered in Nicetown).
Now, after serving three years as Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey’s administrative lieutenant, Fleming has returned to lead the 14th District.
His first official day on the job was Nov. 12. He replaced Joel Dales, who was promoted to staff inspector.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be here,” said Fleming during a recent interview inside district headquarters in Germantown.
The 14th also covers Chestnut Hill, Mt. Airy and parts of West Oak Lane.
Replacing a well-liked captain
As he settles into his new position, Fleming said he’s taking over a district that’s in good working order thanks to Dales, noting that the 22-year veteran left a “nice blueprint” for him.
“He really has a nice team put together,” said Fleming. “My job really at this point is just to tweak a few things.”
He is particularly pleased by the number of bike cops at his disposal.
For Fleming, they provide the intimacy and visibility of foot patrol while having the added benefit of enabling officers to cover more distance during a given shift. And, he already knows the community wants to see them out on the streets.
Still, Fleming acknowledges that helming the 14th District is a real challenge. Not only is it physically the third largest in the city, but residents also must contend with a full menu of crime.
“It varies about as much as any district in the city of Philadelphia,” said Fleming. “There’s violent crime in the 14th District — there’s always the potential for a homicide and a shooting incident, robberies — but at the same time, there are residential burglary issues.”
But, Fleming said he thinks he already has some of the tools necessary to be an effective captain.His attitude towards the job appears to be one of them.
“They don’t just pay me to sit behind a desk. They pay me to go out. You’re supposed to embrace the community and embrace this job,” he said.
Fleming is also familiar with delving into the details of a particular district’s crime statistics and the strategies being employed to make them the best possible.
As an administrative lieutenant in the 39th District, Fleming was occasionally called on to represent the captain during monthly CompSTAT meetings.
“Instead of just being a stop gap, I wanted to be better than that, so I would study the numbers the best I could,” said Fleming. “They could ask me any question they wanted about the district as though I was the captain of that district.”
Fleming’s also got a little extra pressure to perform his duties well. Ramsey lives in the district.
“I want to make him proud,” he said.