In 12-hour shifts, Philly police will be out in force throughout city

 A stage is erected at Eakins Oval for the Festival of Families and the papal Mass. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

A stage is erected at Eakins Oval for the Festival of Families and the papal Mass. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey wants to reassure Philadelphia residents that order will be maintained over the papal weekend, despite a migration of hundreds of thousands of people, which always brings with it the possibility of rowdiness.

Officers will be working 12-hour shifts in Center City, where Pope Francis will appear and celebrate Mass, and throughout the rest of Philadelphia, Ramsey said.

And allaying the concerns of those who worried that there wouldn’t be normal patrols in outlying neighborhoods, Ramsey said policing won’t change in areas outside of Center City.

“We have not only this event covered, but also patrolling the rest of the city, which, for us, is equally important,” Ramsey said Thursday.

Addressing criticism that the nearly 5-square-mile “traffic box” is unreasonably large, Ramsey said, detractors will be vocal no matter the boundaries of the restricted area.

“If something happened during this event, then your question would be, ‘Why wasn’t your zone big enough,’ right?” Ramsey said. “So you gotta do what you gotta do.”

Ramsey advised that visitors bring an extra dose of patience, especially when navigating between events.

“It may take a little time to get through magnetometers, and things like that. If you’re in a secure area, if you’re not, get there early enough to get yourself a good spot,” Ramsey said. “Plenty of water, plenty of food. There’s obviously a lot of port-a-potties, if you’ve been paying attention.”

Ramsey, who wouldn’t say exactly how many city officers and Secret Service personnel will be on hand, said the security plan has been months in the making, and there’s no reason to panic — unless, of course, you have acute fears of large crowds.

With Pope Francis’ knack for venturing outside his security detail, Ramsey said if the leader of the Roman Catholic Church decides to shake up his itinerary on a whim, city officers will accommodate.

“I’m not going to tell the pope what he can’t do,” Ramsey said. “We’ll be flexible.”

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