Philly’s new school police chief pledges less law-and-order, more mentoring of students

By Kristen A. Graham, The Philadelphia Inquirer | December 2, 2019

Former Stoneleigh Fellow Kevin Bethel is featured in The Philadelphia Inquirer for his new role as special advisor for school safety at the School District of Philadelphia.

Kevin Bethel built a 30-year career locking people up, rising to become a respected deputy commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department.

But that’s not who he is anymore. Last month, Philadelphia School Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. named him special adviser for school safety — essentially the chief of the 300-officer-plus school police force.

“You don’t get your respect from barking and screaming and hollering and cuffing,” said Bethel, who has attracted national attention for his work with young people. “We’re going to encourage mentoring and engaging with young people, and giving these officers the space to be able to work outside what has been the traditional boundary of, ‘You’re here as the enforcer, and that’s all.'”

Under Bethel, the school police force — whose officers do not carry guns — will be given tools to understand adolescent development, trauma, and de-escalation, he said. Officers will stay away from code-of-conduct issues and focus on a safe school environment, and on having positive interactions with students.

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