Crime: “Not in My Town, Scumbag”

Upper Darby police chief Mike Chitwood was known as "Dirty Harry" in his 19 years as a cop in this city. Today, his tough talk is tempered with compassion. Could he be the solution to Philly's crime problem?

Though he says he hasn’t discussed the job with any of the mayoral candidates, he has talked about it with his son, Mike Chitwood Jr., head of the Daytona Beach police and perhaps the only ex-Philly cop as headline-grabbing and controversial as his father. (It was Chitwood Jr. who led the fruitless investigation into Allen Iverson’s alleged gun-toting search for his wife in 2002; the mayor’s office called Chitwood’s team “overzealous.”) Junior has listened to Dad only half-jokingly float the idea of the two of them serving as commish and deputy, top cops one and two. (“We might trip over each other trying to get to the TV cameras,” says the son, “but otherwise, it would work out.”) After chest-thumping about how Dad could “bust up the paradigm” back home and, of course, bust up the scumbags, the younger Chitwood makes a personal confession — his father was never much of a father. The police, they were his first family. Chitwood’s wife and kids came second. These days, though, his father has changed. They talk every day. When he visits for Thanksgiving, the old man is so up his ass for quality time, it makes him want to scream. “I’m thinking, who is this? ’Cause it hasn’t been that way in 40 years.”

As the son describes how Mike Chitwood Sr., the cop, has evolved, he also describes how Mike Chitwood, the man, the patriarch, has changed. “I don’t want to use the word ‘sensitive,’ but he is. He’s more sensitive to the police, he’s more sensitive to the victims of crime. … His first love in life was the Philly police department. It is a surrogate parent. It feeds you, it clothes you, it makes you a better person. You always have an emotional attachment to it.”

WHEN THE CLERGY meeting ends, Captain D’Alesio says he’s heard rumors that Chitwood might be on the short list for the commissioner’s seat in the city. “Would I be surprised? No,” the captain says. “I don’t want to see him go, but if he does, I can guarantee they’re not going to have 400 murders. If he goes, he goes on his terms. He’s not going to have someone running for mayor tell him how he’s going to police. He’s not going to be bullied.”

Minutes later, Chitwood sits in his bare office, which is decorated mostly with framed awards he’s been given over the years. He debriefs the situation on Bradford Road, where two jerk-off brothers deal crack when their mom, also a shithead with a record, isn’t home. They’re destroying the neighborhood, he says. Chitwood and his guys will eventually bring The Show to their door, and he’ll find two babies living in total filth in the basement. Scenes like that push him out to the streets of Upper Darby. He’s making a difference there. He knows he can do the same for his old police family — fatherless and battered as it’s become. As with his own family, he’s ready to make up for lost time, if they’ll let him.