Report: Former Top Cop John Timoney Battling Lung Cancer

The disease has cost the eminently quotable former commissioner his voice.

Former Philadelphia police commissioner John Timoney.

Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney.

Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney is battling stage IV lung cancer, Newsworks reported earlier today.

Timoney, 68, is being treated at a Miami hospital, and told the website in an email that his voice — that familiar mash-up of his native Dublin and New York City —  is now “completely gone.”

News of his illness comes at a time when Timoney’s name is once again the topic of debate in Philly. With the Democratic National Convention less than a week away, the scores of controversial arrests of demonstrators that occurred on Timoney’s watch during the 2000 Republican National Convention are being looked at as a possible harbinger of what’s to come.

Timoney’s family moved from Ireland to New York when he was a teenager. He joined the NYPD in 1967, and spent 29 years in the department, rising to the rank of first deputy during Police Commissioner William Bratton‘s first crack at running New York’s police force in 1990s.

He was lured to Philadelphia in 1998 by then-mayor Ed Rendell, who was enamored with the success Bratton’s team had in driving down violent crime in New York City. Timoney lasted only four years in Philly, but he remained a popular figure for years after thanks in part to his off-the-cuff style. (State Rep. Dwight Evans promised to rehire Timoney as police commissioner during his ill-fated mayoral run in 2007.)

Timoney headed south, serving as Miami’s police chief from 2003 to 2010. He briefly retired, wrote an autobiography, and did some work for a private security firm. An unexpected job followed with the Ministry of the Interior in Bahrain, where — depending on your point of view — Timoney either worked to clean up a notorious security force, or quell a pro-democracy uprising. He was also hired by Camden County as a consultant when the county took over Camden’s city-run police force.

He always remained fond of Philly. “It’s a good, gritty working-class city. It doesn’t have the attitude that you find in some people in New York,” he told me years ago, when he was promoting his book. “The people are decent.”

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