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Frank Friel

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Breaking the Mob
Frank Friel  More Info

About the Philadelphia Police Department

The history of the Philadelphia Police Department traces its origin to Hans Block who, in 1663, established the first system of patrol in the city's Swedish settlement.  By the year 1700, Philadelphia had increased its population to 4,400. As a result of this growth, the citizenry established a method of citizen participation known as "Town Watch." This system remained the basic form of police protection until 1751.


Today, Philadelphia, with approximately 6,900 uniformed police, has the fourth largest police department in the country. Philadelphia is also the fourth largest per capita among the twenty largest cities in America. Department sizes among major cities vary greatly, from Indianapolis with 1,030 to New York City with 36,800. Philadelphia’s own department has fluctuated in size over the years, from a peak of 8,500 in 1979 to just over 6,000 in the early 1990s.


The Police Department of Philadelphia, as in other cities, is a military-like organization in which each sworn officer holds a rank. Ranks begin with patrol officer and end with police commissioner. The job of managing and directing the department rests in the hands of the Commissioner, who reports directly to the city’s Managing Director and ultimately to the Mayor. The Commissioner is appointed by the Managing Director with approval by the Mayor, and has no fixed term of office (Charter Section 3-206). The Charter allows for two Deputy Police Commissioners to be appointed by the Commissioner, as well as an executive secretary. In recent years several Deputy Managing Directors have been appointed to assist the Commissioner as well. The 1998 fiscal year budget for the Philadelphia Police Department is $352 million, 14% of the city’s entire General Fund revenues.


All of the members of the Police Department, except the Commissioner and his deputies, are civil service employees. Civil service as a system was adopted in Philadelphia in 1885 to recognize the capable, not just the politically connected, in the awarding of city jobs through merit-based exams. Since that time, the system has been revamped three times, most recently in 1951, in an effort to bring it closer to its ideal. All sworn members of the force also belong to the Fraternal Order of Police, its collective bargaining unit. Police Department civilian employees (who are not sworn uniformed officers) are also protected by civil service and handle a great deal of administrative tasks for the department but are not members of the FOP.


Each of the Commissioner’s deputies is responsible for different bureaus of the operations and administration of the department. Each bureau is commanded by a chief inspector, and most officers are within the patrol bureaus, which are further subdivided into six geographical patrol divisions and twenty-three patrol districts to encompass the entire city. Patrol divisions are commanded by an inspector, and patrol districts are commanded by a captain. A patrol district is staffed by four platoons, each consisting of a lieutenant, two sergeants, and approximately forty officers.


Major "off-street" functions of the Police Department include the training bureau which operates the Police Academy; the communications bureau which manages radio and 911 operations; the staff services bureau which coordinates such functions as laboratory work, evidence tracking, and the maintenance of criminal records; the internal investigations bureau which is charged with ensuring the integrity of the police force; and other bureaus and units that provide administrative functions such as human resources, information systems, and research and planning.




Frank Friel, spent more than 30 years in law enforcement. A Philadelphia Police Department police officer, he rose through the ranks from police officer to top homicide detective in the Philadelphia Police Department.  After retiring at the rank of captain, Frank Friel became the Director of Public Safety for Bensalem Township.


Frank Friel is credited with directing investigations into Philadelphia La Cosa Nostra murders and successfully prosecuting more than 60 organized crime members and associates—including notorious mobster Nicky Scarfo and many of his henchmen, Harry “The Hunchback” Riccobene, Salvatore “Chucky” Merlino and Lawrence “Yogi” Merlino, uncle and father of current Philadelphia mob boss Joseph Merlino.  Friel’s work led to the establishment of a network of organized crime informants that still provides both historical and current information on La Cosa Nostra family illegal activities.”  His book, Breaking the Mob, explores how law enforcement brought mobsters to justice in the Philadelphia area.


Publisher’s Weekly said of Breaking the Mob, “A former Philadelphia police captain who rose through the ranks and headed his city's Organized Crime Task Force, Friel played a major role in the breakup of the Nicky Scarfo Mafia family. The Scarfo mob, originally based in the City of Brotherly Love, expanded its focus to include Atlantic City when legalized gambling was approved for the seaside resort. Scarfo, a violent and unpredictable man, had taken over after his two predecessors were murdered within a year; his ascendance set off a wave of killings. Collaborating with Guinther (Brotherhood of Murder ), Friel tells how police work brought the don and dozens of his underlings to justice in 1989. The book also details Friel's own successful effort to free a wrongly convicted man from death row. But what makes the book especially noteworthy are the authors' insights into the psychology of mobsters and their recommendations for increased efficiency in fighting the drug war, especially interagency cooperation.”

One reader of Breaking the Mob said, “Frank Friel shows his mettle in this extensively detailed book about his involvement in breaking up the Nicky Scarfo mob in Philadelphia. Friel was the cop end of a special task force where the FBI and local police cooperated in breaking up the Scarfo syndicate. Friel's descriptions are extensive with interviews with mafia players and extensive details on the construction of Scarfo's mafia hierarchy and the conviction of Philly mafia wiseguys.

At times Friel comes off as too saintly but manages to avoid boring the reader with too much self promotion. Instead, his nuts-and-bolts information on the Philly mob is hard hitting and to the point. He knows all the players well and by the end of the book so will the reader. Unlike other mafia books where mobsters sound romantic and rebellious, Friel shows the brutality and petty nature of the real deal. A must-read for anyone beginning to learn about the Philly mob scene.”

Another reader of Breaking the Mob said, “The Mafia family in Philadelphia during the 1980s under Nicky Scarfo was by far the most violent group of killers, extortionists, drug dealers, and swindlers in the recent history of the Mafia. Scarfo was a sociopathic killer, ordering killings as a way of doing business, many of his victims were killed on a whim. As the bodies began to pile up, Lt. Friel, a homicide detective, was directed by the Philadelphia Police Department, his employer, to join forces with the FBI's Organized Crime squad. Friel and the FBI worked well together, a cooperation that resulted in breaking the Mafia's code of silence, and Nicky Scarfo is now serving life plus 40 years. The entire top echelon of the Philadelphia LCN family went to jail with him -- those who he hadn't had murdered during his reign. Friel is not only a dedicated and very smart cop, he is also a good story-teller. This is an excellent book from start to finish.”

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