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Maria Watson

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Dead in Fairmount Park
Maria T. Watson  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.




In 1976, Maria Watson and her twin sister Margie were part of the first 100 women hired for patrol duty by the Philadelphia Police Department.  During her law enforcement career, Maria Watson worked uniformed patrol, narcotics, juvenile aid division and sex crime’s child abuse unit.  She retired from the Philadelphia Police Department in 1996.  She is the author of Dead in Fairmont Park. 


According to the book description of Dead in Fairmont Park, “Michelle Burns, Philadelphia Police Lieutenant, like other female African American lieutenants without a squad to command, was buried behind a desk in homicide. That all changed when the third body was found in Fairmount Park's nature trails. Three young African American males mutilated and left with no clues. When the political heat hit the fan, Michelle is assigned to her first command to lead the newly formed task force to solve these murders, against the wishes of some members of the department. The investigation takes a personal turn, when Michelle, along with her dog Maxwell, finds the mutilated body of her dear friend and neighbor nestled in a group of trees along Forbidden Drive in Fairmount Park. Later she receives a cryptic note with a photograph of herself and Maxwell kneeling beside the body. With the city's eyes upon her task force, Michelle has to deal with the politics of the police department, an upcoming captain's exam, and a mother who wants her to change careers.”

One reader of Dead in Fairmount Park said, “I thoroughly enjoyed this novel "Dead in Fairmount Park." I enjoyed the infusion of the different landmarks of Philadelphia being a native of Philadelphia. Although, there was no explicit sex in this novel you could still feel the love that generated between Bryan and Michele and the positive need they had for each other.  Michele was pictured as a strong independent woman. Yet, feminine and aware of her need for love. Bryan a strong black male who could be vulnerable to love yet a tower of strength that Michele needed at the right time. Let's not forget the real hero of this novel, Maxwell. I enjoyed his presence and the protection he gave Michele. Although, this was a murder mystery, I enjoyed everything about it. I am looking forward to your next novel.”

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