Protecting home base

Oh captain, my captain: Capt. Adam Friedman is the newly appointed commander of the 8th district in the Far Northeast. The 18-year department veteran was a lieutenant for about two years before his promotion to captain. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

Getting a mention in the newspaper is nothing new to Adam Friedman. In fact, a Google search of his name along with “Northeast Vikings” turns up several articles evidencing his high school gridiron exploits.

Yet, news interviews are still a bit foreign to the 1991 Northeast grad, as one would expect of a guy who made his bones as an offensive lineman blocking for a future NFL star, Charles Way.

Friedman can expect his public profile and media demand to grow in the months and years to come as one of the Philadelphia Police Department’s newest captains and the newly appointed commander of the 8th district in the Far Northeast. He arrived in the district on Sept. 22 to replace Capt. Len Ditchkofsky, who is retiring after 33-plus years on the force, including the last 31 months in the 8th.

Unlike Ditchkofsky, who arrived in the district knowing it would likely be his last stop in a decorated career, Friedman is really embarking on his career in some ways. The 18-year department veteran was a lieutenant for about two years before his promotion to captain last February. The 8th is his first patrol command assignment.

“I’ve probably got another seventeen or eighteen years to go,” Friedman told the Northeast Times.

He almost never became a police officer in the first place.

“I was going to be a health and phys ed teacher,” he said. “I probably would’ve wanted to coach football. But I always thought about being a police officer when I was younger.”

After graduating from Northeast, where he played football and baseball, the Bell’s Corner native enrolled in Temple University as a health and physical education major. When the city announced it would administer a new police department civil service exam, he took it and made the cut for acceptance into the Police Academy.

“I was student teaching at Rhawnhurst (Elementary) and left to join the police department and finished my degree later,” Friedman said. “Looking back, it was the right decision to make. I can say I love my job. I work with good people and you feel like you’re helping people out, people in need.”

He graduated from the academy in 1996 and worked in the 15th district until 1999. He transferred to the Narcotics Strike Force and worked there until 2004. He was promoted to sergeant in 2004 and assigned to the 4th district in South Philly until 2010. He was a lieutenant in the 22nd district in North Philly from 2010 to 2012 and in the Aviation Unit at Northeast Airport from 2012 until last February. He served as a captain in Command Inspections Bureau, a.k.a. Night Command, until arriving in the 8th. In the meantime, he earned a master’s in criminology from California University of Pennsylvania via an online program.

Friedman was already familiar with the 8th district because he lives there, but he’s learning that even longtime residents of the area don’t know the streets as well as the men and women who patrol them daily.

“It’s a large district with a lot of ground to cover,” he said.

Although administrative functions of his new job cut into his time on the streets in a patrol car, he still likes to get out of the office and work among the beat cops.

“I can read about the specifics of a crime, but it’s still better to go out there and see the scene itself,” he said. “And it’s a large district, so I can learn all the streets better than just looking at a map.”

For starters, he wants to make a dent in quality-of-life problems around the district, such as underage drinking in the parks, and property crimes like thefts from cars and residential burglaries. He wants to emphasize so-called “target hardening,” where police reenforce crime prevention measures among the public. Officers still encounter many cases where burglary and theft victims left their doors or windows unlocked and their valuable possessions open for the taking.

Friedman also wants to prioritize traffic safety, particularly around schools. He doesn’t like it when motorists disregard speed limits in school zones and jeopardize children.

The captain plans to use the district’s strong network of community groups to spread his message.

“I like the community involvement here. I like the community policing policies and having officers attend (civic) meetings. We have town hall meetings. I want to attend the PSA (Police Service Area) meetings and also the civic associations. And we plan on increasing our PDAC (Police District Advisory Council).

“We want to increase social media, too. We’re working on that, having a Facebook page and Twitter for the district.”

Businesses can help quell crime, too, with common-sense security measures, including surveillance cameras and open layouts that allow for better monitoring. Friedman believes that the skills and education that would’ve made him a good teacher will serve him well as a patrol captain.

“It’s being a good listener and a good communicator,” he said, adding that his one regret is that he won’t be taking any summers off from work anytime soon. ••