7th District captain talks police-community partnership

Capt. Robert Ritchie returned to the 7th District, which he said felt like returning home.

Open communication: Capt. Robert Ritchie, who has served the Philadelphia Police Department since 1996, has reached out to community groups like the Greater Bustleton Civic League and Somerton Civic Association and also plans to host a monthly town hall meeting to inform and hear from residents. LOGAN KRUM / TIMES PHOTO

When Robert Ritchie entered the 7th Police District headquarters at Bustleton and Bowler, he felt like he was returning home.

The 7th District captain stepped in to act as interim captain for a few months last year while then Capt. Michael Gormley (now an inspector) was away. This time, though, it’s permanent.

“The community really embraced me when I was up here last year, and I really made a lot of great bonds and friendships that have lasted,” he said.

Ritchie is a lifetime Northeast resident and has served the Philadelphia Police Department since 1996. Being an officer is in his blood. He comes from a police family, with his father and wife being retired officers. He also recently discovered his father’s father was killed right before finishing his service for the United States Navy as a fighter pilot.

“We recently found a letter of acceptance to a college he was planning to go to once he got back,” he said.

His grandfather was going to study criminal justice and become a police officer.

“Maybe I’ve got the bug for being an officer,” he joked.

Ritchie believes that maintaining a positive police-community partnership is one of the most important aspects of his job.

He has reached out to established community groups like the Greater Bustleton Civic League and Somerton Civic Association and plans to be a regular face there. He will also be available at other events such as an upcoming Coffee with a Cop, which will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Friday, April 13, at the Dunkin’ Donuts located at Bustleton Avenue and Red Lion Road.

On April 21, the 7th Police District will hold a canned food drive at Mission BBQ at 11000 Roosevelt Blvd. to collect food for people in need.

He will also continue to host a monthly town hall meeting to inform and hear from residents.

“Basically, anyone who calls me and asks me to do anything, I’m going to do my best to do,” he said.

Ritchie knows firsthand the importance of the police and community working together. When he filled in as commander last year, he worked to catch two serial robbers who would break into apartment houses and destroy washing machines to claim the money inside. They committed thousands of dollars worth of damage in the process.

While the police performed investigations, neighbors with surveillance cameras stepped forward and offered footage that allowed police to identify the burglars’ car.

“The people of the community really stepped up to the plate,” he said.

Ritchie said catching them was a team effort among Lt. Dennis Rosenbaum and other officers of Northeast Detectives, Officer Steven Gantz and other officers from the 7th and 24th districts, and the local residents.

The burglars were charged with 29 burglaries.

“When we have great partnerships like that and the community helps us do our jobs more effectively, everybody wins,” he said. “Community and police win, and most importantly the bad guys lose.”

That’s what’s made returning to the job every day for 22 years so easy.

“I know it sounds cliché or a little corny, but I’ve honestly never had a bad day in 22 years,” he said.

Above all, Ritchie said his favorite thing about the district is the people, meaning both the residents and the officers.

“I feel like I’m home,” he said.

He also wants people to know they can reach out to him for anything, whether it’s related to police work or not.

“I’m just a phone call away. That’s sort of my philosophy. I’m here to help and serve you. If you have something you would like to bring to my attention, just call,” he said. “I’m here to make sure we keep this community as safe as we possibly can.” ••