Honoring victim of times

Wallace Chapman, a black cop, died for lack of patrol car

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At plaque ceremony yesterday were (from left) Chapman's grandson Tony Rivers, daughter Wallece Chapman, nephew Eric Chapman, and daughter Helen Chapman.

Wallace B. Chapman was a man dedicated to service - to his country and his community.

Chapman, or "Chappie," as he was affectionately called, served in World War II, and then returned to his native Philadelphia and became a police officer.

But on the steamy night of June 13, 1948, Chappie, 41, became the fifth African-American policeman killed in the line of duty.

He was holding a suspect on a charge of breach of the peace (what is now disorderly conduct), when the suspect managed to get Chapman's service revolver and shoot him four times.

In Chapman's day, black officers weren't issued patrol cars, so he had to take the suspect to a nearby callbox and alert the station that he had a suspect in his custody, leaving him vulnerable to attack.

Chapman's sacrifice was honored yesterday with a plaque dedication on the steps of the Police Department's Forensic Science Center, on 8th Street near Poplar.

"It was tough for a black officer in 1945," said Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, who is African American and attends all plaque dedication ceremonies.

"Most of us walked the beat and weren't assigned to cars. And that's why he had to walk that suspect to the callbox and make that call.

"We've come a long way since 1945, when I can stand here as police commissioner."

Retired Capt. James Reeves, who knew Chapman personally, said, "His wife would always say [Chapman] was as good as gold, and I can attest to that because of the time we spent together.

"I'm here to show my respect for his family and to honor all he has done for the Police Department."

Members of Chapman's family, including his two daughters, Wallece and Helen, and his nephew, Eric, also were joined by District Attorney Lynne Abraham and former City Solicitor Jonathan Saidel in honoring Chapman.

Chapman's Police Academy classmate Ray McCaffrey also attended the dedication.

"It was a difficult job then, and it's a difficult job now," Abraham said. "A member of America's greatest generation could somehow slog through World War II . . . only to be shot on a street corner in North Philadelphia while taking a man in for what was surely a petty crime. We salute Wallace Chapman."

Eric Chapman, a program manager with the FBI, said that although he did not know his uncle, family research taught him that he was a devoted family man.

"The emotion I'm feeling right now is overwhelming," Chapman said. "The response I am getting from the city is something I never expected. I learned a lot from my Aunt Wallece about how caring he was, the type of father he was."

The Coca-Cola Co. was the citizen sponsor for this plaque dedication. For more information on the Hero Plaque Program or to become a sponsor, contact attorney James Binns at 215-275- 3000. *