K-9 cop charged in bar theft; Ramsey vows changes

Philadelphia Police Department Commissioner Charles Ramsey addresses reporters about an indictment against three officers for plotting to steal heroin earlier this month. Another officer has since been charged with stealing money from a bar. (Jonathan Yu / Staff Photographer)

After charges were announced yesterday against an officer accused of stealing money from an open safe in a Northeast Philly bar, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said he's preparing a proposal to root out bad cops from the force.

Ramsey said he'll submit the plan to Mayor Nutter by Monday.

He declined to divulge details of the plan, other than to say it would focus equally on preventive action and aggressive internal investigation.

"Crime is bad no matter who commits it, but it's even worse when it's a police officer," Ramsey said. "This badge that [officers] wear is a symbol of trust and a symbol of authority. It's meant to cover your chest, not cover your butt.

"We got too many guys that on occasion feel as if they have special privileges as police officers. Well, they don't. They don't."

Officer Kenneth Crockett, the K-9 cop accused of pocketing cash from the Lower Northeast bar where Officer Gary Skerski was slain in 2006, was charged with theft and receiving stolen property, Ramsey and District Attorney Seth Williams announced at a news conference yesterday.

Crockett, 56, was in the hospital yesterday after his family, concerned that he would harm himself, had him involuntarily committed for a mental-health evaluation, Williams said.

When the 26-year veteran is released from the hospital, he will be placed on a 30-day suspension with intent to dismiss, Ramsey said. It's unclear whether his dismissal will affect his city pension. The charges against him are both misdemeanors.

The bar theft occurred Tuesday morning after Crockett and two other officers responded to a burglary alarm at an auto-body shop behind Pat's Cafe, at Castor Avenue and Arrott Street.

The officers found no evidence of wrongdoing at the garage, but when they saw that a grate at the neighboring Pat's was unlocked, they went inside to ensure that burglars weren't hiding out in the bar, Ramsey said.

Once inside, the officers alerted the bar's owner and security company and helped themselves to soda and water. Moments before they left, the bar's video-Surveillance system caught Crockett taking money from the bar's unlocked safe.

Investigators later determined that $825 was missing; the cash has not been recovered.

Ramsey emphasized that the two officers with Crockett were unaware of his alleged actions and were "embarrassed" to be linked to the incident. Cleared of impropriety, they returned to street duty, Ramsey said.