Last week, Philadelphia Sheriff Rochelle Bilal conducted a ceremony to officially promote Deputy Sheriff Officers into the command rank.
The ceremony, which was held at Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 in Northeast Philadelphia on Thursday night, honored new Deputy Sheriff Officers and also new members of the clergy. Those who received new promotions included: Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Inspector, Chief Inspector, and Deputy Chief. Others were honored for specific acknowledgments like perfect attendance, distinguished unit citations and commendation of merit, among others.
“Everybody that was getting promoted was very well received,” said Bilal. “Most of the sheriffs said they never had experienced a ceremony like that, so it was way overdue.”
The ceremony was especially significant for Bilal, who was able to choose deserving Deputy Sheriff Officers for promotional opportunities for the first time since officially taking office in January 2020.
But trailblazing in Philadelphia’s Office of the Sheriff is nothing new for Bilal.
Not only is she the first-elected African-American woman to lead the Office of the Sheriff in Philadelphia in its 181-year history, she’s also the first-elected woman in that role.
“It took a minute to sit in and really understand the huge responsibility that I’m undertaking—the first woman and African-American woman really sets a standard,” said Bilal, a lifelong Philadelphia resident. “I want to ensure the next person who comes in behind me can walk into this office and I have set the bar for him or her to do the job.
“It’s a huge responsibility,” she added, “and it also shows young women who are out there and thinking of running for any position in this world, it shows them that they can set out and do it if they want something better. They can go for it.”
Philadelphia’s Office of the Sheriff responsibilities include providing a safe environment for judges, jury members, defendants—for anyone who enters a Philadelphia courtroom. According to the office, deputies are responsible for transporting approximately 350-450 prisoners for trials and court appearances every day that courts are in session.
The office is also responsible for managing foreclosures throughout the City and County of Philadelphia. Currently, the Office of the Sheriff handles between 4,200 and 4,800 new foreclosures annually.
“I want to streamline and make sure that everything works the way that it’s supposed to work and make sure that people know all the programs that are existing to help them save their homes,” said Bilal when asked of her most immediate goals. “ I want to make sure employees of the Sheriff’s Office are treated with respect and trained so they can better serve the city. And show that things are set so people can feel comfortable with what the Sheriff’s Office does.”