Philly Disclosure Episode 2: Chief Thomas Nestel III of the SEPTA Police

Chief Nestel in the studio Friday night.

Chief Nestel in the Scrapple.TV studios Friday night.

Last Friday we spoke with Chief Thomas Nestel III, the senior law enforcement officer of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) Police, responsible for what he terms “the safety of a city of a million people in transit.” Nestel recently rolled out a pilot body-worn camera program to evaluate the technology’s use by officers in the city’s transit system. We spoke to the Chief about initial impressions of the cameras, as well as wider policing and civil liberties issues, and a bit of his experience utilizing the Delaware Valley Intelligence Center (which he refers to as the DVIC, pronounced ‘div-ik’), Philadelphia’s fusion center.

Chief Nestel also clarified the transit police’s position on the new Philadelphia marijuana decriminalization ordinance, explaining that SEPTA police will operate under the same guidelines as Philadelphia city officers, except that rather than retaining, testing, and storing confiscated contraband, the SEPTA officers will destroy it on scene.

A brief profile of the Chief, via the University of Pennsylvania Department of Criminal Justice:

Thomas J. Nestel, III currently serves as the Chief of SEPTA Transit Police . Prior to his appointment as Chief, he dedicated 22 years to the Philadelphia Police Department where he attained the rank of Staff Inspector and gained experience in a variety of policing functions. Nestel has conducted extensive research on the use of public domain surveillance systems (CCTV) and assisted in the authoring of the operating policy to guide Philadelphia’s program. He has also conducted several studies to determine the effectiveness of red light camera systems on intersection safety. Nestel has earned Masters Degrees from Saint Joseph’s University, the United States Naval Postgraduate School, and the University of Pennsylvania.


About Kenneth Lipp

Kenneth is a writer and researcher. He’s from Alabama, and will not apologize for it. He moved to Pennsylvania in 2012, but has been in love with Philadelphia since a late-night stroll down Ben Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum in July of 2011 with the love of his life. He is interested in telling Philadelphia’s dynamic and absolutely unique stories with the zeal of a constantly enamored newcomer. Kenneth is also passionate about government transparency and protection of whistleblowers, most notably PFC Chelsea Manning. His research and reporting on law enforcement and surveillance have been featured in various publications, including Rolling Stone (Meet the Private Companies Helping Cops Spy on Protesters) and Popular Science (Boston Tested Crowd-Watching Software That Catalogues People's Skin Color). His training is in both genetics and history and he likes the joke about being a helicase and unzipping your “genes.” He’s driven to know, and thinks you can handle, the truth. Follow him on Twitter @kennethlipp.

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