A well-known Philadelphia police officer is at the center of an investigation into whether she violated department policy by working full time for the city and part time in nearby Colwyn Borough.
Rochelle Bilal has been a Philadelphia police officer since 1986 and she also serves the department’s African-American officers as president of the Guardian Civic League. But now her credibility is on the line due to an investigation into whether Bilal, 55, was secretly working as the public safety director of nearby Colwyn Borough while still an active Philadelphia police officer – a violation of department policy.
Last Friday, under a search warrant initiated by the Philadelphia Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division, law enforcement authorities, including federal officers, went into the offices of Colwyn Borough Hall and the Colwyn Borough Police Station. According to the Affidavit of Probable Cause, they were after employment and work records of Borough employees. Internal Affairs believed there was sufficient probable cause to charge Bilal with theft and removed several computers and files from the Borough’s offices.
Bilal denied the allegations.
“It’s groundless. If they’re saying that I was on the city payroll while I was working in Colwyn — that didn’t happen,” Bilal said. “Was I working eight hours as a police officer and working in Colwyn? No. Anything else is for my lawyer to determine.”
According to the affidavit, the facts that support the probable cause came about on April 18, 2013, when Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey requested that Internal Affairs conduct an investigation into unauthorized employment by Bilal. Based on a Philadelphia Daily News article dated April 19, 2013 it was reported that Bilal was secretly employed as the Borough’s public safety director while still employed as a full-time Philadelphia police officer.
“Police Officer Rochelle Bilal indicated in the article that she had been working for Colwyn Borough since September 2012 while still employed with the Philadelphia Police Department,” the affidavit said. The document goes on to state that Chief Inspector Carl Holmes stated that while he was assigned as the inspector of the Narcotics Bureau, Bilal submitted a request to work as a consultant for Colwyn. The request was made in late September or early October, according to Holmes and he denied it. The employment position in Colwyn was prohibited by Directive 121 which governs outside employment by PPD officers and Holmes stated that he personally discussed the matter with Bilal.
“At this point I don’t know if the allegations are true or not, we’re trying to determine that” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. “I’ve got Internal Affairs looking into it and my understanding is that she’s retired. The question is whether or not she was still on our payroll while she was in Colwyn. Right now I’m not in a position to definitively say if she was or not.”
As indicated in the affidavit, Bilal made a similar request to Inspector Kevin Hall when he was assigned to the Narcotics Bureau and he also refused. Mayor Daniel Rutland of Colwyn stated that Bilal was hired as public safety director in September 2012 and alleges he observed Bilal working two to three times a week at the Colwyn Borough Police Station. When interviewed, he produced a financial printout showing Bilal was paid $732.49 for work she allegedly performed in January 2013. Last month at a meeting in Colwyn’s Borough Town Hall, Bilal was introduced as the public safety director.
Bilal’s attorney, Brian Puricelli said there’s no evidence to support the allegations against his client.
“I don’t know what they’re trying to do here. I haven’t seen any evidence of any wrongdoing and I’ve thoroughly read the search warrant,” Puricelli said. “If she worked there while on vacation from the department that’s not a violation. I would like to see what specific days they’re saying she worked as Colwyn’s public safety director.”