Even as SEPTA Chief of Police Tom Nestel's ethics have recently come into question, his contacts at Penn stand by him.
On March 10, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a story describing contracts awarded to Chief Tom Nestel by the Philadelphia Parking Authority. Nestel told the Inquirer in an interview that the contracts were awarded because of his performance, not because of his friendship with former Philadelphia Parking Authority executive director Vincent Fenerty, who signed them.
Political watchdog group the Committee of Seventy raised questions about the nature of the contracts.
“On the face of it, it looks like good old-fashioned cronyism,” Committee of Seventy President David Thornburgh told the Inquirer.
The PPA has said it is not renewing Nestel’s contract.
Jeff Kessler, 2016 Wharton and Engineering graduate and executive chairman of the SEPTA Youth Advisory Council, has worked extensively with Nestel. Kessler defended his character in an interview with the DP.
“Out of all the professionals I’ve worked with, Chief Nestel is the one who continues to impress me in ways I wouldn’t imagine, even knowing I have such high expectations for the work he does,” Kessler said.
Although Kessler was familiar with the Inquirer report on Nestel’s contracts with the PPA, he was unable to comment on the nature of the contracts.
Through his role as SEPTA Chief of Police, Nestel has also worked with Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush in multiple joint projects between Penn Police and SEPTA police. When asked about his Nestel’s character, Rush defended his service as a police officer, and suggested that Nestel was passionate about his job.
“Tom is an intelligent and compassionate police officer, and our interactions have always been positive and supportive,” she said.
In addition to serving as SEPTA Chief of Police, Nestel is also working on his doctorate in criminology at Penn, having already received a master’s degree in the program. One criminology professor at Penn, Richard Berk, said he was unaware of the Inquirer report.
“Sorry, but I know nothing about Tom Nestel’s current circumstances,” he said in an email.
Nestel has previously served in the Philadelphia Police Department, where he was praised for his police work. In an interview with the DP when Nestel was first promoted, the Criminology Department Chair John MacDonald had called Nestel an “insightful, bright student.”
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