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Philadelphia names new police commissioner

PHILADELPHIA -- Chief Inspector Richard Neal, who spent 30 years working his way up the ladder at the Philadelphia police department, was named Wednesday to head the city's 6,300 men and women in blue.

Neal, 52, was introduced by Mayor Ed Rendell at a news conference at City Hall.

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He replaces former Police Commissioner Willie Williams, who resigned in May to replace embattled Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates.

'If anyone had told me 30 years ago I'd be here today I'd have gently smiled and walked away,' said Neal. 'I'd have said they didn't know what they were talking about.'

Neal, who has headed the Patrol Division since last year, becomes the city's second black police commissioner. Williams was the first.

Neal said one of his priorities as commissioner is to address the increasing number of hate crimes in the city. He also vowed to promote community involvement in fighting crime.

In an effort to improve the relationship of police officers with the city's various racial groups, Neal said he will require sensitivity training for all officers.

'Officers need to understand the various ethnicities,' he said.

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Neal said his first order of business will be to implement a decentralization program that will split the city north and south into two police districts so police can respond better to the needs of the community.

Rendell selected Neal from five finalists, all of whom come from within the department.

'Without question Richard Neal is the best man for the job,' said Rendell, who passed over acting Commissioner Thomas Seamon.

'He's a beat cop. He's a proven administrator. He's decisive. He'll be a strong leader but he'll also listen. He'll tap into all available talent in the department.'

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