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August 17

Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney dies at age 68

Timoney served as Philadelphia’s police commissioner from 1998 to 2001.

John Timoney, a native New Yorker, speaks during a regional memorial service honoring rescue personnel that gave their lives helping victims of the World Trade Center attacks September 25, 2001, in Philadelphia. 

John Timoney, a native New Yorker, speaks during a regional memorial service honoring rescue personnel that gave their lives helping victims of the World Trade Center attacks September 25, 2001, in Philadelphia. 

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John Timoney, who served as Philadelphia’s police commissioner and in top roles at departments across the East Coast, has died following a battle with cancer.

Last month NBC Miami reported that Timoney was in the hospital undergoing treatment for stage four lung cancer. He passed away late Tuesday at age 68.

Timoney grew up in New York after coming to the U.S. from Dublin, Ireland, according to the Miami Herald, a city where he last served as police commissioner, and described him as the “very epitome of the tough Irish cop.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he spent four years heading the police department, said Timoney was “regarded as a thinking man's cop with a street sensibility.”

His career started on the streets in his hometown as a Bronx beat cop in 1969, according the New York Daily News. During his 29-year career with the NYPD he became the youngest person to serve as chief of department, and rose to first deputy commissioner.

"With John Timoney's passing, police officers everywhere have lost a true friend and defender,” NYC Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said in a statement to the Daily News. “John helped create and advance the ideals of modern, professional law enforcement. But he remained a cop, first and foremost, and he led from the front, often standing shoulder-to-shoulder with his police officers as they took police action on the street.”

The NYPD also honored the longtime member in a statement released from Commisioner Bill Bratton, calling him a “luminary” and “legend.” He said the “cop’s cop” was instrumental in delivering New York City “from the worst crime in its history.” 

Timoney's performance in New York apparently impressed Philadelphia’s then-Mayor Ed Rendell who recruited him to serve as the city’s top cop with NYPD Commissioner William Bratton’s recommendation, according to the Inquirer.

"He deserves incredible amount of credit for modernizing the Philadelphia Police force," Rendell told the paper.

Timoney served as Philadelphia police commissioner from 1998 to 2001, where even as the head of the department, would be seen on the streets, according to the Inquirer, which added he would patrol the city on his bike.

His time in Philadelphia, however, wasn’t free of criticism. Rendell told the Inquirer Wednesday that Timoney "probably went too far," referring to the 2000 Republican Convention, where hundreds were arrested and authorities infiltrated protest groups, the publication said. Timoney reportedly denied this at the time.

A year after leaving Philadelphia, Timoney was named chief of police in Miami, a position he held until 2010 before concentrating on consulting work.

“He was one of the best police chiefs we’ve ever had. He took the Miami Police Department leaps and bounds forward,” Miami Police Maj. Delrish Moss, who was recently tapped to be Ferguson, Missouri’s new head of police told the Miami Herald. “I probably owe the fact that I’m police chief in Ferguson to some of the things he saw in me that elevated my career.”

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