(Photo by Flickr user PlanPhilly | EyesOnTheStreet, used under a Creative Commons license)
Charles Brennan is headed back to City Hall.
After nearly five years in the private sector, the former police IT chief will return to run technology for the City of Philadelphia. (He will be Chief Technology Officer, not Chief Innovation Officer, a new title that ex-Mayor Michael Nutter had given to former CIO Adel Ebeid.)
Brennan rose from street cop to top tech cop during his 30-year career with the Philadelphia Police Department, learning the ropes during a time when there wasn’t much will behind technology — he remembers having to force computers on police captains. He was the department’s first deputy commissioner of science and technology and the last cop to hold the role. When he left to work for the State of Pennsylvania in 2006, the Police Department hired a civilian to run police IT.
Brennan oversaw numerous projects, including putting mobile computers inside cop cars, implementing a digital arrest warrant system and automating payroll. He said he’s most proud of making crime data accessible so officers could do their jobs better. When he started at the Police Department, if an officer wanted data on a certain crime, it would take two weeks to get it, he said.
“But when I left,” he said, “you could do it in two seconds.”
Azavea’s Robert Cheetham, whom Brennan hired to develop a crime mapping system, described Brennan as a leader who saw the value of technology when others didn’t.
Brennan, Cheetham said to us in 2012, “was really an example of someone who had the leadership to see what was possible, to see how [technology] could have an impact on crime.”
In some ways, that has definitely changed — think of the emphasis on innovation and open data during the Nutter administration, though there are surely some holdouts inside City Hall.
When we last checked, Brennan was living in Roxborough and working for a 911 management service in Pottsville, Pa. According to his LinkedIn, he’s since left that role to run his own public safety consulting business. The press announcement also noted that he’s been the Deputy General Project Manager for Alcatel-Lucent’s installation of a radio network for a large public transportation system in New Jersey. We’ll follow up with an interview shortly.
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