Police Commissioner Resigns, Goode Names Interim CommissionerAP , Associated Press
Nov. 14, 1985 9:39 AM ET
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Robert Armstrong, a 31-year police veteran, has been named interim head of a force torn by corruption investigations and criticism over the fiery MOVE confrontation and other police operations.
Armstrong, the deputy police commissioner, was named acting commissioner on Wednesday by Mayor W. Wilson Goode after the resignation of Commissioner Gregore Sambor.
Sambor, 57, gave no explanation for his decision, which came exactly six months after he directed his department in the MOVE confrontation.
He was the second of three top officials in charge of the MOVE operation to resign. This summer, former city Managing Director Leo Brooks also quit, citing personal reasons.
Goode said he will name a permanent replacement after a formal search. He said Armstrong, 55, ''knows that the odds are that he will, in fact, be replaced.''
Sambor told more than 200 officers at a meeting Wednesday morning that he will end his 35-year career with the force Nov. 30. He took over command in January 1984.
''There will be many who will second-guess this decision, and many who will deny that it is mine, but the simple truth of the matter is that it is time,'' Sambor told the officers, who gave him a standing ovation.
He made no reference to the confrontation with the radical cult MOVE on May 13. Eleven people died in the siege, and a police bomb set off a fire that burned 61 houses and caused up to $20 million in damage.
During public hearings in the MOVE tragedy, Goode testified that he had been misled and disobeyed by his subordinates on the scene and indicated he planned to take disciplinary action against Sambor.
Goode said Wednesday that Sambor, who two months ago announced he had no intention of quitting, was not pressured to leave the department.
Rank-and-file officers were skeptical.
''We're not going to take this lying down if he demanded Greg Sambor's resignation,'' said Richard Costello, recording secretary for Lodge 5 of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Sambor's 23 months as commissioner have been tainted by two other widely criticized police operations and a four-year FBI corruption investigation.
In ''Operation Cold Turkey,'' police detained and searched about 1,000 people on street corners noted for drug dealing. The practice was stopped when the American Civil Liberties Union sued in federal court, arguing the searches were unconstitutional.
When a police officer was killed in May, police rounded up numerous residents of a Hispanic community for questioning until a federal judge ordered the department to stop the ''repeated, persistent pattern of unconstitutional stops, detentions, seizures and frisks.''
The federal investigation of police corruption has led to 26 convictions or guilty pleas. Sambor has never been accused of wrongdoing and many of the allegations dated back to earlier administrations.
District Attorney Edward Rendell called the resignation ''a selfless act.''
''I think if he had chosen to stay, he could have stayed for a significant length of time,'' Rendell said. ''But I think his resignation is the best for the city and best for the department because it will allow the next commissioner to come in unencumbered with the problems of MOVE.''
Goode said Wednesday that he wants the other top official on the scene at the MOVE siege, Fire Commissioner William Richmond, to stay in the adminstration, but Richmond said he had not decided on his plans.