by Vincent Gibson
A brother battles to have his brother’s death by suicide recognized as a line of duty death by the city of Philadelphia so that his name can be added to the Police Officer’s Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
Brother of Detective Joseph Gibson, Badge #8105
Philadelphia (PA) Police Department
Assigned to: South Detectives
24th & Wolf Street, Philadelphia (PA)
When Joseph graduated from the Philadelphia Police Academy in 1995, he was assigned to the 25th District which is known as the “badlands” in North Philadelphia. Before his graduation from the academy, he was scared because of the district he was being assigned. Joseph almost turned in his badge and gun. But the one single word from our mom to Joe was that our dad would be proud. From that day forward, Joseph took his role in the Philadelphia Police Department with pride.
When we found out that our mom was sick, Joe put in for a transfer to the 1st District. Joseph rode a patrol car and later took the test for detective. Upon passing the test, he was assigned to South Detectives. While off duty one evening, a man tried to rob Joe in broad daylight at Broad and Snyder Avenues in South Philly. He received the surprise of his life when Joe pulled a gun on him and told the suspect that he was an off-duty police officer and that he was under arrest. For his efforts that night, Joseph was named Officer of the Month. During his career, he touched many people’s lives both off and on duty.
Joseph married his wife, Eileen O’Meara in 2006. At their wedding, we played the song Bad Boys by the Inner Circle band. The song was made popular by the television program, COPS – “Bad boys, bad boys what you gonna do when we come for you?” – Joseph got a big kick out of this. He and his wife, along with his brothers, Vince and Charlie, and cousin, Chas had a blast that night. It was a happy time for all of us.
In 2009, Joseph’s wife, Eileen, passed away. He took this very hard and, to be honest, it was difficult for me to see my brother crying. After Eileen’s funeral, Joseph seemed fine. He and I spent a lot of time together. He would always come to the house about 9:00 pm. We would have a lot of talks about all kinds of things pertaining to government issues to the economy and to police work. He also said that ever since he became a police officer all he ever saw was crime – rape, robbery, homicide, and suicide cases.
On Dec 26, 2010, Joseph was supposed to work the 4 pm – 12 pm shift that night. When he did not show up at the district and was not answering his phone, a patrol car from the 5th District was sent to check on my brother. It was not like him to not show up for duty. When the officers got to Joseph’s home, they found him.
At approximately 8:00 pm that night, a patrol car came to my house with the tragic news about my brother. Joseph had taken his own life. The gun was still in his hand when he was found. I don’t think I have to say how bad it was at my home when the detectives told me.
It is now two years since my brother’s death and we don’t hear from the police department. I am trying to get my brother’s 15 years of service honored. I have been in contact with Mr. John McNesby, president of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5, as well as the Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. Even though my brother was an active Philadelphia police officer at the time of his death, he was not recognized for his service to the department or his community. There was no playing of taps, no 21 – gun salute, and no folding of the United States flag or the police department’s flag. All Joseph got was a hand salute which I think is a disgrace!
Detective Joseph Gibson was born on June 16, 1970 in Philadelphia, PA to the late Charles & Betty Gibson. In March 1978, our father died of lung cancer. Joseph was only 8 years old and I was 16, brother Mark was 10 and Charlie was 18. My brothers and I struggled with dad’s passing. In 1998, Mark died in a car crash. In May of 2000, we lost our mom and on December 17, 2009, Joseph’s wife, Eileen, died. Joseph often commented that he could not take much more tragedy.
Joseph left a three page letter behind which I have a copy. In the letter, he writes to his wife that he wanted to hold her hand again and walk with her and dance with her. He also wrote to his wife and asked her to ask our parents and our brother Mark to help him come home. On the very last page at the bottom, Joseph wrote that he didn’t want to live anymore.
I miss my brother, Joseph, so very much. It hurts so much inside but, at the same time, I will not allow the Philadelphia Police Department to dishonor my brother. All police officers should be honored for their service to their department, community, and to law enforcement. It’s not how they died; it’s how they lived their lives as Philadelphia police officers that make them heroes to their families.
Dear Mr. Gibson,
My name is Lieutenant Kevin Long, Executive Administrative Officer for Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey. Commissioner Ramsey has asked that I respond on his behalf in regards to your question of the Plaque Dedications for our fallen officers.
I must first express my sincerest sympathies to you and your family for the loss of your dear brother Joseph. Although not having the honor of knowing your brother personally, I have learned through co-workers how wonderful a person he truly was.
In regards to your question, the Philadelphia Police Department is merely a support function of the Plaque Dedication program. The program is administered through the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 5, along with financial support from Philadelphia Attorney, Mr. James Binns. The Commissioner has no involvement on the selection process or criteria that must be met to be considered to be honored with a plaque. I am sorry to say that I must refer you to the Fraternal Order of Police for the answer to your question.
I have taken the steps to contact the FOP and they have asked that you discuss this issue further with Recording Secretary, Mr. Robert Ballantine. The phone number for Mr. Ballentine is 215-629-3600, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My best wishes for you and your family,
Office of the Police Commissioner
Letter of Appreciation to Andy O’Hara and THE BADGE OF LIFE
Thank you so very much for honoring my brother, Joseph, and for putting my name on the wall. I want to ask you something. There is something that I wrote in honor of my brother’s service to the police department and I’m wondering if you can use it on the wall to honor all officers and survivors.
Police Officers are people who have answered the call of Law Enforcement they serve and protect the cities, towns and communities we live in and these officers are excellent role models for our young and impressionable children but some of these officers gave their lives – IN THE LINE OF DUTY – and they must never be forgotten.
And there are officers who took their own lives that deserve to be honored for their service to their Departments, Communities, and to Law Enforcement because these officers must be honored the same way as a line of duty death and they must never be forgotten. Because it is not how they died it’s how they lived their lives that made them hero’s to their families.
Written by Vincent Gibson
Brother of Detective Joseph Gibson Badge # 8105 Philadelphia Police Department
Vincent Gibson would graciously like to acknowledge Charles A. Smith, Commander of the Tennessee Valley Authority Police, for playing Amazing Grace in memory of his brother, Detective Joseph Gibson’s 14 years of service to the Philadelphia Police Department. Commander Smith commenced the playing of the Scottish bagpipes at 4:00 pm on December 26, 2012; the precise day and time that Detective Gibson was supposed to report for work on the day of his death in 2010. Commander Smith also signed the Badge of Life page on the Piper’s Wall in honor of Joseph.
Dedicated in memory of Detective Joseph Gibson by his loving brother, Vincent Gibson. Joseph is sadly missed and forever in our hearts.