Chester County's MIRT Team helped with unprecedented security for visit by Pope Francis
By Steven Hoffman
Det. John A. Trevisan, Jr. and officer Jeremiah Boyer, two members of the Kennett Square Police Department, took part in the security effort to protect Pope Francis while he visited Philadelphia during the last weekend in September.
The historic six-day visit by Pope Francis to New York City, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia produced one of the biggest security operations in U.S. history, and ten officers throughout Chester County were a part of the large security team in Philadelphia because of their special training with the county-wide Major Incident Response Team (MIRT). Trevisan, a 16-year veteran of the Kennett Square force, explained that there are about 25 officers who serve on the MIRT, and the response team has a mutual-aid agreement with Philadelphia and other law enforcement agencies to assist when special circumstances arise.
With the Pope visiting, Philadelphia needed all the law enforcement support it could get. When the opportunity arose to take part in the assignment to provide security during the Pope's visit, Trevisan said that he was eager to do so.
“I am Catholic so it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Trevisan explained during an interview last week. “It was a tremendous experience. I have a lot of respect for the Pope.”
On Saturday, Pope Francis spoke at Independence Hall before celebrating at the Festival of Families on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The MIRT officers from Chester County were assigned to patrol at 17th and Cherry streets in Philadelphia.
On Sunday, the Papal mass drew a crowd of approximately 800,000 people, and the Chester County MIRT was on roving patrol. At one point, the team was positioned on the campus of St. Joseph's University during the Pope's visit there, providing carefully planned out and coordinated protection.
At one point during the St. Joseph's University visit, Trevisan said, he was about 100 feet away from Pope Francis, and Boyer's assignment had him even closer to the Pope than that for a period of time.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security designated Pope Francis' visit to the U.S. as a National Special Security Event, placing it on the same level, in terms of security, as a political convention, the Olympics, or the Super Bowl. As a result of that designation, the U.S. Secret Service was charged with ensuring the Pope's security, coordinating the efforts of thousands of federal, state, and local law enforcement officers from numerous agencies. The Secret Service, the F.B.I., the New York City Police Department, the Pennsylvania State Police, and state police from neighboring states were all a part of the complex effort.
Trevisan said that, as a law enforcement professional, it was an amazing to see all the different agencies working together to provide the level of security necessary to protect the Pope and the hundreds of thousands of people who turned out to see him.
“My hat is off to the Philadelphia Police Department,” Trevisan said. “They did a fantastic job of coordinating everything.”