Police Officer Ernie Rehr is the Center Director at the Rizzo PAL Center. Officer Rehr was appointed to the Philadelphia Police Department in 1985 and was assigned to the PAL Police Unit on July 2, 1991. Rehr has been married 38 years to his wife, Robin, with whom he has two children and five grandchildren. When he’s not in the PAL Center, Officer Rehr loves to golf, travel with his wife, and spectate at his grandkids’ sporting events.
How did you first learn about PAL?
I was a member of the Police Memorial Pal Center in Frankford in the early-middle 1970’s, during my high school years, watching my friends box for PAL and hanging out.
What made you want to be a part of the PAL Unit?
After serving 5 years in the 25th Police District, I was assigned by Police Commissioner Willie Williams as the only officer to run a recreation center, McVeigh Rec Center, as part of the East Division Community Interaction Task Force. I did that for 18 months, and knew I wanted to remain a part of the City’s community policing efforts. PAL was a perfect next step.
History with the Police Athletic League?
I have been the running the Rizzo PAL Center for the last 25.5 years and I am also the director of the PAL citywide Wrestling, Golf and Bowling programs. I am now mentoring children of my former PAL kids!
Why do you think proactive community policing measures like PAL are so important?
Mentoring kids from a young age helps instill in them a sense of good citizenship and teaches them skills and behaviors to succeed in life. In their communities, PAL officers are part of the neighborhood fabric, offering resources when needed.
What is one thing you want every child to know?
Enjoy your childhood, have fun, and don’t be in too much of a hurry to grow up. But when you do, believe in yourself and anything is possible.
What kind of impact do you want to have on a child’s life?
I want to have a positive, influential and long-lasting impact in the lives of my PAL kids. I want them to be empowered, because then, the possibilities are endless.
Did you have a mentor who made an impact on you? Tell us about it.
My dad, a twenty-year member of the Philadelphia Police Department who retired as a sergeant, was my mentor. He was a Korean War veteran, and a widower, who raised four young children while a police officer. He always made time for his kids and supported us in everything we did.
Earlier in his life, he was an all-star football and baseball player at Ben Franklin High School. He signed with the Pirates Minor League Baseball Affiliate, but an injury ended his short career. One of my proudest moments was captaining the 1977 Community College of Philadelphia baseball team, and hitting a grand slam in the Junior College Championship with my dad in the stands.
What programs do you offer at your center? What programs are unique to your center?
So many programs are offered at Rizzo PAL, it would be hard to name them all. I am very proud of the Wrestling Program, which is unique to Rizzo PAL. That program has an amazing dedicated group of volunteers who have taught this time-honored sport to thousands of PAL kids over the past 35 years.
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