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January 2002

Officer Virginia Hill

Philadelphia (PA) Police Department's

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund has announced the selection of Police Officer Virginia Hill, as the January 2002 Officer of the Month. Police Officer Hill is currently assigned to Philadelphia (PA) Police Department's Juvenile Aid Division.

Virginia Hill's career in law enforcement began in 1977 as a transit officer in Philadelphia's 14th District. Her love of children and her desire for investigative case work led to her transfer to the department's Juvenile Aid Division in 1981. Seasoned, veteran police officers will tell you that there is no other case like that of a missing child. Even after all leads have been exhausted and the case it cold, it consumes them. Police Officer Virginia Hill has spent the past twenty years working to locate Philadelphia's missing children and bring to justice those responsible for crimes against the youngest citizens of the "City of Brotherly Love."

In 1984 Officer Hill so impressed her superiors that she was designated the department's lead investigator of cases involving children missing for more than 30 days. She received these cases only after citywide teams of highly skilled detectives had exhausted their resources. With a caseload as high as 100 on any given day, Officer Hill was able to close some of the city's oldest cases regarding missing children. A local news reporter stated, "Hill has made finding lost, abandoned, murdered and abused Philadelphia children a science. To date, her success rate is truly impressive. By opening old missing children files, she has solved 5 of the city's 8 longest-running missing children nightmares."

In June 2000 Officer Hill embarked on her most challenging case; that of sixteen year old Martin Burkle, who was reported missing on October 13, 1975. During those twenty-five years Martin's mother never gave up hope that her son would be found. Many years after the disappearance, she learned that a body of an unidentified white juvenile male was found in New Jersey. She contacted the Philadelphia Police Department and Officer Hill became actively involved in the investigation. During that summer, while reviewing New Jersey State Police reports, she learned that hunters found the nude body of a male on the banks of Big Timber Creek in Gloucester Township on October 16, 1975. Authorities were unable to establish the identity of the nude body at the time.

Police Officer Hill obtained photographs of the body and known photos of Martin Burkle. On each she detected a small birthmark on the chin. Comparison of dental records confirmed that the remains were those of young Martin Burkle, who had been missing at that point for more than 25 years. Then-Police Commissioner John F. Timoney commended Police Officer Hill's success in solving this case, saying, "I am proud of the tireless efforts put forth by her. Her dedication to duty and faithful service during this investigation are indeed praiseworthy and I commend her for a job well done."

Officer Hill's determination and professionalism earned her select membership in the Vidocq Society, one of the world's most unusual crime-solving organizations. The Vidocq Society honors Eugène François Vidocq, the brilliant 18th century French Police Officer who founded the Sûreté, by applying their collective forensic skills and experience to "cold" cases, particularly murders. Vidocq members, who accept no fees for their services, evaluate, investigate, and often solve the unsolved crimes that are brought to them.

Officer Hill attributes her success to a "…higher force that puts me in the right place at the right time." In addition, she credits the efforts of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the medical examiner's office, and especially Haskell Atkins, an odentologist, specializing in dental work.

Police Officer Hill is an active member of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement (NOBLE). She makes regular appearances on local radio and television programs to advertise the plight of missing children. Ms. Hill is a regular speaker at local public schools and a guest lecturer at area universities and colleges. This mother of four and grandmother of 13 considers all missing children "her kids." Virginia Hill's message to "her kids" is simple and to the point: she teaches children to be street smart to help them avoid becoming victims.