A SEPTA platform as a train arrives.
Photo credit: Deamstime.

SEPTA appoints Chief of Transit Police

Following a 10-month tenure as Acting Police Chief, Charles Lawson will begin as Police Chief for SEPTA this Sunday.


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Today, SEPTA announced that Charles Lawson has been promoted to Chief of SEPTA Transit Police, beginning May 14. He has been serving as Acting Police Chief since July 5, 2022.

Lawson took on the role following the departure of Thomas Nestel, who retired from the position last year.

As Chief, Lawson will oversee the Transit Police’s activities, including enforcing the law, preventing crime, and coordinating security operations to protect SEPTA employees, riders, and property.

SEPTA has said that between 2019 and 2021, crimes on their platforms, transit hubs, and vehicles increased by 80%. In this period, robberies went up from 118 to 217, with aggravated assaults rising from 46 to 86 in 2022.

Beginning his career over 29 years ago, Lawson joined as a Patrol Officer in 1993 before rising through the ranks. Prior to his role as Acting Chief of Transit Police, he served as a SEPTA Transit Police Inspector.

“[Lawson’s] three decades of dedication to the Authority makes him the ideal candidate to address the challenges we face on our system every day,” said SEPTA General Manager and CEO Leslie Richards, in a statement. 

“Under his leadership, we will continue to enhance our safety and security efforts, ensuring the best environment for our employees and riders,” she continued.

Over his career, Lawson has been a part of various initiatives enacted by SEPTA, including the Body-Worn Camera Program, and SEPTA's Transit Watch App.

During his tenure as Acting Chief, he created SEPTA's first Virtual Patrol Unit, assisting crime prevention through SEPTA's camera network of 28,000 cameras.

“Thanks to all of these efforts, [Lawson] is overseeing SEPTA’s largest officer recruitment class in more than 20 years, increasing our patrol ranks by more than 10%,” said SEPTA Chief Operating Officer Scott Sauer. 

“Having worked in every department within SEPTA Transit Police, [Lawson] is uniquely equipped to lead these new hires, as well as our existing officers,” he continued.

Lawson earned a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice from Peirce College and a School of Police Staff and Command Certification from Northwestern University, and a Certificate in LEadership and Management for Law from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“I look forward to serving SEPTA Transit Police in my new role,” said SEPTA Transit Police Chief Charles Lawson. 

“The safety and security of SEPTA’s employees and riders has always been my top priority,” he concluded.


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