To date as your National Historian I have penned fourteen “Spotlight” Articles for the Associate Magazine, all of them about National Academy graduates. However, I am stepping out of the box to write about who I believe to be one of the most over looked individuals of our National Academy experience: The National Academy Training Tech in the local office.
I attended Session 152 from January 10 to March 25, 1988, and at age 32 was one of the youngest in my Session. I was nominated by then SSRA of the Newtown Square, Pennsylvania Field Office, Sid Pruitt. The National Academy Training Coordinator at the time was Ed Gerrity, and the Tech was Patricia (PJ) Jones. PJ was the Tech prior to my going to the Academy and remained in that position until her retirement in 2007, when our current Tech, Elizabeth (Betsy) McCreery came to work for the Bureau in Philadelphia.
I have had the pleasure of working with Betsy for many years, and it is my privilege to provide you with a glimpse of this remarkable lady's accomplishments.
Betsy's family originally resided in the Kensington section of Philadelphia prior to moving to “Northeast Philly.” Born at Temple hospital in Philadelphia on August 28, 1954 as the second child of Dolores and Jeremiah McCreery, her childhood was filled with mostly day trip vacations to Wildwood and Cedar Lake in New Jersey. In the winter, Betsy's father would take her and her siblings out of school for day trips to Atlantic City, making sure to keep peace with the school’s Nuns by bringing them a box of salt water taffy to make up for the occasional absences. I am told by Betsy’s sister Dolores that Betsy inherited her father’s charming personality.
For those of us who experienced growing up in Philly, a staple seasonal tradition was attending the Thanksgiving Day Parade, known back in the day as, “Gimbels Thanksgiving Day Parade." We would argue it held the title of best Thanksgiving Day Parade in the Country, although our New York friends will claim the Macy’s Parade holds that high honor. Betsy and most of her family would head off to enjoy the parade while her mother stayed at home to cook the Thanksgiving meal, always insisting later that she saw her family on TV. Historic trips to the Betsy Ross House, Independence Hall, and Valley Forge were frequent day trips that had an educational component in Betsy's childhood. In fact, the family has a relative Samuel McCreery, whose name is posted as a Revolutionary War soldier who fought and sacrificed his life at Valley Forge.
Betsy’s father Jeremiah V. McCreery, Jr. was a Philadelphia Policeman assigned to the 2nd District; which, at the time encompassed all of Northeast Philadelphia, including and past the Northeast Airport. Jeremiah was a WWII veteran stationed at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked. The McCreerys have a long history as civil servants, Betsy’s grandfather Jeremiah, was a Battalion Chief in the Philadelphia Fire Department and her Uncle Joseph McCreery was Deputy Commissioner in the Philadelphia Fire Department. Dolores McCreery was a stay-at-home Mom until all of the children were in High School, at which point she worked as an Assistant Manager at Marianne Shops at Neshaminy Mall, where all of the teenage girls shopped at the time.
Betsy developed a strong work ethic, and at age nine after her father converted a Baby Stroller into a “Vending Cart," she sold soft pretzels from the time she was nine, until she was seventeen. Every Saturday during the school year, and six days a week during the summer, she would purchase 250 soft pretzels for 2.5 cents each and sell them for 5 cents each, selling out her inventory every day. Betsy became so well recognized that she was known around the neighborhood as “Besty Pretzels,” and there are still some folks who will occasionally refer to her using this moniker.
Graduating from pretzel sales, Betsy started her career as a Paralegal with ARAMARK, but it didn’t take long for her to realize that she was not cut out to sit behind a desk all day. In 1976 the Philadelphia Police Department opened their first class that included women. Betsy applied and states that, “although the training was tough, the hardest part was learning to button my shirt on the wrong side.” And so began Betsy's long career with law enforcement, setting her on a track that would eventually lead to the Bureau.
In short order Betsy gained the reputation as an outstanding officer, referred to by her peers as someone who “always had their backs.” This reputation was proven all too true when a shootout occurred on Broad Street while Betsy was working. Two FBI Agents had been shot on the street and Betsy was the first officer to respond to the scene. On arrival, she pulled both wounded Agents from the street into her patrol car, and transported them to Temple University Hospital, where they were both treated and recovered from serious and near fatal wounds. Betsy was later honored by the FBI for her heroic, life-saving efforts, and when she retired from the Police Department years later, FBI Agent Richard Macko, one of the wounded agents, provided a moving tribute regarding her actions.
In 1998 Betsy was honored as “Officer of the Year,” and she received the award in a ceremony hosted at the District where her father had served prior to his retirement. Betsy states that it was one of her proudest moments because her father, sister, and sons were all present to see her honored. In addition to the 1998 award, on March 10th of this year Betsy was honored by the Police Chief’s Association of Southeast Pennsylvania as their 2018 “Woman of Year” for her continuing dedication to enhancing the Law Enforcement profession.
Betsy’s true love was patrol. She spent twenty-two years in uniformed patrol before being “volunteered” into the Narcotics Bureau. It was through her time with the Narcotics Bureau that she developed a strong relationship with the FBI, working with them on large drug seizures on an almost daily basis.
As the years flew by, and with her husband's, Charles Smith's, retirement from the Philly Police Department, Betsy too felt it was time to retire. However, retirement and sitting still did not suit her very well. Betsy remedied this by applying to the FBI, and soon began her work coordinating police training for Philadelphia and surrounding Counties covered by the Philadelphia Field Office.
Like Betsy and her husband Charles, their children sought careers focused on the law. Their son Evan is an FBI Agent in New York City, and their son Ryan works as a teacher and focuses on educating students in law debate and history, which certainly combine for interesting dinner conversations.
Betsy’s sister Dolores summed it up best by saying, “When you know Betsy, you know that she is diligent in performing at an excellence-only level, all the while with a funny light-hearted attitude. She is always quick to make friends and is endeared by all. Her police knowledge is extensive and is accompanied by her passion to take police training to a higher level.”
Each of the SAC’s and Training Coordinators that have worked with Betsy acknowledge that she is what makes the NA function in the Philadelphia Office flow so smoothly. Personally, I appreciate all that each of the NA Training Techs do for our Chapters and the Bureau as a whole. Having worked most closely with this woman known as Betsy, Bets, or even Betsy Pretzels, I know that if we are all in the hands of someone even half as committed to excellence as Elizabeth "Betsy" McCreery, nothing can stand in our way as we continue to educate, serve, and protect.
Although she has no immediate plans for another retirement, maybe if she gets bored again perhaps she’ll return to her first job, selling pretzels, or better yet, just relaxing and enjoying time with her husband, children and grandchildren.
On behalf of the Eastern PA Chapter, the countless individuals who have received assistance from a woman they come to know as “Bets” at Mid-Atlantic LEEDS, the International Homicide Investigators, or during the registration process at one of our National Re-training Conferences, and from me personally, thank you for all that you do, and for all that you have done to improve our careers, our experiences, and our lives.