Staff Q&A: Philip Lydon Sr. and Philip Lydon Jr.

It must be in the blood.

Detective Philip Lydon Sr., and his son, Officer Philip Lydon Jr., are Penn heroes, keeping streets and homes safe and even giving the breath of life. The two recently received merit commendations, which recognize work above and beyond the call of duty, from Penn’s Division of Public Safety.

While it wasn’t the first award Lydon Sr. has seen in his long career, it was a special first for his son. Lydon Jr. said he got one of those rare chances to help save a life, performing CPR on a civilian who had sustained multiple chest injuries. “He had taken a million and one falls on his chest,” said Lydon Jr. And he wasn’t even assigned to the call; he just happened to drive by at that crucial moment.

Not to be outdone, Lydon Sr. quickly put two and two together and helped put a robber on the loose behind bars, all within a matter of days.

We spoke with the duo about the adrenaline and anxiety involved in the world of public safety.

Q.How did you feel about your son going into public safety?
A. Sr.
Me, I thought it was great. But now my wife, it [is] bad enough that when I leave for work she has to worry about me coming home. And with him wanting to get into it, it turned into the same thing [so that] now, hey, [she’s] gotta worry about both.

Q.So how do you stop the people you love from worrying?
A. Sr
. Some parts of the job I don’t tell her [his wife]. I don’t tell anything that involves him [Lydon Jr.] because I don’t feel it’s my place. I always leave it up to him to tell his mother.
With my situation, it’s different. I’m off the street. The probability of me getting hurt here is lot less. Sometimes I tell her certain things I do, sometimes I don’t, depending on how I see her day’s going. I’ve been with her 25 years, so I know when to take a backseat.
Jr. I’m pretty much the same way. The only difference is with my fiancée, I really tell her everything, and if she doesn’t want to hear it, I let her tell me, “OK, that’s it.” I draw the line at that.
With my mother, I’ll pretty much tell her everything that’s happened that’s major because I’d rather her hear it coming from me. Sometimes with mothers she’s gotta see it for herself—
Sr. She’s gotta hear it from her baby boy.
Jr. And that’s why I go and tell her.
Sr. Don’t get me wrong, the major stuff, like when I’ve been hurt on the job, I’ve told her right away. There have been a couple of times when I’ve even come home because I’ve been hurt. If I leave early, I’ll call her and tell her I’m coming home and I’m all right because if I come home before my normal time they start panicking. But I give her the heads up. Like I said, it’s been years. He’s just feeling his way with his fiancée on what she might want to hear.

Q.Do you interact with each other on a daily basis?
A. Jr.
Fortunately, we’ve never had to deal with that. You get upset when someone is doing something to your partner, but if it’s your father or son…well, we’ve never had to deal with that. We got lucky in that aspect. I don’t think I would overreact, but you don’t want to be put into a situation where somebody could be hitting your dad. When it’s your blood, it’s different.
Sr. I agree with him there. [But] I’m on a different end of it. In here we also listen to radio calls and you don’t react, but then again when you turn around and you hear—for instance, I heard Phil make a…stop, to stop a guy for an investigation regarding a burglary and then all of a sudden I heard foot pursuit. My first reaction [was] to [get] up and go after him, but I had to have confidence in the guys who were out there with him to make him come back safely.
It’s automatic when you’re on the street and you hear any officer get into a pursuit. The adrenaline starts pumping because you know you’re going to have to react, but now I [have] a different point of view. I’m sitting here at my desk, hearing him do a stop, which is fine because I’ve heard him do many stops, but then I hear the voice go up a little higher in tones. You don’t know what happened.

Q.Is he your only son? Your only kid?
A. Sr.
He’s my only son. I have two twin girls, 22. One of them is actually a security officer working for SpectaGuard and there are two others that are adopted, one is 19 and the other is 18, and then there’s two grandchildren, 3 and 1 1/2. Before I get into any trouble, my wife works here also. She’s a teacher at the Children’s Center, the daycare. And like he says, his fiancée is a teacher.

Originally published on February 7, 2002