With the Chicago Police Department under the national spotlight, in the aftermath of the shooting death of black teenager Laquan McDonald, by white police officer Jason Van Dyke, the department has faced considerable criticism, and a backlash from the city’s black community for overly aggressive policing. In an effort to quell the anger, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced on Sunday, the appointment of former Philadelphia police chief, Charles Ramsey, as Senior Advisor, to help bring both order, and trust to the force.
Ramsey, a 30 year veteran, who was also police chief tor Washington, D.C., is a Chicago native, and grew up on the city’s South Side, in the Englewood neighborhood, and is widely seen as both an agent of change, and an advocate for effective community policing.
“Hopefully, we will begin to make progress, make inroads, in many communities where relationships are strained,” the 65 year-old said, in response to questions, reported the Chicago Tribune. It also noted that he will still reside in Philadelphia, but commute, as needed, and especially work with the U.S. Dept. of Justice in their investigation of not only the McDonald case, but the policing efforts of the entire department.
In the statement released by the mayor’s office, he said: “Commissioner Ramsey is not only a national leader in urban policing who has led two major police departments through civil rights reforms — he is also a native Chicagoan who knows our Police Department and our communities,”
True to his role as advisor, Ramsey said that he was not interested in the open position as top cop to replace the former superintendent, ousted Garry McCarthy, but wants to focus on rebuilding community trust, and working with the Justice Dept, whose prior interventions have resulted in sweeping changes in other cities. In fact, Ramsey specifically said, “We’re going to make sure we enforce the changes that they’ll recommend,” according to the Tribune.
What many may not know is that he also, in his Washington and Philadelphia tenures, requested judicial investigations of the departments he led, with positive results that led to a change in police practices. And, in 2013 he was assigned to a White House Task Force to develop community policing by President Barack Obama.
“He’s demonstrated time and time and time again that he would not accept corruption or misconduct by officers,” said Philadelphia mayor, Michael Nutter. And, continuing his praise, he also said, “I think he established a level of trust with the city when if a bad thing happened, people knew there would be a full-fledged investigation, and it would be legitimate and it would be thorough, and at the end we’d let the chips fall where they may.”
Ramsey is expected to take a close look at police training, and accountability, and when the police need to interact with a show of force, and also dealing with those individuals that are mentally ill.
While in Washington, he was credited with training, both as an issue and as a necessity. The Chicago Sun-Times reported him saying, ““Firearms training prior to my arrival was mandatory but not enforced,” Ramsey said. “We had officers going two to three years without training. Tactics were poor when you dissected those cases. Judgment was questionable. We required people to go through training twice a year, myself included — not just target practice, but reality-based training to improve judgment.” The result he said was an 85 percent drop.
In Philadelphia during 2013, as police commissioner, he also faced an increase in police involved shootings, and requested a Justice Department review, and “The 18-month investigation resulted in 91 recommendations that were released in March — and about 40 percent of them have been carried out, Ramsey said,” according to the Sun-Times.
Acting police Superintendent John Escalante said in his statement. “I look forward to relying on his counsel and leadership. and also that “Commissioner Ramsey’s return to the Chicago Police Department is an opportunity to build on the important work we are undertaking to restore trust between the department and Chicago’s residents.”