Former Chicago officer returns to advise department on civil rights reform – Chicago Tribune
Recently retired Philadelphia police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, an architect of the Chicago department’s community policing program, will return to advise city leaders on policies, training and accountability when it comes to the use of force, interactions with people with mental illness and community policing, the city said in a statement Sunday. Ramsey lost bids in 1992 and 1998 to become police superintendent in Chicago.
“Hopefully, we will begin to make progress, make inroads, in many communities where relationships are strained,” said Ramsey, who grew up in Englewood.
Ramsey, 65, said he believes Emanuel and police commanders “have a sense of urgency” about making improvements.
“I wouldn’t be a part of this if I didn’t think their efforts were sincere,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey will be paid $350 per hour as a consultant, the mayor’s office said. He plans to begin work Monday, participating in a conference call with officials in Chicago. Ramsey, who lives in Philadelphia, also plans to frequently travel to Chicago to work with police officers, community members and the U.S. Justice Department, which announced a review of the department in December in the wake of the release of the Laquan McDonald video.
“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,” Emanuel said in a statement. “With roots in Englewood, he has a unique understanding of the important role community relationships play in making our city safer.”
Ramsey said he was not interested in the open Chicago police superintendent job, instead preferring to focus his attention helping police departments work on rebuilding trust with communities. He also recently was hired as a consultant in Wilmington, Del.
The Justice Department will be reviewing the Police Department’s practices in Chicago, the type of investigation that has led to federal court oversight and sweeping reforms in other troubled big-city police departments throughout the country. Emanuel initially called the idea “misguided,” then reversed his opposition to align with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, both of whom already had called for the Justice Department to act.
“We’re going to make sure we enforce the changes that they’ll recommend,” Ramsey said.
As a chief in Washington, D.C., and later Philadelphia, Ramsey requested federal probes of his own police departments while he was at the helm.
Michael Nutter, the former mayor of Philadelphia who hired Ramsey as that city’s police commissioner, spoke highly of Ramsey’s ability to establish trust between the Police Department and residents, calling him one of the best police chiefs in the country. He said Ramsey’s call for the Justice Department to investigate the Philadelphia force showed his willingness to address issues of concern for residents by obtaining an outside view of officers’ behavior.
“He’s demonstrated time and time and time again that he would not accept corruption or misconduct by officers,” said Nutter, who left office on Jan. 4 after serving the maximum permitted two terms as Philadelphia mayor. “… 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.”
As Philadelphia commissioner, Ramsey, who has a son on the police force there, hosted a podcast from his neighborhood barbershop as another way to help establish a dialogue with community members.
“I’d talk to people there because barbershops, especially in the African-American community, tend to be a place where people gather and talk about issues,” Ramsey said. “People aren’t shy about their opinions.”
Ramsey began his law enforcement career in 1968 as a Chicago police cadet. Over the next 30 years, he held various positions with the CPD, including commander of the narcotics division, deputy chief of the patrol division and deputy superintendent, a role he held from 1994 to 1998, the year Mayor Richard M. Daley chose Terry Hillard to serve as his new police superintendent. Ramsey, a finalist, who also had been a contender in 1992, had said he would shake up the department. Hillard offered relative stability for subordinates who revered him.
Later that year, Ramsey was named top cop in Washington, D.C., where he served until early 2007 before becoming Philadelphia’s police commissioner. He retired from that post on Jan. 7. In January 2015, President Barack Obama tapped Ramsey to help lead the White House Task Force on 21st Century Policing, a group of leaders who counsel local and state governments on community relations.
“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,” acting police Superintendent John Escalante said in a statement. “I look forward to relying on his counsel and leadership.”