Philadelphia Mayor Taps D.C. Chief To Help Solve City's Murder Woes

This story was written by Ashwin Shandilya, Daily Pennsylvanian
There's a new sheriff in town.

Mayor-elect Michael Nutter announced Thursday that former Washington, D.C., Police Chief Charles Ramsey will be Philadelphia's next police commissioner.

Ramsey, a sometimes controversial media-savvy police chief, managed Washington, D.C.'s 4,400-member police department from 1998 to 2006, and served as deputy superintendent of Chicago's Police Department.

Nutter called Ramsey, who will replace current Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson in January, "one of the most well-respected crime fighters in the United States."

The much-anticipated appointment is Nutter's first step in attacking the city's high murder rate, and some say the selection of an outsider to head the department underscores Nutter's emphasis on new approaches to city problems.

"This appointment is a signal that Nutter will make his own choices without looking at how it's going to affect one political faction or another," said Ellen Kaplan, policy director for the Committee of Seventy, a nonpartisan group for the promotion of clean government.

Ramsey is credited with reducing Washington's homicide rate from 241 murders in 1999 to 169 in 2006. His use of crime-mapping techniques to identify crime-ridden areas also garnered him praise from criminology experts.

"He has the kind of experience and reason necessary to tackle our crime problems," said Lawrence Sherman, director of Penn's Jerry Lee Center of Criminology and an advisor on Nutter's crime plan.

"He's part of a growing number of police executives who focus resources as precisely as possible," Sherman said.

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, pointed to Ramsey's bold leadership, arguing that the police chief wasn't afraid to restructure officer shifts and departments to tackle spikes in crime.

But Ramsey's tenure in Washington wasn't without controversy.

In 2002, his department arrested 400 people protesting against the World Bank without warning, leading to a lengthy legal battle.Representatives from Washington's police union also did not have the kindest words for Ramsey.

Kristopher Baumann, chairman of Washington's Fraternal Order of Police, said Ramsey destroyed police morale by focusing "help and attention on the districts where there was power, media attention, and money."

"In the worst parts of town, like the 7th district, homicide totals didn't change," he said. "The police officers that needed us the most didn't get the equipment or funding they needed."

Baumann claimed Ramsey received a favorable reputation because of his excellent media-relations team.

"Ramsey is an absolute king when it comes to talking to reporters," he said. "It's all style, not substance."

That disparity heavily damaged police morale and led to the loss of 1,000 police officers, Baumann said.

Sherman dismissed Baumann's claims, arguing that "police unions are supposed to criticize police executives."

"If the FOP said nice things about Ramsey, I would have more reservations about praising him," he added.
© 2007 Daily Pennsylvanian via U-WIRE