New police commissioner takes charge

January 9, 2008 9:05:52 PM PST
If Philadelphia is to enter a period of falling homicide rates and a decline in other kinds of crime, it will come under the watch of new police commissioner.

For almost six hours, new commissioner Chuck Ramsey shook hands and listened to residents concerns at Mayor Michael Nutter's open house at City Hall. Over and over again residents said they hope he can do something about the city's crime problems, and over and over again he assured them that the city will be okay.

He asked for residents' prayers as he prepares a plan to address the crime emergency that the new mayor declared shortly after being sworn into office. The truth of the matter is he has been working on the plan for weeks.

"I won't go into too much detail, because I owe the mayor a report in a few days," said Ramsey.

He prefers to wear the uniform as opposed to a suit, and as opposed to an unmarked Crown Victoria, he prefers driving a patrol car. Car One is emblazoned with four stars, which denote the rank of commissioner.

"From the beat officer on the street to the Commissioner of Police, we're all sworn to protect the residents of this great city and I think it is a message that needs to be sent from the top right down to the organization. We're all police officers and in order to be successful we all have to play our role," Ramsey said.

Something else that Ramsey has been methodically mulling is his command structure. He expects to make changes here, but will need sweeping changes in the home rule charter to allow him to create his own command staff.

"That doesn't mean just clean house and get rid of everybody. You judge people based on their capabilities, but at least you have the ability to put a management team together that you're comfortable with and you can carry out your directions as appropriate," he said.

Mayor Nutter agrees and said he would urge city council to put the question before voters.

"The police commissioner has to decide how he wants to structure the department and lay out a command staff. We're not going to get into a number's game. He has to put together to department in the best way he thinks makes the streets of Philadelphia safer and that's what this real issue is all about," said Nutter.

The police union has indicated that it does not object to the commissioner having the power to appoint more deputies, but they are against him being allowed to promote, transfer or demote officers ranked captain and above.

Clearly, there are more discussions ahead as Ramsey looks to put his own structure in place to combat the city's crime problems.