Ramsey's in, Johnson's out (Updated)

(Update from Dan): Everyone should check this out.

Nutter announced our new police chief today at the 51st and Chestnut YMCA: Charles Ramsey, the former head of police in Washington DC.

From philly.com:

Mayor-elect Michael Nutter today named former Washington police chief Charles H. Ramsey as his pick for police commissioner, citing Ramsey's "presence, record and passion" as key assets that he said will "turn the city around and bring about a new day in Philadelphia."

With nearly four decades of police experience, Ramsey comes to Philadelphia about a year after stepping down as the Washington police chief, a position he held from 1998 through 2006.

Nutter made the much-anticipated announcement at the YMCA at 51st Street and Chestnut Street, one of the city's most violent neighborhoods.

Among the criteria he was searching for, the mayor-elect said he wanted someone with a "proven crime-fighting record in a big, urban police department."

Ramsey, who left as the top cop in the nation's capital in January, when new Washington mayor Adrian M. Fenty took office, oversaw a significant drop in crime during his tenure.

He oversaw a 3,900-member police force; Philadelphia has about 6,600 officers.

Last month, Ramsey was a finalist for Baltimore's top police job, but the position went to a veteran of that city's department.

What do you think?


He seems to have the mentality to enforce stop-n-frisk with enthusiasm! His order to arrest a few hundred protesters in Pershing Park was denounced in federal court as violative of the 4th Amendment so willingness to crack some heads and take names doesn't seem to be an issue.

As long as he can keep his focus on law-breakers there shouldn't be a problem.

He will also need to adjust to a city without an absolute handgun ban, in fact one with extensive CCW holders. That might cause him some consternation . . .

As I said, if he can keep his focus on law-breakers there shouldn't be a problem. He seems to be a no nonsense law & order guy.

I'll reserve judgement

On one hand, he's not a recruit from within a dysfunctional system. On the other hand, this isn't John Timony, who was the best thing to happen to the Phila. police in my lifetime.

That being the case, a quick gander of the 'The Next Mayor' blog contains the following information on Ramsey:

He's said to be a big believer in community policing, which he also championed in his hometown, Chicago.

As I've said elsewhere, community policing- simply described as the notion that community interaction and support can help control crime, with community members helping to identify suspects, and bring problems to the attention of police (thx, Wikipedia)- is one strategy which is desperately needed in Philadelphia. This is especially the case w/communities where there is little to no trust of the police.

If Ramsey lives up to this promise, + successfully implements community policing throughout the city, he can be the success that Timony was + that Johnson was not.


An odd combination

Stop-and-Frisk, and community policing. Not easily compatible. It will take someone with a lot of talent to pull off both of those initiatives simultaenously. It would be a lot easier, and perhaps politically expedient, to focus on Stop-and-Frisk and de-emphaisize the community policing - exactly, in my mind, the wrong way to go.

Not odd at all

On the contrary, I think stop-question-and-frisk and community policing go hand-in-hand with one another. Stop-question-and-frisk is much more likely to result in gun seizures and arrests, and much less likely to result in unnecessary search or out-and-out harassment of noncriminals, if you have community-based beat officers in place. And neighbors will be much happier about cooperating with police if they know that the cop pulling a drug dealer or armed robber off the street one day is the same officer they'll see the next week and the weeks and months after, when/if the criminals try to come back.

The trickier thing, given the criticisms of Ramsey in D.C. and the history of stop-and-frisk in New York and elsewhere, will be getting good COMSTAT data on how new police initiatives (including SQF) are working or not working.


I agree in a sense

In order for stop-and-frisk to work it will, ideally, go hand-in-hand with community policing. But I think that stop-and-frisk is very likely to put a much greater strain on community/police relations. Talk to a young black or latino youth, sometime, about their feelings about stop-and-frisk. I have, and what I have heard them say is most decidedly not that it gives them that warm and fuzzy feeling about their local beat cops.

For you to assume that stop-and-frisk is more likely to result in fewer unnecessary searches and less harrassment, you must also assume that it is done extremely well. My assumption is that there are likely to be many mistakes made, and whether or not in balance the impact of S&F will functionally undermine community policing efforts, will lie in how well those mistakes are handled.

Glad you agree

I think that the best way to employ stop-question-and-frisk is for it to be done by well-trained beat cops and homicide detectives, who know the difference between the local guys who hang out outside the restaurant and the drug dealers who sling down the street. It's community policing that can make that happen. So it's community policing that will best reduce unnecessary searches or harassment.

This was part of the problem in NY with the Amadou Diallo shooting; the task force charged with stopping suspicious people wasn't based in that part of the Bronx, but swooped in. This was my problem with the alternate stop-and-frisk plan initially promoted by Chaka Fattah, which embedded S&F officers in districts, but didn't base them there.

Young black and latino men will feel targeted, and they are the ones most likely to be affected by a mistaken search. I don't want to discount those concerns, and I hope there will be efforts at outreach and education. But everyone in those neighborhoods, from seniors to children, will feel much better about the police in their neighborhood if they 1) know their names and faces; 2) know them to be honest professionals; and 3) know that they're serious about getting the illegal guns and the men carrying them off of their streets.


I guess we'll all be calling our DC contacts

But - this looks encouraging:

Washington, DC
Capital Leads Way With LGBT Police Unit

Washington's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, an award-winning unit that covers a variety of crimes against the LGBT community, has six full-time officers, including one who teaches "Gay 101" to his peers, the Associated Press reported last month.
The officers investigate hate crimes as well as drug abuse and gay-on-gay violence, Internet crimes against the LGBT community, and transgender prostitution, the AP said.
Police Chief Charles Ramsey created the unit in 2000 after learning that hate crimes were not being reported due to mistrust of the police. Ironically, Parson is pleased that the number of reported hate crimes has risen since formation of the unit.
"That doesn't mean we're more homophobic - it means you have a community that finally feels comfortable turning to the police," the AP quoted Ramsey.

Ukea Davis (November 16, 1983 - August 12, 2002) and Stephanie Thomas (November 15, 1982 - August 12, 2002) were young, African American transgender women who were shot to death in Southeast D.C. by unknown assailants, on August 12, 2002.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D, D.C.) wrote to police chief Charles Ramsey asking that the murders of Davis and Thomas be investigated as a hate crime. Ramsey responded with assurances that the murders were being investigated as hate crimes

A memorial honoring Davis and Thomas was held on Tuesday, August 12, 2003, in Southeast D.C. Over 200 people attended, including D.C. mayor Anthony Williams and D.C.Police Chief Charles Ramsey.

First hits on Lexis-Nexis

On the whole, the coverage from the Post and Times in D.C. is remarkably positive.

1) Ramsey is from Chicago, and took a raise in D.C. (from $150,000 to $175,000 annually) when he was under consideration for the police chief job there. He was criticized for making frequent trips to Chicago while chief in D.C, and the raise was hotly debated.

2) Ramsey worked for Homeland Security after leaving office in D.C. He was considered the top external candidate for the police chief job in Baltimore - the job went to an internal candidate.

3) There was a scandal in 2001 when hundreds of emails sent from patrol cars contained racist, sexist and homophobic remarks from officers. Ramsey had been largely lock-step supportive of his officers and subordinates, but this scandal led him to meet with activist leaders from every community in the city. Ramsey's popularity in the city went sharply up at this time.

4) Ramsey restructured the D.C. force when he arrived.

Chief Ramsey's plan, which he will present today in a series of meetings with Metropolitan Police Department officers and civilian employees, will combine all detectives and investigators under one division. They will be assigned to one of three newly outlined regions of the city. Some officers will investigate murders, rapes and assaults; others will concentrate on robberies, car thefts, vandalism and burglaries.

"This will be putting more emphasis on property crimes," a police source familiar with the plan said yesterday. "The bottom line is since the late 1980s, all this department has been focusing on is homicides.

"There are more people who are victims of property crimes than anything else," he said.

In addition, Chief Ramsey will divide the city into three regions, each with its own assistant chief overseeing operations.

The plan is a part of a restructuring Chief Ramsey promised would be completed 100 days after he took over April 21. He said his aim was to put an agency he called dysfunctional back on firm footing as soon as possible. Chief Ramsey said he couldn't meet his self-imposed deadline - which passed 43 days ago - because the department was in worse shape than he imagined.

In 2001, Ramsey re-emphasized homicide investigation in the department, giving that unit additional training and resources.

"For years, our department's problem has been ensuring a consistently high level of quality and competency among our investigators," Ramsey said. "The criminal investigative process is bad."

It was the latest of several reform proposals Ramsey has issued for the homicide squad. Five months after taking over the department in April 1998, Ramsey announced that he was decentralizing the unit, moving homicide detectives from headquarters to the seven police districts and making them responsible for all cases involving violent crime. In December, he announced the creation of a case management review team to audit homicide files.

5) The biggest argument between Ramsey and D.C. city council was over oversight into the number of officers and the effectiveness of the community policing system and city-wide patrols.

Council members said many of those assigned to patrol are not really patrolling. For every 20 officers assigned to patrols, police officials said, three to five might be unavailable because of sick leave, psychological leave or disciplinary reasons.

Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) said that Ramsey has never been forthcoming about how many officers are actually on patrol and that the council has been "thoroughly, thoroughly misled" by the higher numbers of officers assigned to PSAs. Graham said officers have told him that PSA 410, in Mount Pleasant, has only six working officers, not enough to fill a two-person squad car on every shift.

"I call it the thin blue line, and that's what it is," he said.

Ramsey has said the number of unavailable officers changes every day. "How can you keep the numbers totally current?" he said last week.

But the number of officers actually on patrol has been made available by previous police chiefs, according to former council member James E. Nathanson, who served from 1987 to 1994. He said that even with far more officers on the force at that time, he remembers neighborhood deployments as "always depressingly small."

Ramsey acknowledged that the PSA system might benefit from reform. He said police department analysts are looking at two plans to improve efficiency -- one would reduce the number of service areas by about 10, and the other would cut them roughly in half, to between 40 and 45. As an intermediate step, he has ordered that police vehicles drive around with some of their red-and-blue roof lights flashing, saying that would improve visibility.


World turned upside down

where is Gaetano?? It does not feel like a thread about police without him.

My thoughts, first glance (clearly I don't know that much and I'd like to know more):

I know Ramsey from the IMF protests Jeerleader mentioned above. His plan for managing them at a time when Seattle had freaked a bunch of people out were widely praised by the media for its "restraint." I was pretty dicomfited by the tactic of widespread preemptive arrests on unprosecutable charges in order to diffuse protest numbers and intensity. And Timoney directly modeled his aggressive anti-RNC-protest plan after Ramsey's.

But crime numbers in DC dropped under Ramsey (though there is some reporting out of Baltimore from when he was being considered for that job--does anyone know why he didn't get it and they ended up going with someone inside?--that the numbers were somewhat distorted).

He also took the huge step of bringing in outside monitors (via the DOJ) to investigate and implement best practices after it was revealed that the DC police had rampant tendency to use unjustified force. That's a big deal.

It's interesting to me that although Nutter has lately made comments that he is stepping away from his "I'm going to declare a state of emergency" plan, he's bringing in someone who has done that repeatedly (DC states of emergency are a little different and a little the same--they allow for the reorganization and aggressive redeployment of police, but also involve extensive youth curfews and the like). The DC youth curfews have been widely criticized as at times illegal and generally misguided, as they don't target the real problems in the right way.

But overall, there are several things about this choice that inspire comfort and hope. Some I mentioned above, and Kathy and others have mentioned on this thread. Mostly, though, I think it is good that we have someone from outside, who has seen Chicago and DC, that is, who has seen all the problems and conflicts and dangers and issues that we face. There's a little bit of it that is very Philly: like, let's find someone who has worked somewhere even more messed up, so at least they'll be used to what they are in for here.

Very Philly

There's a little bit of it that is very Philly: let's find someone who has worked somewhere even more messed up, so at least they'll be used to what they are in for here.

I think the key thing is to find someone who has worked somewhere even more messed up, and seems to have helped to make it better. The worse Philadelphia tradition is to stick with someone who's been wildly unsuccessful, whether from Philly or elsewhere, and expect things to change.


Gut reaction

After thinking last night about this hiring, I think Nutter gets points for a few things including being proactive and ready to hire someone, picking someone who has credibility and bring in an outsider, given the current low morale and changes that need to be made in the Philly Police Department.

I think, however, that there are substantial differences between Washington, D.C.'s situation over the past decade and Philly now. Washington, D.C. has just undergone what is perhaps the single greatest amount of gentrification in the history of the US for any one city to the point where whites now constitute a majority of the population. It's economy has been buoyed by a surplus of government contractors and war profiteering which provided substantial local tax dollars and it has a decent regional transportation system paid for by the federal government allowing poorer folks better assess to jobs throughout the region. Each of these items would certainly help to decrease crime. The question will be whether new policing techniques reduce crime in the absence of a better economy that provides more jobs, especially given that the economy in Philly is generally worse than it probably has been in D.C.

Weeds in the Sidewalk


I was at the Commerce Dep't hearing yesterday related to riparian rights legislation and couldn't comment.

I'm opitmistic that we can, at the very least, look forward to moving away from some of the worst remnants of this lame duck adminstration. Johnson, who seems like a very nice man, is simply not an adminstrator. And, I question the judgment of Mayor Street in sticking with Johnson all this time.

I am working to elect Larry Farnese to the General Assembly. Unless otherwise expressly stated, this and every comment or blog I post on YPP and any action I take hereon is solely attributable to me and not Farnese or Friends of Farnese

Re the 2002 mass arrest –

Re the 2002 mass arrest – People who criticize Ramsey weren’t there.

Those arrests weren’t just about quieting a bunch of protesters. This was right after 9/11 and around the same time as the DC Sniper; terrorism in the city was a reality. The IMF protests happened in central part of the city and even a small bomb, if well placed, would kill thousands. (I lived and went to school there at the time). With the number of protests and events in the city, the police were constantly concerned with balancing inconveniencing or even violating rights of residents and tourists with preventing a large scale catastrophe similar to 9/11. For one, I am glad that the police erred in favor of saving lives.

For those that don’t know DC’s geography, the World Bank is right next to a very large university and hospital, blocks from the white house and office buildings, and is surrounded by major tourist attractions like the Lincoln and Vietnam Memorials. A terrorist attack there might not be as bad as terms of loss of life as the Twin Towers, but it would be close.

Hopefully Ramsey learned a lot from his mistakes in DC and will be able to implement stop and frisk effectively. He won’t have to deal with many of the problems that are specific to DC, like multiple police forces and federal intervention. I agree with some of the earlier posts: if he is able to effectively establish a neighborhood presence, this should go far in preventing unnecessary stops.

Wait for it, wait for it...

Wait for it, wait for it...

Two events

There were two different protests of the World Bank/IMF meetings that drew scrutiny and criticism of the D.C. police force.

The first was in April of 2000, which was just post-Seattle. Geov Parrish, from the Seattle Weekly and Eat the State! has a good account of what happened here; the context, what the police did well, what they didn't, and why the protests didn't shut down the event. This was the security approach that was used as the model for the 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia and other major, protest-heavy events. This was also when the police raided the Convergence Center HQ, seizing paint thinner that they supposedly thought was going to be used to make a Molotov cocktail. A friend of mine was arrested wearing a giant clown costume. Her report: flexi-cuffs really hurt.

The second was in September 2002, which as J Young points out was a year after Sept. 11th. The number of arrests were much smaller -- about 600 to 700 -- but police were reported as being much more aggressive, and essentially vacuuming up people (300 at one "drumming protest" alone), including people who claimed they weren't involved in the protests.


Pretty aggressive in 2000 too

The tear gas and pepper spray and horses and truncheons and beatings, and the more insidious preemptive arrests, that I mentioned--those I saw in in DC in 2000.

That August, back in Philadelphia, I was in a building, a private architectural restoration business being used as an arts space, when I was arrested with about 70 people. Dozens of police surrounded the place, spat on us through a skylight in the roof, and barricaded us in while they waited for a warrant.

That warrant was based on infiltration by the state police, a deliberate attempt to get around hard-fought limits on the city police's surveillance of activist groups. It was based on cut-and-paste internet gossip from a grab-bag of websites, not associated with the organizers of the protest. It alleged "Soviet funding" (in 2000!).

The whole arrest was unconstitutional and nonsensical (among my seven-odd criminal counts was resisting arrest--everyone filed out in a neat line once the warrant showed up--and blocking an intersection--i was arrested in a building). Nothing illegal of any sort was in that building. Some PVC pipe had passed through, and that was the closest to anything even vaguely questionable that had been there. Oddly, given what Ramsey and Timoney and Abraham have said to the press over the years, it is totally legal to buy and possess plastic piping.

So I spent ten days in a mini reality tour of the city prison system. Days in the Roundhouse, then to PICC, then a trailer on the grounds of Holmesburg, then a transitional facility where they throw the huge numbers of people in the system who just don't have enough money to make bail.

There was a lawsuit, but the city had an insurance company and a politically-connected law firm, and everyone was happy to bill the city's defense as long as necessary. So the firm aggressively defended the ungrounded arrests (the charges were thrown out wholesale, except for the few people the DA had scared into taking a deferred prosecution agreement). They tried to subpoena every note from every political meeting I ever went to. My computer. My personal writing.

And then it was 9/11, and the same baseless fear-mongering that J. Young engages in above meant that it was now too much of a risk to take the case to jury--we could end up footing the city's legal bills if their lawyers could scare people into seeing us as terrorists. So we got no compensation, got none of our property back (a whole building worth of bicycles and art supplies and my purse), and no commitment to a change in policy to prevent this stuff in the future. Spiral Q did get some money.

I say baseless fear-mongering because while there is always risk of disorder in large-scale crowd management, broken windows and the like, there has never been evidence for things like J. Young's 'bomb that could have destroyed the center of DC'. Same with the "poisonous snakes" or "balloons filled with poison" that the police claimed were in the building that I was arrested in, nonsense the local network news was happy to repeat.

Now, me spending time in prison is not the end of the world. I am white. My mom saw me get arrested on the evening news. If I ever needed help, help was there for me. I knew I'd be out. I am not the thousands of people who sit in Philadelphia prisons every day because they can't afford the lawyer or bail that is the difference between freedom and incarceration.

But stepping back, it sucks that I broke no laws and was swept up for no legitimate reason, lost money and possessions, was locked in an overheated bus in August for 12 hours with no water and people passing out, was imprisoned, and I couldn't do anything to prevent that. And there was nothing I or my great lawyers could do to fix it afterwards.

What let that happen was Ramsey and then Timoney overreaching, them being given free rein to do it, and reporters and bystanders buying into fantastic claims of the danger that justified whatever the police wanted to do.

Seatle's Ghost

Sometimes I think that the Seattle IMF protests and the police response were the sleeper political event of this decade. (Sort of like the Stonewall Riots were the sleeper event of the 1960s.)

Just as the administration's preoccupation with invading Iraq preexisted the attacks on Sept. 11th, so did the impulse from law enforcement (backed by the government) to crack down, frequently violently, on dissent and protest. Somewhere, someone wanted to get those two moments "right." The terrorist attacks simply made these impulses momentarily more popular.


Soviet funding

Wow! I'm sure they had a lot of documentation for those charges.

The best part about that

The whole time, like on that really hot bus, I imagined to myself that the police might be running rampant, but that the courts are some sort of objective space where truth would be all sorted out and justice done.

When the affidavit supporting the warrant was submitted in evidence in court, and the guy from the state police who drafted it was cross-examined, the judge was very distressed by the Soviet funding allegation.

The judge said, "do you have proof of that charge?" And the guy said, "well, we cut and pasted. From the internet." The judge: but do you have PROOF? The guy: someone sent me some links to websites and I just cut and pasted the information.

So then the judge looks at him and says, you know, calling someone a Communist is a very serious thing. You can ruin careers! You really need to have proof.

I guess that's something.

This is outrageous

The mere fact that a large number people congregate in downtown area constitutes a terrorist threat? Was there ever ANY evidence that these protestors had / threatened / were even thinking about a "small bomb?"

By that standard, the anti-war march and rally that happened a few weeks ago constituted a terrorist threat.

If you believe that this is a "threat" that should be treated wtih mass arrests then you no longer believe in the right to peacefully assemble.

You're missing my point

I doubt the police thought that the protesters were terrorists, but that all that chaos would be a good cover if there were an attacker (and it would also seriously increase the body count). They were just trying to move people away from areas that can be difficult to move in. I forgot to mention that that part of town also has a lot of narrow one-way streets that are very confusing - not the usual grid patern DC is known for. If there were a bomb scare there, people wouldn't know which way to go to get away. For an example of worst case scenario, imagine someone attacking the Seattle protests, with the number of people converged on the city at that time!

I am with you - I don't think police should be able to arrest people for just standing around stating their opinions (which explains why they had to create those bogus charges in Jennifer's case).

I remember the Seattle IMF protests, but not the 2000 DC protests. I went to a few marches and rallies in DC during Ramsey's tenure there, the first of which was the Anti-Bush rally right after he stole the election the first time. Then, there was very little visible police presence; instead, police diffused us by putting us in small random sections of the city that were far apart (I wound up standing around DuPont Circle for a few hours in the rain). Other than that, I don't think I was ever bothered by a cop the entire 4 years I lived there!

This is troubling.

This is encouraging.

Lawrence W. Sherman, director of the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania, was effusive, calling Ramsey's efforts to upgrade the Washington force "pioneeering."

"He took a very tough situation in Washington and turned it around," Sherman said. "He has a lot of experience with some of the same problems that face Philadelphia. He earned a lot of respect in a city where the population is about evenly split between black and white."

Sherman noted that Ramsey is active nationally and internationally and has contacts upon which he can draw. This summer, Ramsey led a delegation of law enforcement officers to Iraq to evaluate policing. He also is a member of a panel that is evaluating the National Institute of Justice, the federal government's crime-research arm.

"I think it's a hopeful sign that Michael Nutter went after him and that this kind of world-class talent would come to Philadelphia," Sherman said.

I know how much some folks around here LOVE Dr. Sherman, so I thought I'd throw that out there.

Some men see things as they are and say, “Why”? I dream of things that never were and say, “Why not”?
Robert Kennedy, 1968


I hear you, Sam, and when I

I hear you, Sam, and when I say this is troubling, I mean what Will is talking about specifically. There are parts that are hopeful. But, amidst everything, we should still look at the whole package with our eyes open, right?

I, and I guess none of us, have real access to deep crime stats. But, what if crime only really went down in DC in neighborhoods that were gentrifying (the basic point that Mike made above)? I ask that because- and this is all hearsay- the critics of him that I have heard on the radio, etc., have said that in the most troubled areas of DC, there simply was little or no drop in violent crime or murder.

I think it would be a great

I think it would be a great idea for Nutter or Ramsey to propose bringing in an independent deputy chief from NYC or Baltimore to work with the new chief to run a COMSTAT program.


We already have it and use

We already have it and use it.

We could use it better!

We could use it better!

And an independent deputy chief would be less disposed to juke the stats.

(I understand that COMSTAT and official/external crime statistics are slightly different.)


Honest question: How do you

Honest question: How do you know we don't use it well, or that anyone is juking the stats?

I could very easily be wrong, but as far as I know, it operates in the same way as when Timoney was here.


PW on our COMPSTAT program.

On the other stuff: it's not that I hate Sherman. I think that Sherman's study was somewhat distorted when used politically, and made to show more than it did. We've been down that road.

I do instinctively agree with his last sentence on Ramsey, about world-class talent. The guy is clearly actively engaged and has faced a lot of this stuff.

I was in DC at those protests, and like I said, Ramsey's tactic of using unprosecutable preemptive arrests to keep people from protesting and the shutting down of the meeting space were not okay. DC, Philly and NY have all overstepped in dealing with mass protests.

Some of the checkpoint and crime emergency stuff from is worth looking at more: DC is a different city, but similarly has been in a "let's try anything that would work" position, which is what led them to those checkpoints and curfews. Whether or not those things lead us to pass judgment on Ramsey, we should definitely learn from them and not repeat errors.

And here's a critical article from Baltimore on Ramsey's DC stats if anyone's interested.

Criticism that I mostly find oddly encouraging

Wow. The department was rife with abuses, so in an unprecedented move he brought in the Feds to investigate them, going past their own internal disciplinary mechanisms. As a progressive who has lived in Philadelphia his whole adult life, an overzealousness to root out bad cops and bad behavior among cops is not the worst thing I could hear about a prospective police chief.

There were decades--though not so much recently--when Philly cops had a pretty infamous reputation for abuses and corruption.

I certainly hope he has better experiences with police morale, but if he doesn't need to be as confrontational coming in here as he was coming into Washington, relations are likely to start on better footing.

Also, the "crime just moved out to the suburbs" criticism implies something more important, and more positive, than its negative language actually states (that criminals found committing crimes too difficult in the city when Ramsey was chief).

Some men see things as they are and say, “Why”? I dream of things that never were and say, “Why not”?
Robert Kennedy, 1968

Yeah. Now, why I said I

Yeah. Now, why I said I didn't know the total backstory, is because I am pretty sure the DOJ was going to come in anyway. But it does seem like he was active in the process, which was a really really stringent one. Michael Bromwich, who I mentioned, is the same guy who investigated the Houston police after the DNA testing scandal.

Compstat here and in New York

This is what I was told by two different sets of police officers about differences between Compstat here and Compstat in New York. And, by the way, they said that the problems with Compstat started with Timoney. Timoney was not a hero to the rank and file in the police department.

In New York, Compstat played two roles. It brought areas with serious and / or increasing crime problems to the fore, putting the district (in NY, precinct) captains on notice that they had to come up with some ideas to deal with these problems. It was also used to encourage discussion among captains and in different districts and top police officials about new policing strategies that were working in different parts of the city or that ought to be tried. I was told that in Philadelphia Compstat has mostly been used to chastize the captains, that the atmosphere of the compstat meetings are punitive rather than cooperative and that there are few attemps to encourage innovative ideas. One person who attended Compstat meetings for a while said, "All the captains are just ducking and hoping to get out of the room alive. No one is really talking to one another."

Another difference, I was told, was that Compstat in New York involved a variety of agencies beyond the police, including social service agencies and the schools. IN other words, the crime reducation program in New York was not isolated from other efforts to improve communities and schools.

They also said that to the extent new ideas were launched in Philly in recent years, they were all top down, coming from the commissioner and, in the case of safe streets, the Mayor's office. Compstat in New York encouraged bottom up thinking.

Finally, one person told me that Compstat as practice in Philadelphia will definitely drive down crime statistics but not necessarily crime. We have a history of cooking the crime statistics in this city and some officers fear that unless measures are taken to prevent it, that could happen again.

Again, this comes from reports from two different sets of police officers. Given what I know about the failures of city agencies in general and of the police in particular, it rings true to me. But, everyone you talk to about the police in this city has an axe to grind and I wouldn't take this the whole truth.

Not sure which critics you're talking about, Dan

I'm really not. They're not in the articles I've read. But I'm writing this in between classes, and I'll check more at lunch.

I certainly don't want to make light of the incidents with the protesters either. I am a political activist who values his first amendment rights. I'd contextualize somewhat: since DC is the site of ongoing protest--people assemble in multiple locations nearly every day--the likelihood of mistakes is multiplied. But I agree that I don't want Philly cops to waste their time and our tax dollars harassing activists.

Still, over the last few months my little bit of research on police chiefs kept coming up with positive crime-reducing/quality-of-living-increasing results from those who employed (1) community policing and (2) new internet-based crime-fighting technologies.

Ramsay has a history of implementing both. That I find really encouraging, in the "big picture" sense.

Some men see things as they are and say, “Why”? I dream of things that never were and say, “Why not”?
Robert Kennedy, 1968

DC Cops, quoted by WHYY

DC Cops -actually I think the head of the DC FOP- quoted by WHYY yesterday, is who I am referring to. They stated that in the worst areas, nothing much changed.

Now, they also appear to not particularly like him. So, grain of salt, etc. But, because they dont like him doesnt mean they might not be accurate in what they are saying.


the DC union doesn't seem a huge fan ("Police Union Disputes DC Crime Statistics").

Murder Rate

But the dramatic drop in the murder rate was accurate, no?

I definitely can't speak authoritatively about the stats

I just don't know much.

About the Will Bunch worries: I agree with Elmer Smith here that there is a lot that is promising.

It's like the new Nutter paradigm: inspire a mix of worry and hopefulness, and then seem so competant that the hope wins out. (And I kind of love all the quotes from the news conference that have Ramsey being more equivocal about the emergency/agressive stop-and-frisk plans than the reporters/Nutter have been.)

From 300+ to 169

= DC's murder rate drop under Ramsey.

I got knocked off the internet just as I was trying to link to that same Elmer Smith column (where I learned it).

The crime count controversies (something we went through here with John Timoney who was otherwise effective at lowering murder numbers that started above 500 per year) do not seem to include murder numbers.

Some men see things as they are and say, “Why”? I dream of things that never were and say, “Why not”?
Robert Kennedy, 1968

Again, this is all just from

Again, this is all just from interviews I heard. But, the police officer on WHYY said that in the really bad areas of DC, the murder numbers barely budged.


In 1997 - before Ramsey came in - there were 301 murders in DC. In 1998, there were 260. In 2006 - when he left - there were 169. The drop from 301 to 169 is 44%. Murder is a very accurate statistic. It seems like a pretty good reduction trend during Ramsey's tenure. When you compare the eight years prior to Ramsey (1990-1997) to the eight years he was he was there (1998-2005), there were 1,431 fewer people murdered. Isn't that a good enough record? Isn't it a bit pointless to quibble about exactly where the reductions were geographically? If there were 1,431 fewer murder victims (and affected friends and families), wouldn't that have had a positive impact on many areas of the City that were "really bad" and on the City’s psyche. Of course the answer is “yes”.


The specifics of which geographic areas had a reduction in murder rates may or may be worth quibbling about - to the extent that it might mean that resources were directed at protecting wealthier areas at the expense of poorer areas.

Also, as people have mentioned, just looking at murder rates might be deceptive in that they might obscure relevant factors other than simply Ramsey's polices - such as an economic upturn in the area or helpful social benefits programs.

It seems that it's pretty hard to make a direct attribution of a lower murder rate to the work of a police chief. That isn't to say that Ramsey's work didn't contribute to that outcome, only that it isn't something that should be assumed implicitly.

On the other hand, agressive police policies that led to abusive treatment of protesters does seem to be directly attributable to the work of a police chief.

Hey, I hope the guy's great - but I have to wonder why "progressives" would easily dismiss some disturbing facts and accept unanalyzed numbers as being proof that the appointment of Ramsey was a good move. That is, unless those "progressives" have a partisan rooting interest because he was appointed by Nutter.

Everyone is entitled to his/her own criteria, I guess, D.E.

Someone living in a city with a rising murder rate that results in one murdered fellow-citizen per day and who then objects to considering an acumen at LOWERING MURDER RATES as criteria for choosing a police commissioner, well...I'd be hard-pressed to call that person a progressive.

Progressives, as Paul Krugman points out in his new book, The Conscience of a Liberal, are Liberals who DO THINGS to make bad situations better.

A progressive provides solutions and advocates for things, like programs and politicians that are better than existing programs and politicians. By implementing those programs, and electing those politicians, society gets better, it progresses.

A progressive faced by high murder rates will propose solutions both longterm (lifting people out of misery) and immediate (such as better policing and reducing the number of illegal guns on the street).

Using Krugman's distinction, I suppose a liberal might just complain about problems and never advocate for anyone or anything (and she might not), but not a progressive.

Being progressive means being partisan sometimes.

Some men see things as they are and say, “Why”? I dream of things that never were and say, “Why not”?
Robert Kennedy, 1968

No objections

to considering someone's acumen at lowering murder rates as a criterion in choosing a police comissioner.

Only objections to using numbers without considering context. You know, Mussolini and trains and all.

What I'm saying, Sam, is that we should look beyond the simple numbers in evaluating Ramsey's track record. Would you like Guiliani as Mayor based on the reduced crime numbers during his term?

I find it heartening that Ramsey's background suggests that he might institute more effective policies than our past commissioner. But that doesn't mean that I'm going to suspend my skepticism about some disturbing facts about his background, or about the tactics that he might use in the name of reducing crime.

If in your mind that makes me a "liberal" as opposed to a "progressive," so be it.

Invoking Mussolini, I guess

is more p.c. than invoking Hitler.

You also mentioned Giuliani, so if you'd have really let yourself go and brought in Berlusconi, you could have hit all 3 Famous Italian Fascists! Why play it is so close to the vest, D.E.?

Hysterical? Did I call anyone hysterical?

Seriously, I hope that the cumulative numbers (dropping murder rates and overall crime rates) and the positive practices (community policing, 311, tracking & posting crimes on the internet, rigorously rooting out corrupt and abusive officers) are more representative of the changes Ramsey will bring than the incidents where cops were mean to activists.

Communities need people to find problems in their programs and politicians and make them public, D.E., and I'm glad you do it. Doing so is a good thing. I am not suggesting you or anyone else should curb your skepticism. By all means, keep it up!

I really was just being semantic above.

From Krugman, The Conscience of a Liberal, page 268:

Yet progressive isn't simply a new word for what "liberal" used to mean. The real distinction between the terms, at least as I and many others use them, is between philosophy and action. Liberals are those who believe in institutions that limit inequality and injustice. Progressives are those who participate, explicitly or implicitly, in a political coalition that defends and tries to enlarge those institutions. You're a liberal, whether you know it or not, if you believe that the United States should have universal health care. You're a progressive if you participate in the effort to bring universal health care into being.

That's all I meant.

Some men see things as they are and say, “Why”? I dream of things that never were and say, “Why not”?
Robert Kennedy, 1968

Let's keep it straight, people

Remember your Will Bunch: Ramsey is Musharraf, not Mussolini.

No, wait, Both of those analogies are ridiculous.

Ripping off a Sidney Blumenthal column does not analysis make.


No need to invoke Berlusconi

Frank Rizzo will do.

Seriously, the Mussolini reference was just to egg you on.

But then you go and diminish the potentially serious implications of Ramsey's history in D.C. by describing what happened there as "where cops were mean to activists."

See, I wouldn't be as concerned about the potential for police abuse amidst the clamor for stricter law enforcement practices if it weren't for statements like that being made by "progressives."

Maybe you aren't aware of the very real and open racism that runs through the dialogue on crime in Philly these days. I am. And I do really worry about the kinds of abuses that took place in Rizzo's days being repeated if Nutter's supporters are so willing to be anything less than diligent in combating the influence of that racism.

So no, I don't equate Ramsey with Mussolini. And I hope that you really don't equate police abuse with cops being mean to activists.


you go and diminish the potentially serious implications of Ramsey's history in D.C.

A crime drop of more than 20,000 incidents per year (from 52,136 to 32,978)

A murder rate drop of more than a third (from 301 to 196--Elmer got the last 2 digits reversed)

Implementation of a nationally-recognized community policing model

"A major reorganization of the Department that put more police resources in the community, cut bureaucracy, and enhanced accountability"

Overseeing implementation of a 311 program

A rigorous, unprecedented, and controversial effort to locate and root out abusive and corrupt police officers

Recognition from the local LGBT community

Sounds a lot like Frank Rizzo, doesn't it?

Who's diminishing the implications of Ramsey's record in DC?

The four incidents with the activists are bad, and I've said so. Ramsey had better not let cops do that in Philly when we lawfully assemble.

I am glad, very glad, D.E. that if ANYTHING LIKE THAT happens in Philly, you and others here will be there to blow the whistle, sound the siren, invade Anzio.

Honestly, I too will keep a watchful eye on the cops at the next demo I attend, to make sure they are not infringing on our liberties. I still cherish my ACLU membership.

And I'm glad you've switched from leaping to Mussolini to leaping to Rizzo.

That may not necessarily be progressive, but it's progress.

Some men see things as they are and say, “Why”? I dream of things that never were and say, “Why not”?
Robert Kennedy, 1968

Once again, Sam

You seem to not get what I'm saying.

I am not saying that Ramsey is Rizzo or Mussolini, as apparently you think I am.

So, let me try again - this time without using any Italian names.

I think that there is a very legitimate debate going on in this city on how to deal with the high level of crime.

While I recognize that there are good reasons to support a more aggressive policing policy, I feel that more aggressive policing policies have a very real potential to worsen the problem, rather than make the situation better. And I have, in my lifetime, witnessed agressive police tactics make the situation worse.

I also know that there are many people in this city who unquestioningly support aggressive policing as the only effective way to deal with crime.

I don't put Nutter in that category, but I am concerned about whether he will craft his efforts at reducing crime with a sufficient level of consideration for the negative potential of aggresive policing policies. His support for "states of emergencies" and "stop and frisk" policies heighten my concern.

The fact that he appointed a man as police commissioner who has a history of implementing policies which seem to have overstepped what I would consider reasonable boundries of aggressive policing furthers my concern.

So, I try to look further. I think it only makes sense to look at Ramsey's history with some degree of scrutiny.

The statistics you posted about reduction in crime in D.C. during his tenure are meaningful, but their meaning is limited unless the are viewed in a wider context.

The 311 program, community policing, support from the LGBT commmunity, efforts to eliminate corruption and abuse, etc., are all part of the context. So are some questionable practices under his tenure in how the D.C. police force dealt with protestors.

I don't expect everyone to be concerned about such issues. There are many in this city who favor aggressive policing because they are motivated by racism and a fascististic mentality. I don't put you or Nutter in that category, and I highly doubt that Ramsey would fall into that category either.

But I am concerned when it seems to me that people I wouldn't put into that category cavalierly dismiss what I consider to be legitimate concerns - particularly if they are partisan Nutter supporters. Maybe that's a misinterpretation of your stance. But your condescending preaching to me about the difference between liberals and "progressives" does little to convince me that I have misintepreted your attitude.

I hope that clears everything up.

The murder rate is the only crime statistic you can trust.

Practically all murders get counted, except for a few people who are counted as missing persons.

All other crime statistics are subject to the vagaries and interests of those counting them and the inclination of people to report crimes, whcich goes down when crime goes up. Victimization surveys are better than the crime stats the police collect, although they can be innaccurate as well.

So if the murder rate dropped, then that is progress.

As for where it dropped, can it be that Washington is unlike Philadelphia in that a lot of murders take place in upper class white neighborhoods? I sort of doubt it. If the murder rate declined by 44%, my guess is that it declined in poor, black neighborhoods, becuase that is where most murders take place in this country.

Time marches backwards

It is now 12/17 at 12:10 am. How did I post this 46 minutes from now?

Iactually think I posted it before I went to the movies at 7:00 pm

And to contextualize the specific charges in the controversy

that I have read about so far, the police union claimed that 200 crimes (but not murders) in DC's 7th district went uncounted over three years. According to Ramsey and an assistant, 800,000 crimes were counted annually in DC in each of those years, meaning that the disputed cases represent something like 1/6 of 1% of DC's crimes.

Again, I'm not happy about ANY police misconduct under the prospective chief, but when I am formulating an opinion, some numbers (like a 44% murder rate drop) speak louder than others.

Some men see things as they are and say, “Why”? I dream of things that never were and say, “Why not”?
Robert Kennedy, 1968

Marc, and especially Sam

First, Marc, the crime stuff I heard on WHYY was not that he hid stats or murders, but that in the poor areas of DC, not much changed. Which brings us to...

Why is it important to know geography of murders? Why is it important to know whether crime just moved?

Guys, cmon...

Washington DC had a remarkable flood of money come into the City, with low income neighborhoods turning into high income ones. So, if we all understand that poverty and crime are pretty related, then, of course it matters whether the crime drop only particularly happened in areas that gentrified.

Again, I don't even know if that is the case- but- of course it matters.

Median Household Income,

Median Household Income, 2000 and 2006, DC and Philly:

2000: 40,127
2006: 51,847
Percent change: 29.2

2000: 30,746
2006: 33,229
Percent change: 8.1

When you factor in inflation, Philly's median household income went down since Johnson was commish. Since Ramsey took over in DC (roughly, still looking for 1998 stats) DC incomes went up significantly.

That does not mean Ramsey wont be good, but, of course context matters.

Adding it up

I can believe that someone might say anecdotally that not much changed for poor residents of D.C. -- but it would be helpful to quantify that. I think Marc's point is persuasive that a reduction that steep in the murder rate implies a sharp reduction in the number of murders of the poor/in poor neighborhoods.

And gentrification alone never produces a reduction in crime rates that steep. We've had a pretty brisk flow of money come into the city, and murder and crime rates continue to rise. Gentrifying neighborhoods in Philadelphia still see plenty of property crime, assaults, rapes, shootings, and murders. You can also make the opposite argument about D.C.; that the greater perception of safety helped to spur speedy neighborhood transformation.

Still, even if you can't (and I don't think you should) attribute the reduction in crime rates to the police alone, let alone the chief, there is a surprisingly compelling formula:

innovative, flexible, neighborhood-based policing strategies
brisk economic and residential development
improved transit and other services so more people can take advantage of the boom
nearly halving the murder rate, in the middle of a resurgence in homicides and a national recession? When the schools are still underperforming?

What, exactly, is the problem here?


Of course! If we get better

Of course! If we get better policing, better economic development, better transit and other services, then murder rate goes down. That would be wonderful, and is not a 'problem.'

But, I don't understand why everyone is so bizarrely defensive about someone they probably couldn't put two sentences together about two days ago.

I dont think Nutter even at his most optimistic thinks that the shrinking median income in Philly is going to grow like in DC.

Why everyone is so bizarrely defensive

Um, because Will Bunch -- who also couldn't have put two sentences together about Ramsey two days ago -- wrote a blog post calling Ramsey "Nutter's Musharraf?" (a la "Hilary's Rove" or "Cheney's Cheney" -- but who is Nutter supposed to be?

Because we've had one post after another, including from both founders of YPP, asking "what will you do when stop-and-frisk fails," or "why won't you elect Michael Nutter in 2008"?

Because some people are discounting all of the data suggesting that Ramsey -- despite the question marks -- might actually be a good cop and do a good job?

Because with all the "Nutter supporters -- why do you have such blind faith" hokum, it's starting to feel like the primary season all over again?



There's a difference between discounting the data and examining their significance. The crime stats have been advanced as evidence of Ramsey's credentials; they may be, but only if you really examine what they show.

And Tim, for the typical

And Tim, for the typical Philadelphia person, money has not briskly flowed in. In fact, median household incomes in Philly have dropped when accounting for inflation.

A brisk flow is not a flood

The nation's median household income declined overall between 1999-2006, so an eight percent rise in Philadelphia is nothing to sneeze at. And all of the other indicators (home prices, etc.), suggest that more affluent people are living in the city than in recent memory. I mean, you don't really think that we haven't had gentrifcation in Philadelphia since 2000?

Meanwhile, there's been a 25% increase in homicides. And dead bodies aren't adjusted for inflation. Something -- probably many things -- were happening in D.C. that weren't happening here.



Inflation adjusted, the nation's median income went up by 740 dollars from the same period- 2000 and 2006. Adjusted for inflation, Philly's income declined.

See, for example: this.

The median household in Philly has less money than in 2000. So, again, tell me how a decline in income is a brisk flow?

And yes, there have been

And yes, there have been neighborhoods that have experienced gentrification.

So, if that happened, and the median income went down, what does that tell you about what is going in non gentrifying areas- like most of North and SW Philly, for example?

Where's your nationwide

Where's your nationwide income change figure from? Everything I've seen says that nationwide, there's been a decline in year-over-year household income every year between 1999 and 2006. It went up 1.1% in 2006, mostly because more people entered the workforce (per capita income continued to decline).

All of the other data -- total wages, median home price, business revenues -- suggest that there is more wealth and more wealthy people in Philadelphia than ever before. That wealth is NOT circulating below the median household threshold -- which by your logic could explain why Philadelphia hasn't seen a similar decrease in homicides but might not explain why homicides have spiked.

Again, the picture you painted of D.C. is similar; lots of money flowing in at the top, lots of gentrification, but life not substantially changing for poorer people. The bump in the median income in D.C. suggests that that story is a little bit different. And the median household income in NYC has also shrunk since 2000 -- but homicide rates there continue to decline.

My point is that gentrification + income increases (whether total or median) alone can't explain changes in the homicide rate. Inequality matters, total wealth matters, policing matters.


Like poverty?


First of all, the numbers are from the census. The same link that I sent you has national numbers right next to Philly. Second, not every stat in Philly has gone up. Poverty, for example, has increased since 2000.

Who has said that nothing else matters? The point in all of this is that everything matters- and so- we should look critically at what happened in DC. And, if homicide decreases were happening primarily only in gentrifying areas (again, as I have said, that may not even be true), then we should be aware of that.

I missed the "2006" tab on

I missed the "2006" tab on the census data; I thought you only linked to 2000 information.

Have poverty rates decreased in D.C.? By how much?

Median income dropped and poverty increased in NYC, and murder rates still fell. The explanatory value of changes in median income rates is relatively poor. And there is no good reason to think that murder rates were cut in half by gentrification of particular neighborhoods. Something changed economically (to move the median income rate) AND in terms of public safety for people at the bottom. We should try to figure out what that is.


Interesting information, Dan

I wasn't saying that the DC statistics were fudged just that the one statistic that is reliable is the murder rate.

And, yes, the geography of murders would be important. I was just pointing out that it is unlikely that the murder rate would drop by so much if it were only dropping in middle and upper class areas.

Unless....there were a dramatic change in the income levels in the city and many neighbors had been gentrified.

I didn't know that had happened in Washington. I don't know if neighborhood transformation could explain such a large drop in the murder rate. I'd have to look more closely at the numbers. But it might well be important.
Thanks for raising it.


Blockquotes should come with it. I give my students hell when they forget, and then I go and leave it out myself.

Above is from Andrew Maykuth's Inquirer article today.

Some men see things as they are and say, “Why”? I dream of things that never were and say, “Why not”?
Robert Kennedy, 1968

I was actually troubled by Will Bunch here

I like Will Bunch and his blog a lot, but it seemed like he went a little over the top here in comparing Ramsey to Musharraf. The only three words that hang all three men (Nutter, Ramsey, Musharraf) are "state of emergency." Ramsey declared a state of emergency in D.C. to compel officers to work overtime. Nutter proposed declaring a state of emergency to establish curfews to get guns off the streets. Musharraf has declared a state of emergency in Pakistan to declare martial law, use the army to quash political opponents, silence the supreme court judges, and brutalize democratic protestors. I don't see the PPD surrounding Seamus McCaffery's house.

This goes a bit beyond hyperbole. We should be trying to sort out the genuine problems Ramsey had in D.C. and may have in Philadelphia -- including difficulties with the FOP over his circumvention of labor rules, the bad decisions he made in initially defending racist cops and preemptively arresting peaceful protestors, and his less-than-forthcoming attitude with D.C. city council. The specter of South Asian dictators doesn't help us do that.


Well, hyberbole is my middle

Well, hyberbole is my middle name. But, ignore the Musharaff thing for a second. The reality is that most of the story is really about his attitude towards civil liberties, and the illegal arresting or protesters that you are talking about.

Bunch is fun when he's purple

the overstatement is a part of his schtick, gives you automatic context.

But, as I said above, criticism of that police behavior is fair. It's worth noting, however, that Ramsey also has a reputation for rooting out bad behavior.

Some men see things as they are and say, “Why”? I dream of things that never were and say, “Why not”?
Robert Kennedy, 1968

I love good policemen,

"I love good policemen, I cannot stand bad policemen," Ramsey told the board. "I don't like people who show up every day and you have to put a mirror under their nose to see if they're breathing because they do absolutely nothing."

That's almost Russell Crowe in American Gangster, sans marital problems and fake-Jewish-by-way-of-Australia accent.

I think there are two aspects to the DC state of emergencies

The big piece has to do with allowing the commissioner to reassign police, as you mention. But DC has also done a bunch of emergency curfews (there some interesting discussion here). I think it is a total open question what Nutter and Ramsey decide on, as Nutter's recent statements on this have been evolving.

And you know McCafferty'd be the one they would spare!!

A note: I don't know the whole back story, but it is really ballsy and somewhat promising, on the issues Will Bunch is concerned with, that Ramsey was active in bringing the DOJ and Michael Bromwich in to investigate and monitor DC cops' excessive force use. That is big, as the Baltimore article recognizes (the Baltimore article sees that decision as negative for relations and morale: cops don't like it when you bring in outsiders to tell them what to do; I think that makes it more remarkable).

Ramsey can listen, acknowledge mistakes, and change course

As some who has spent a lifetime at protest rallies/demonstrations, the right to peaceful protest is something I hold dear, so I understand the concerns about what happened at the Pershing Park demo.

However, Charles Ramsey appears to be someone who can admit when he (or those who report to him) has made a mistake. From today’s Inquirer

As for his department's much-criticized response to the 2002 demonstration, he acknowledged flatly: "We screwed up in Pershing Park."

Also, further evidence of his ability to listen to criticism, acknowledge mistakes and change course:

Kenneth E. Barnes Sr.'s first encounter with Washington Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey started off acrimoniously.
Barnes, whose son was murdered in a 2001 robbery in northwest Washington, confronted Ramsey on a television panel while the chief was in the spotlight over the investigation into the disappearance of government intern Chandra Levy. The families of lesser-known murder victims noted that the police gave Levy's family the VIP treatment.
"If you and your department treat the family of Chandra Levy that well, then you got to be able to do it for our families, too," Barnes complained.
Much to Barnes' surprise, Ramsey agreed. Later, they sat down and formed a task force so that the families of homicide victims could exchange information with detectives every three months. The cold-case committee still meets quarterly.
"He took me totally by surprise," Barnes said. "Our relationship became very positive over time."


Has police behavior changed?

Or is Ramsey just great at PR, as some of his detractors say. I don't know the answer, but as I tell my daughter, saying your sorry only goes so far. You have to change how you act.

In addition, I wonder why some of this horrible behavior occured? Did Ramsey suddenly discover the US Constitution after he had served as a police officer for decades? Or was he not in control over the police force for some reason. Both answer would be disturbing, the first one more so.

First: I wanna be clear

What happened at the IMF protests in DC is not my number one concern right now. I think there is a lot to be hopeful about with Ramsey in Philly, and I think, on a gut level, that he is an oddly perfect-seeming match for Nutter. How that'll all work with the rank and file police, and whether we'll get the numbers dropping, we'll see. I am hopeful.

But let's get some stuff about Ramsey's response to the protesters clear.

He changed course, he apologized, because the lawsuits made him. He HAD to apologize. He did not choose to.

Now, benefit of the doubt, back then was a different time. The Seattle WTO protests had freaked people out, and Ramsey decided he was not going to make Seattle's mistakes. He was going to control things.

And, in response to Sam above, this is not about watching to make sure Ramsey doesn't, like, repeat mistakes here. I mean, there's that too. But it already happened here. Timoney directly took cues from Ramsey in devising his RNC protest management plan. With support from the city, which bought a big old insurance policy and got Hangley Aronchick on retainer, Timoney stalked the Spiral Q nonprofit, brought in the state police to evade the consent decree that stopped the Philadelphia police from their old habits of infiltrating civil activist groups, etc. That was all a direct legacy of Ramsey, and it was one Philadelphia, with it's long history of police abuses, did not think hard before adopting.

Back to DC: It wasn't just a couple incidents in Pershing park. Ramsey ordered extensive preemptive arrests. There was massive surveillance. Individual high-level organizers were followed, they were arrested on unprosecutable charges (possession of PVC pipe, used to make 'lockboxes' to connect people doing passive nonviolent resistance, was charged as 'possession of an implement of a crime', a crime that no court has recognized) to get those people stuck in jail. The protest would pass before they got out of jail, and by the time the courts threw out the bogus charges, everything was over and it wouldn't matter...

Then there were the large-scale preemptive arrests the day before, also to get numbers off the streets. Shutting down the 'convergence center,' the whole organizing and training center for people engaged in nonviolent political protest. The overuse of pepper spray, tear gas, and truncheons. Beatings.

And the arrests of journalists and bystanders.

Anyway, like I said, this is not at the top of my concerns. Those protests were part of a particular cultural moment. We do have a great civil rights bar that will be right there if there are problems with police tactics. And there IS a lot that is promising about Ramsey's navigation of LGBT and other civil rights issues.

Sure Bunch maybe got the tone and the rhetoric wrong, but the questions are valid. Part of the great-seemingness of the Ramsey/Nutter match is that they seem to have the same strengths and the tendencies that inspire worry are the same too.

We are gonna be okay though. There's no need to sugar-coat stuff.

I’d like to see increased funding for Police Advisory Commission

I’d like to see an increase in funding for the Police Advisory Commission; this might reassure citizens concerned that more aggressive policing will lead to violations of civil rights.

Since Michael Nutter fought for civilian review of the police and is responsible for the creation of the Police Advisory Commission, there's reason to be optimistic that this will occur.

Great post Jenniefer, the next time Sam and I

start to mix it up, maybe - if you agree with me on the matter - I can get you to stand in and pound his ass?


I had been thinking that I like when YOU post because then I don't have to risk Sam and I getting in another fight...

Marc's analysis of comparing

Marc's analysis of comparing Comstat in NYC and Philly are spot on. NYC used it as an effective management tool to focus on creative problem solving and to empower captains. It also served much like the Citistat initiative in Baltimore and San Francisco, whereby social service agencies were brought into the fold to maximize performance and minimize a backlog of service.

Here, well, lets just say it is used very differently.

Computer software alone won't fix the deeper cultural problems that exist in the Philly PD and city government. Maybe having a results-oriented mayor moving in to room 215 will have an impact.

In the hands of a competent person, a hammer can be used to build things. In the hands of others, it can be used to tear things down. I think what we're lacking right now is the right set of hands.

Nobody has really made the

Nobody has really made the argument that better choices that Ramsey existed. I know there is one person in the Department I would have liked. There are also a dozen I probably would have questioned. It seems to me that Nutter make the best choice of the individuals available.

Weeds in the Sidewalk

How do you know if there is

How do you know if there is someone better? Despite some reservations, I am certainly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, because I don't know jack about who would actually be a better commissioner. I bet most people are in the same boat I am.

(And for the record, I am glad it is not Timoney. I don't really like celebrity police commissioners. Their celebrity can obscure when they are taking a leak on the Constitution.)

I'm not saying that Ramsey is a bad choice

although there are some things we need to watch for.

But whenever an NBA team I root for hires a coach has run three other teams with good but not great records, I always wonder why the general manager couldn't be one of those who gives an unknown assistant or college coach a chance to shine.

Sometimes that move pays great dividends especially when there is a particularly good fit between coach and team. (Think Bill Fitch an the 81 Celtics or Larry Brown in his first few years in Philly.) Ramsey may be a good fit for us in that we need someone who can reorganize our police force, make it more effective, and give people some hope instead of being a perpetual downer like Sylvester Johnson. And I'm pretty sure Michael Nutter is a strong supporter of civil liberties and while hold Ramsey to a higher standard than he attained during the protests in Washington.

Ramsey looks to be a good and safe choice. But I wouldn't conclude that there was no one else. Most of us wouldn't know the unknown upcoming star to be (the Jeff Van Gundy before the Knicks hired him) in the police commissioner dodge. I hope Michael Nutter tries to find a few of those kind of folks for other positions. A nice balance of safe and risk choices would be good to see.

entering the fray?

jesus, you people are crazy. reading one of these mega-threads all in one shot makes you realize why the average YPP reader is afraid to comment.

anyway, as someone who really does not know a whole lot about the mechanics of policing, i have an honest question: what was so bad about Commissioner Johnson?

Now I know from Law & Order that cops constitute only one half of the criminal justice system, and the DA the other. I know the DA sucks. So why has Johnson gotten such a bad rap?

There seems to be some disagreement above about the relationship of wages and poverty to crime, but I always liked how Johnson would raise the issues of poverty, parenting, schools, community etc. in relation to crime and say that the police alone can't stop crime when those other institutions are damaged.

My view

Johnson gave up--or gave the perception that he was giving up. We all understand the issues of poverty and parenting relative to crime. We don't expect the Police Commissioner to do what no one else has done before and cure these ills. I appreciate Johnson's honesty related to this issue we can't expect him to be a miracle worker.

But, we also do not expect the police commissioner to throw up his hands. After 2006, Johnson was defeated. I think we all deserve more than that. Johnson should have been replaced after 2006. People look to authority figures to instill confidence. Ramsey coming in says, the problems are fixable and that this is nothing he hasn't seen before. That makes me feel better and gives me hope that Philadelphia will go back to being the 25th most dangerous city in America, not the 21st.

I am working to elect Larry Farnese to the General Assembly. Unless otherwise expressly stated, this and every comment or blog I post on YPP and any action I take hereon is solely attributable to me and not Farnese or Friends of Farnese

Gaetano gets the last word!

Nice, Gaetano. A perfectly sardonic and simultaneously serious, conversation-stopping reply.

This is the line that got me:

That makes me feel better and gives me hope that Philadelphia will go back to being the 25th most dangerous city in America, not the 21st.

For all of our talk (and by "our," i mean a pretty broad spectrum of Philadelphians not just on this blog) the reality is that the problems Philadelphia faces are not all that unique. Yes, I know New York has less murders than we do, but whenever you look at this stuff in real numbers, not percents, the tragedy and the senselessness is all about the same.

Along the same lines, Now, Philadelphia is ranked 10th among cities with 22.3 % in poverty and Chicago gets 24th with 19.3 % of its residents in poverty. Statistically, that's not a huge difference, however, in real numbers, if Philadelphia could get down to 19.3% in poverty that would be 45,000 more people living above the poverty line.

There is obviously room to tinker around the edges of our problems, but I wonder what our responsibility or obligation as Philadelphians and Americans or maybe just as citizens of the world to address the bigger problems that lurk under the surface of our everyday problems.

Thanks, Ray.

I am working to elect Larry Farnese to the General Assembly. Unless otherwise expressly stated, this and every comment or blog I post on YPP and any action I take hereon is solely attributable to me and not Farnese or Friends of Farnese

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