Ramsey begins his crusade to fight Philadelphia police corruption

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey unveils plans, with Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison (left) and Mayor Nutter looking on.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey unveils plans, with Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison (left) and Mayor Nutter looking on.
Posted: August 06, 2010

In the wake of recent high-profile cases of alleged criminal wrongdoing in the police department, Commissioner Charles Ramsey yesterday outlined a plan to weed out bad cops that emphasizes prevention, training, more investigators, community and police input, and higher recruitment standards.

"The vast, vast majority of the men and women in this department do their jobs in an absolutely exemplary manner every single day," Ramsey stressed of the 6,600-member force.

"But one officer that commits a corrupt act is too many. And it tarnishes the reputation of every single member of this department. And it's got to stop. It's got to stop," Ramsey said at a news conference, backed by Mayor Nutter, Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison, and police deputies.

Since Ramsey became police chief in January 2008, 51 cops have been fired. Twenty-seven were dismissed on criminal charges, while 24 others were dismissed for noncriminal matters, according to police statistics.

Most recently, authorities announced last week that Officer Kenneth Crockett, 56, would face charges of theft after allegedly stealing $825 from Pat's Cafe in Frankford, where Officer Gary Skerski was fatally shot in 2006.

Under his new anticorruption plan, Ramsey seeks to:

* Increase the number of investigators in the Internal Affairs Bureau, and up the number assigned to the task force with the FBI that focuses exclusively on investigating police corruption.

* Require sworn and civilian members of the department to fill out a survey, which can be done anonymously, jotting down any acts of corruption they're aware of by their colleagues.

* Allow the public an easy way to report alleged police misconduct. Starting Monday, a new hot line, 215-686-3009, will be operational where people can leave anonymous messages, and an online tip form will be available at www.phillypolice.com.

People can also send e-mail to police.commissioner@phila.gov. Urgent matters can be called in to Internal Affairs at 215-685-5056.

* Require recruits to be at least 21; have an associate's degree or 60 semester hours from an accredited college with a minimum grade-point average of 2.0; and have three years' driving experience.

Now, recruits have to be at least 19 and have a high-school diploma or GED. The proposed recruitment standards will be reviewed by the Civil Service Commission, Ramsey said, adding he hopes they will be approved "soon."

* Train officers throughout their careers on how to make ethical decisions.

John McNesby, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, said afterward that, overall, he agrees with the plan.

"Nobody wants to work with a criminal," he said, adding that "the more stringent practices look good."

However, he said he is concerned that the hot line could generate some "frivolous" calls.

Ramsey said he would work with the FOP to implement the strategies in the new plan.

Ramsey, who previously served as police chief in Washington, D.C., started his career in the Chicago Police Department, where he rose through the ranks to become a deputy superintendent. He said that what he has experienced in Philadelphia in terms of alleged police misconduct isn't different from what he had experienced in the other cities.

He said he doesn't expect the plan to stop all corruption, but thinks it will have a significant impact.

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