Ramsey acknowledges considering Chicago job if offered

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey
Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey
Posted: March 17, 2011

Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey acknowledged Wednesday that he would consider leaving Philadelphia to head the Chicago Police Department but was quick to emphasize that no such job offer had been made.

His remarks followed more than a week of speculation in Chicago and Philadelphia media that he is in the running for the title of top cop in the Windy City.

"Clearly, I'm torn," said Ramsey, who added that Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel had approached him. "I love Philadelphia; it's a great city . . . but I can't just dismiss [Chicago]. It is my hometown, the department where I started my career. But it's not as if I'm unhappy here."

Ramsey has family in Chicago, and his parents and grandparents are buried there, he said. He even cheers for the Bears over the Eagles, though he said he also liked the Phillies.

"Your roots don't change," he said.

Ramsey has discussed the possibility of the job offer with Mayor Nutter and said he had an excellent working relationship with him. Nutter said he was not surprised Ramsey was being considered for the Chicago post, or that the commissioner was thinking it over.

"Police Commissioner Ramsey is the best in the country," Nutter said. "If you are a new mayor, and you already know you need a new police chief, you start looking around."

According to Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald, the mayor talked with Emanuel on Wednesday and expressed his "tremendous desire" for Ramsey to stay in Philadelphia.

"I and we and all of us want him to stay right here," Nutter said. "He knows he is loved, needed, and appreciated here. . . . At the same time, it is Chicago. It is where he grew up."

Speculation about Ramsey began this month after Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis left office. Weis formerly led the Philadelphia FBI field office.

Former Police Superintendent Terry Hillard is serving as interim boss in Chicago while a nine-member police board leads the search for Weis' successor. The board will present a list of three candidates to Emanuel, who can choose from among them or ask the board to conduct another search. Emanuel takes office in May.

Ramsey, who began walking a beat in Chicago, rose to the rank of deputy superintendent. He lost out to Hillard for the top job in 1998 and left to become chief of police in Washington. He came to Philadelphia in 2008.

U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush, a Chicago Democrat, urged Emanuel to hire Ramsey. Beyond the Chicago connection, Rush watched Ramsey work in Washington.

"He's that rare individual who's respected by the cops on the beat, by families in the neighborhood, and by our nation's top echelon of federal, state, and local law enforcement leadership," Rush said in a statement.

Nutter said Ramsey had done a spectacular job in Philadelphia. "He's clearly one of the best people we have hired in the government," he said.

Nutter would not say whether he had offered or would offer Ramsey a higher salary. Ramsey is paid $195,000 annually, compared with the Chicago superintendent's $310,000. Ramsey is also collecting a pension from Chicago, which he would have to give up.

"Police Commissioner Ramsey loves policing," Nutter said. "This is not about the money. . . . I can assure you that. It is a personal decision he has weighing on his heart."

Should Ramsey leave, Nutter will have lost all four high-profile hires he made from outside Philadelphia since becoming mayor in 2008.

In his early days as mayor, he touted the outside hires as significant in his search to lure the best and the brightest. The others were former Commerce Director Andrew Altman, who left to lead London's 2012 Olympics redevelopment efforts; former Managing Director Camille Barnett, who resigned after speculation about her tenure; and former Budget Director Stephen Agostini, who works in Washington as chief financial officer for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

"Right now, my focus is on the Philadelphia police," Ramsey said Wednesday. "I enjoy being here, and we'll see what the future brings."

Contact staff writer Allison Steele

at 215-854-2641 or asteele@phillynews.com.


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