In Q&A, Ramsey addresses hurdles facing his police department

Ramsey says 120 police recruits are set to start class in July, adding to the force's roughly 6,400 cops.
Ramsey says 120 police recruits are set to start class in July, adding to the force's roughly 6,400 cops.
Posted: April 25, 2011

HE'S BEEN A HOT topic lately - in the paper, on TV and all around town - maybe a bit more than usual.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey is aware of the chatter, aware that people's expectations of him jumped considerably earlier this month when he received a $60,000 raise to stay in Philadelphia after flirting publicly with the idea of taking the top cop's job in Chicago.

Problems? Yeah, he has a few. The homicide rate is up 19 percent over last year, property crime is up 7 percent and the notoriously violent summer period is drawing ever closer.

The police force has about 200 fewer cops than it did when Ramsey took over the department three years ago, thanks both to attrition and a yearlong hiring freeze.

And he still has to contend with the department's ongoing corruption and integrity woes, which resurfaced earlier this month when a Philly cop was arrested as part of an extensive insurance scam.

Ramsey responded to questions about how he'll handle these problems and many others during a wide-ranging Q&A last week.

Q: People actually cheered for you when you decided to stay in Philly. How did that make you feel?

A: It was very humbling. It really made me realize that I made the absolute right choice. This is where I want to be.

Q: How did your family and friends react in Chicago?

A: They were disappointed. A lot of people thought I was really going there. . . . Some of the things that were written in the papers out there just weren't true.

Q: Such as?

A: That I was asking for big money and a house. It was just misinformation. I asked for a real-estate agent who could steer me to a place to rent, because, at one point, I was seriously considering going.

Q: Given all of the attention over your decision to stay - and your raise - do you think people in the city expect more of you?

A: They do, and they are right to expect a lot. Now I have to live up to that. We have to work hard and redouble our efforts. That's what I owe people.

Q: You're supposed to be helping the school district develop a safety plan. How's that going?

A: OK, so far. We're willing to step up and assist in any way we can, but it has to be a partnership. It's not just a policing issue.

Q: Business leaders and residents want to see more cops on the streets. Will they?

A: We took roughly 100 people from nonpatrol units and divided them into two groups. The first group went out April 1. They'll spend 90 days in districts and detective divisions that are shorthanded. We're doing what we can to shore that up.

Q: How many cops are on the force?

A: We have roughly 6,400. We're a couple hundred shorter than we were when I first got here. It's not an easy situation. We use what we have the best we can.

Q: Are any reinforcements coming?

A: We do have a class of recruits, about 120, starting [at the Police Academy] in July.

Q: Summer's coming, and murders are up. Any plans to retool Operation Pressure Point?

A: It's not just Pressure Point . . . we have to be thinking more strategically about longer-term solutions that can permanently reduce crime and help us reclaim neighborhoods.

Q: Any chance some of the department's decrepit buildings will be replaced?

A: I certainly hope so. We can't continue like this. There has to be some major renovations, or we simply need to get new facilities, starting with the Homicide Unit.

Q: You've long talked about having a 24/7 Real Time Crime Center to process and analyze information. Where's it at?

A: We have the beginnings of it. We still need some funding, and to figure out where we're going to put it. . . . We also have to hire some crime analysts.

Q: Corruption within the ranks is still a big problem. Will you ever turn the corner?

A: We have a ways to go before I can honestly feel that way. We will get there. The vast majority of our officers are good people with a high level of integrity.

Q: The mayor is allowing you to do outside work. Will you be teaching?

A: There's been some discussions about St. Joe's or Drexel, but nothing's been finalized. I'd love to teach or do some guest lecturing. You learn so much from the students, and hopefully you impart something to them. It's a win-win.

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