Christine M. Flowers: A dissent on giving a big raise to Ramsey

Posted: May 13, 2011

IF MONEY were the true barometer of value, Mother Teresa would be a zero - and Donald Trump a hero.

You get my point.

Of course, we live in a society where a drunken dwarf named Snooki gets 30G for an appearance at Rutgers while Legal Aid lawyers who graduate from that same institution rarely make as much in an entire year.

Still, it's nice to believe that a person's salary should be commensurate with the contributions he makes, and the risks he takes.

That's why, even though I was happy to see Commissioner Ramsey choose Philly over Chicago, it made me a little uncomfortable when I heard he was getting a $60,000 raise, boosting his annual income to a hefty $255,000.

I'm not naive enough to believe it was the cheesesteaks that won his heart, or the warmth of our citizens (who can tell you where to get off in a variety of exotic languages and accents) or even the pristine beauty of our city streets - soon once again to be clogged with those annoying seasonal sidewalk cafes.

I know he needed more than just a pat on the head to risk getting a dead fish in the mail from Chicago's current mayor. (By the way, Mayor Nutter could do a lot worse than use "I'm Not Rahm" as his campaign slogan.)

BUT a $60,000 hike seems excessive in a city that has serious budget problems, is slashing school services, has City Council members incapable of understanding the word "retirement," files frivolous lawsuits against groups that have an annoying habit of exercising their First Amendment rights and - most important - turns its back on the rank-and-file officers who do the heavy lifting in this City of Brotherly Love (assuming your brother is named Cain).

I know this paper got a Pulitzer for investigating crooked cops. I applaud the hard work done, the results achieved, and the repercussions for the bad apples. I also disagree with those who say the Daily News is only in the business of profiling the negative elements in the police force.

But an email I received last week reminded me that, far too often, we ignore the good men and women at the expense of the exceptional bad ones because that makes for the better story:

"I am a Philadelphia Police Officer, and I have a special request. I was hoping you would possibly consider writing an article directed at Police Commissioner Ramsey.

"Here we have a man who cuts police officers' overtime dramatically, yet has accepted a $60,000 raise . . .

"[He] has had more officers die in the line of duty during his term than any other Philadelphia Commissioner . . . he has fired more cops than any other commissioner . . . The papers and media say nothing good about what we do . . .

"And where is our fearless leader on all of this? Right in front of the camera telling the city how great a job he's doing firing all the corrupt cops. That's all fine and dandy but if all you do is point out the negatives of your department how can you expect your officers to get any respect from the public?"

Normally, I take anonymous communications with a grain of salt, and mostly pass them by.

But I'm making an exception here for two reasons.

First, I respect the anonymity here because there is always a danger for whistle-blowers, and I don't want to be responsible for an officer losing his job because of whatever charge they might come up with as a punishment for his comments.

Second, the issues mentioned in the email are real, and can be verified.

It's true that more officers have been killed on Ramsey's watch than at any other time in recent memory, including that horrible bloody stretch between Nov. 1, 2007, and Feb. 19, 2009.

But to the commissioner's credit, he's been a pillar of strength for the families of the fallen. But the question is: Does that merit a $60,000 raise?

It's also true that a number of officers who've been fired by Ramsey have later been reinstated when they were found to have been wrongfully terminated due to shoddy investigations. Seemingly, the commissioner has sometimes been too quick to shoot from the hip as a way of placating "the community." (In my community, the accused is usually given the benefit of the doubt until properly convicted, not a forced retirement.)

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad Ramsey decided to stay. I just wonder why we're so quick to shower him with praise and money, but aren't as generous with the guys in the trenches.

Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer. Email cflowers1961@yahoo.com. She blogs at www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flowersshow.

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