Stu Bykofsky: Ramsey: I 'screwed up' on DeCoatsworth

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey.
Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. (SHUTTERSTOCK IMAGES)
Posted: February 13, 2012

ALTHOUGH SOME in the Philadelphia Police Department have cold-shouldered former Officer Richard DeCoatsworth, the man who runs the department has positive feelings toward the ex-cop, and some personal guilt.

Commissioner Charles Ramsey thinks he failed the embattled and troubled hero cop, who recently retired with a medical disability and who may be criminally charged soon in a Port Richmond bullying incident. He is due in court Feb. 27 to answer a private complaint charging harassment and simple assault.

In an exclusive interview that took place after the police investigation began but before the civil suit was announced, Ramsey told me he made a mistake in granting DeCoatsworth's wish to join Highway Patrol after the young cop was shot in the face during a 2007 car stop.

Ramsey generally asks officers what assignment they would like when returning to work after being shot. DeCoatsworth, an aggressive cop who accumulated nine citizen complaints against him (only one validated by Internal Affairs) wanted Highway Patrol, "one of the most aggressive units in the entire department," Ramsey said. "God bless him for still wanting to get out there and do police work, but did I act in his best interest? In hindsight, I would say probably not."

Highway Patrol might have been too much, too soon. DeCoatsworth was not given time to find his "balance," Ramsey said.

"He got shot and had half his face blown off. People need to remember that, I think, before they get a little too critical of him," Ramsey said, adding that "that's going to affect the way in which you interact with people."

When DeCoatsworth was placed under investigation for allegedly threatening a couple of his neighbors in January, Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross told the Daily News, "He's not one of us anymore. He's just Joe Blow around the street doing what he does."

That was chilly, reflecting anti-DeCoatsworth sentiment on the part of some higher-ups. It differed from Ramsey, who said DeCoatsworth is "a nice young man, he's a bright young guy, and I wish him well. I really do," but added that "he's got some issues in terms of his temper" and that policing may not be the best profession for him at this time.

Before the Port Richmond incident, while still a cop, DeCoatsworth got into an on-duty fistfight with another cop. Internal Affairs is investigating.

Not only soldiers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, Ramsey said, reflecting back three decades to when he was an aggressive Chicago street cop. He shot someone in the line of duty one day and went to work the next day because macho police culture demanded it.

On the street, Ramsey found himself chasing a young gang banger and knew that if he was confronted, Ramsey would not be able to shoot. "That's when I realized I wasn't ready to go back to work," he said.

Ramsey believes he sent DeCoatsworth back to street work too soon.

"I think I screwed up on that," he told me. "I think I should have given him more time. He didn't want more time, but I should have done that. I would not do that again with an officer."

DeCoatsworth needs help, Ramsey said. "I know people have reached out to him, trying to help him and I hope he takes advantage of that help. He's not a bad guy as far as I'm concerned, but he definitely needs some counseling."

With DeCoatsworth now facing one trial, Ramsey says, "I feel bad about that because I don't think we did enough to help this kid."

Email stubyko@phillynews.

com or call 215-854-5977. See Stu on Facebook. For recent columns:

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